Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Dalliance with the Taboo

Raven Skull Clay Pipe
OK, I'll admit it. I'm not entirely comfortable making smoking pipes. I'm not sure if it's because of what they imply, a dalliance with the so- called underground "drug culture", or if it's more personal in nature.  I was the Jeff Spikoli of my high school ceramics class who would clandestinely try to sneak a pipe through the firing process. Or maybe it's because of my religious up bringing and the conservative nature of the state where I live. Or maybe I'm just over thinking it. Whatever the reason, I perceive there to be an element in society at large and in the art/ceramics world in particular that proscribes the making of pipes as improper and unacceptable.

Red Hare Head Clay Pipe
On the other hand, clay pipes have been around for centuries. I'm no expert on the history of the clay pipe, but a quick search reveals a wide range of clay, figurative, narrative pipes.

I align myself with the Dutch, French and English figurative clay pipe makers of the late 18th and 19th century. Then there's Netsuke, miniature narrative sculptures that stand on their own as art but also had a practical function.  I've referred to Netsuke on and off over the years as inspiration for and influence on my sculptural body of work. The academic in me is always looking for historical precedence in everything that I make. I hope historical figurative pipe making and Netsuke
elevates the craft beyond the contemporary "taboo" nature of the subject. My pipes are available at

French, Dutch and English figural pipes made between about 1860 and 1925. Animals, Birds, Fish, Famous people and various creatures. 
Meerschaum Pipe German 1800-1900



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