From a craftsman's eye view of art history, it is.
Any later-stage apprentice in a craft (say, violinmaking) can do master-level quality work. His problem is, he's so far behind the production curve that he can't possibly live on what he can produce. (To say nothing of stocking raw materials, shop equipment and sales contacts). The master is the master because he can crank out good work the way Claudio does -- wasting no time. That's why he can afford to pay the apprentice working for him to do the scut work and why the apprentice has a job. And gets yelled at for dwaddling. The difference isn't necessarily skill. It's sustained efficiency.
IMHO, the contemporary view of pipemaking as if it were Art, and pipemakers as (tone of great respect) Artists (thank you. Not just mere craftsmen) is seriously skewed by assumptions without much foundation in historical precedent.
The carriage trade mentality overlooks that the carriage trade is a retailing phenomenon. Not an artistic one. The guys who actually produced the Dunhill pipes and Ferrari automobiles and Purdey shotguns were blue collar craftsmen. And the outfits they worked for understood very well that time is money. If it wasn't, they folded.
Same story with the Renaissence painters. They ran artiliers. Production-oriented workshops. The master added the hard parts (hands and faces) after the assistants had painted the bodies, after the lower-level guys had painted the backgrounds, &c. &c. Venerate it as "Art" if you like (and it was), but it was assembly-line art.
I don't doubt for a minute that there are great Artists out there who make smokable Art. Functional sculpture. Hooray for them. But art is moot ; craftsmanship -- command of tools, medium, lines, proportion, finish &c. -- isn't. And that doesn't come from dwaddling and fussing with the work. It's the visible evidence of the kind of right-to-the-point efficiency that Claudio demonstrates in the pictures. Done right the first time. Looking at Rad Davis' stuff keys the same recognition. Mastery. From concept to finished product in one straight shot. And if the material's forced an alteration, it isn't apparent. There are no visible second thoughts, no sense that the pipe's only part way out of the block. Each one is the material realization of a coherent idea.
Look at Picasso drawings for five minutes and you've got what's involved. It's like a live concert as opposed to a recording that's been tweaked this way and that. No fixes in the mixes -- which, in pipemaking, commercial time constraints never much allowed before.
The great pipes of the English golden age all came from craftsmen having been, of necessity, human machines. With the dexterity and command of everything involved to pull that off. Right the first time. In every respect.
Guys like them, IMHO, are the ones who leave lasting impressions when the book's finally written.
Yak, Thanks for the link, I remember seeing that a while back, Claudio is certainly a master in my book. I currently have 2 of his wonderful pipes and hope to add one or too more before the year's out. Anyone who is looking for an amazing pipe should seriously consider a Cavicchi....