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North American Aesthetic

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ZuluCollector

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In another post here someone suggested that posts like mine on North American Carver Styles could best be preserved in a blog as opposed to some sort of post archive here.

For those who wrote really kind things about my summary, I offer a humble thanks. I appreciate that.

Anyway, I thought about it and decided to go ahead and elaborate on my original posts in my blog where I could post pics, etc.

For those who are interested here is a link to the post:

http://web.mac.com/neillarcherroan/A_Passion_for_Pipes/Blog/Entries/2007/12/30_The_North_American_Aesthetic.html
 

Mikem

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I have re-read your excellent post and blog once again and say once again thanks for such great insights into American Carvers. IMHO this would make an excellent article in P & T magazine.
 

showme1or2

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Zulu, you've obviously put some time and thought into that question, and your answers are precedent setting. Have you seen, and if not do you think it will ever occur, an American style being influential abroad?

How have you seen the American style change (in broad terms) and where do you see it going? Or will it become stagnant and quaint?

showme
 
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Anonymous

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Showme, Lee von Erck's long, sometimes spiraled pipes are popular in Japan. Japanese pipes tend to be smaller bowled, but there is a demand for the larger and different shapes.
 

Slow Puffs

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Neill,

Let me add my "thank you" for posting your link.

Very thoughtful and informative.

-Paul
 

Midnight Blues

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Zulu,

Very nicely written. I do happen to think the American carvers on onto something, they've taken European influence and added their own special talent to create some very powerful pipes, from the craggy blasts of Rad Davis to the graceful lines of Jody Davis....
 

ZuluCollector

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showme1or2":5dv305m6 said:
Zulu, you've obviously put some time and thought into that question, and your answers are precedent setting. Have you seen, and if not do you think it will ever occur, an American style being influential abroad?

How have you seen the American style change (in broad terms) and where do you see it going? Or will it become stagnant and quaint?

showme
Showme, I believe that I have seen the American style change, especially recently.

From my point of view - though there are certainly a number of very influential pipe artisans out there - few have had such a big impact as has Todd Johnson. Though Todd is not making pipes currently, when he was making pipes, he was - in many ways - a real phenom - an artisan's artisan. As is the case with Jody Davis, quite a few other pipe makers came to Todd's shop to learn from him.

While people like Jeff Gracik (who also spent considerable time with Jody Davis) Brad Pohlmann, and Adam Davidson were all spending time learning from Todd Johnson, Johnson was spending time learning from artisans like Hiroyuki Tokutumi. You only need to look at the pipes Todd was producing during and after his time with Tokutumi to see a profound influence in both shape vocabulary, composition, and in reading the briar. Johnson - as has been his wont because he is an extremely generous personality - passed along his advancements as he was making them. So we see Tokutumi's use of "ma space," organic line, plateau surfaces, and deliberate asymmetry and mirroring of dimensions at different angles passed to Todd Johnson, through Todd Johnson, and on through others. There is literally a cascade of aesthetic influences.

What is magical is that each artisan sees and works differently. Each has their own concept of beauty and balance. So we see these influences moving along and through a sequence of people and aesthetic filters. Initially the work is derivative; it cannot help but be so. But as each artisan comes to feel comfortable with new shapes and strategies these things become their own and we begin to see divergence from the original influence. The original moves in one direction and what has emerged from it shifts shapes and becomes something different.

What makes American artists and artisans interesting - and hopefully keeps them from becoming stagnant - is the American openness toward diverse influences. North Americans are essentially fusing styles from different parts of Europe, Japan, and from other North American artists.

Therefore, the future is likely to continue to reflect the various upstream influences. Let's look at an analogous example: what is fascinating is that Tokutumi's early work really reveals his training with Ivarsson and the Danish aesthetic. But that aesthetic was later overwhelmed by Tokutumi's Japanese roots. It is almost impossible to live in that culture and not be influenced by the locus of what drives the Japanese aesthetic. You see the same balance of symmetry and asymmetry, of organic and inorganic, and of crude and refined in other Japanese artforms that one finds in Toku's pipe creations. Ivarsson's design principles survived, but the expressions morphed into something far more authentic and culturally ingrained in Tokutumi's experiences.

The same thing is happening with North American artisans. The aesthetic center of gravity is turbo-charged by cultural values like egalitarianism, democracy, freedom, and rebelliousness. These political and cultural values have aesthetic dimensions and they show up in time and space and design. For example, our rebelliousness against conventions of design makes American artists much more amenable to cultural appropriation and imitation. In some cultural contexts, this is taboo. Not here. The "anything-goes" ethos of the wild west, our bravado, and access to skills training that other cultures rope off (guild rules, etc.) will help ensure that North American artisans will continue to evolve, grow, and change in exciting ways.
 

howellhandmade

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Neill, you ought to put the above in your blog, too -- it's a very worthwhile expansion of your point.

Jack
 

showme1or2

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Thank you for your answer. I find this--

ZuluCollector":9smue62f said:
The "anything-goes" ethos of the wild west, our bravado, and access to skills training that other cultures rope off (guild rules, etc.) will help ensure that North American artisans will continue to evolve, grow, and change in exciting ways.
--to be particularly good news.

showme
 

dfkdfk

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both of your posts were very interesting reads. I see where you are coming from when you describe the American aesthetic.
 

CrosbyPipes

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Neill those are great articles as always. I would add, another factor that will serve to shape the American aesthetic is the geographic distance between the American carvers. We are, for the most part, working separately and then meeting or discussing our work together after the fact. There is little outside influence during the act of creation. That is different than the European atmosphere where many of the carvers start off working together in the same studio and not separating until years later. While it may be too early to see what influence the isolation factor has on the look of American pipes, I think it can not help but have an effect.


PS> It has been a few days since I read your blog on this. If you addressed this already and I have missed it I apologize. I am going on my first cup of coffee today :D
 
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