Blog by Norman Skiba
Norman is a new contributor to rebornpipes and I welcome him to the blog. He is a member of the Meerschaum group on Smokers Forum UK and trying to add fresh life to it since the death of Fred Bass. I have enjoyed our emails back and forth over the past week and when he sent this I thought it would be a great intro to him and a thought provoking piece of writing. Thanks Norman. – Steve
I have smoked a pipe for about 50 years now and have had a few hiatuses over this lengthy period. In addition, I have been fortunate to have had a rather extensive pipe collection over these years and various periods of my life. The collection transformed and morphed into a new set of pieces turning into a somewhat different collection over these many years, and which has morphed again. Basically – zero – to a small nice little handful of a collection, mostly meerschaum. I have always had and smoked meers and I find them fascinating and beautiful to see the exquisite carvings transform over time in their coloring and the actual smoking Quality – chronotransduction – change over time. I have spent a small fortune for briars and very fine briars and commissions. I am a huge old Danish fan, especially Preben Holm. Many of the pipes were gorgeous; however, a lot of them smoked great. Some smoked OK. Some were terrible – even the high end pipes and commissions. No offense to the fine pipe makers that made them; but some were a waste of money. I always kept that to myself and never hurt anyone’s feelings or reputation. I also bought a number of so-called ‘Estate’ pipes that were by major makers mostly Danish, that had issues with the smoke – could not get a pipe cleaner through it, and tons of gurgle. I realized ‘late’ that in most cases instead of someone chalking the pipe up to experience and maybe just trashing it or trying to get it properly fixed, they passed on the problem to someone else – me the sucker. I am not a neophyte, but these are chances one takes. Aesthetically, they were beautiful and unique in my eyes. The maker was reputable. But the pipe was what it was – sometimes wonderful and sometimes sour/bitter, and just plain funky.
I have spent decent money on meers too in the past and most were from reputable carvers. a few unknown, yet nice – carving and block and smoke. I was fortunate early on to have one briar master pipe maker and his son who had some nice meers at a reasonable price. Then, for me, it became harder to find. Most meers were bad block quality and the carvings nothing to write home about. Even after years – not knowing about certain carvers or especially the sellers – left me in a quandary about purchasing a nice pipe. I know people who deal on eBay and craigslist with stories about scams locally and within the U.S., let alone, other countries, and in this case Turkey. I also saw some of the prices that were more than I was used to paying for some nice meers long ago, and the combination of dynamics – price, seller, country, etc. made me wary about taking the chance. As I grew older I learned more and acquired more meers. I never could drop a huge sum on a nice meer that was high, high end; however I did try to find amazing carvings that spoke to me and that were more than I could afford. But recently I started asking myself – why do we spend so much on a briar pipe ,and some people I know spend 5x the amount for 1 pipe almost weekly, than I could on 1 pipe? Why did I not go the same route for meers and just know at the end of my life finally ‘Get It!’ The answers are varied, and factual/real, and also speculative. The answers themselves seem a bit amorphous even. I still have more questions than answers. I do find that few briar people do not want to try or never liked smoking a meerschaum because they too – did not get it. They never had a good pipe, or they never gave it a chance to achieve the warmth that a nice one offers after it is smoked for a bit. Initially the meer can seem cold and sterile and that initial dynamic makes people run to their briars. But once the White Goddess speaks to the Soul and the Being and the Spirit within- then one Gets It! But, Why Do We…?