Talking Pipes with Artisans from NeatPipes The Party 2.0

Lori Brown
During our attendance at Neatpipes The Party 2.0 in Milan, Italy, for which you can read the coverage here, we took some time to talk details with a few pipe makers and one retailer. We started with the well-known artisan, Manduela Riger-Kusk.

Manduela started making pipes 26 years ago. She apprenticed under Poul Ilsted in Svenborg, Denmark for three years and a few months. She then moved to Copenhagen where she sold her pipes out of a store owned by friends. When that store closed she opened her own store and maintained that store for seven years. It wasn’t until about two years ago, however, that she actually considered herself a pro. For a few years she managed props for film and TV producers in Denmark but now she focuses only on pipe making.

I found her pipes quite fascinating with their bright coloring and long shanks. She uses lines as her signature, as well as favoring different color stems such as blues, greens and purples. Her standard diameter air hole is 4mm and she designs it to taper down to 3mm. When she is not using ebonite for stems, she chooses to never use acrylic, but employs a specially formulated synthetic amber instead. Her longest shank she has made is for her own pleasure. It measures 6 – 7" in length. When she makes a pipe for herself she never puts her name on it.

Manduela’s Personal Pipe

The first pipe that interested me was a flat Bulldog Briar pipe. The stem embellishment is made of Boxwood. I was drawn to the double rings carved around the outside of the bowl, the smoothness and design of the briar and the gorgeous khaki coloring of the stem. She is a gorgeous pipe. This pipe is priced at $1,800.

The second pipe I chose was a model with a beautiful Amber colored stem. Most of her pipes are priced at $1,200 and up.

She is extremely charming and a tad shy. While proud of her work, I also found her quite humble. She was very easy to talk to and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her.

You can see pictured her home in Svenborg, Denmark.

Manduela’s pipes can be found at a few different retailers including The Danish Pipe Shop.

Anne Julie Rasmussen was displaying her work right next to Manduela, and we spoke to her next.

Anne Julie is a world renowned Danish pipe artisan, and what a character she is! Dressed in eclectic vibrant red clothing and beret, one would know, just by looking at her, that she is an artist.

Anne Julie’s first love is art. She is mad about color and loves to create things that bloom. She started early painting, while she lived in Japan. She also loves to paint in Israel and works a lot from there. But above all, she is "mad about Italy"! She has a book of her work that is based on her "ideas of life", as she puts it. She was displaying some of her art along with her pipes.

Her husband was a pipe maker but would never have let her make pipes while he was alive. He died in 1967 and she started making pipes, inspired by her art work, that same year.

This pipe was inspired by a painting pictured in her book titled Remember to Grow Flowers in Your Footprints. This pipe is a great example of her love for vivid colors and blooming wildlife. You can see the footprints on the pipe reflective of the painting.

Towards the end of our discussion and tour of her paintings and pipe making art, we asked Anne what was the average price for one of her pipes. Her response with a laugh, "A lot". Anne-Julie currently lives on an island with a population of only 185 people. It was a total delight to have met Anne-Julie!

Jon Vesterholm

We first met Jon on the Friday afternoon that we arrived at a café near the Fornace Curti, where the pipe show was held. He is a young, up and coming pipe maker who makes traditional as well as freehand style pipes. Jon is very charismatic and passionate about his work. He was a pleasure to meet and talk with.

In 2011, Jon was fortunate enough to meet legendary pipe artisan Hans “Former” Nielsen. aka "Former". He invited him to spend several hours with him as he gave him some insight into his inspiration. Jon also knew the daughter of Jess Chonowitsch and he asked him if he would spend some time with him. Jess told him yes and Jon received some training from his as well.

Prior to the start of his pipe making career and still, Jon has a full time job as a teacher in Cabinetry making. Despite working full time, he still makes about 100 pipes per year, which cost an average of approximately 200 euros each.

Jon loves to try new and different materials in his pipe making. He decided to try working with a resin material for stems. He had to test it for bending since it had never been tried before. He figured out how to bend and not break the resin through trial and error. This is currently the material he uses now. He also makes a material called Sharkwood. Another extremely creative embellishment is his incorporation of vinyl records as material in some of his rings and at the bottom of tampers. Here are some of the pipes that caught my eye.

Dublin/Cutty with a bamboo shank.

Dublin with plateau and a pencil shank with runs about 374 euros.

Dublin Saddle Stem in which he used the resin material for the stem embellishment.

Also shown is a very unusual horn shaped tamper. He uses the material that is cut off during the making of a horn-shaped pipe to make these tampers. They also have a piece of a vinyl record attached the bottom.

I find Jon’s work very crafty and inventive! He has his own website and his work can also be found at The Danish Pipe Shop. He will also do some custom work.

Cristian Galeazzi & Cinzia Evangelis – "Regina Scarlatta"

Regina Scarlatta, which means the Scarlett Queen, was founded by Cristian Galeazzi, following his apprenticeship with Franco Rossi (Il Ceppo). He studied in the traditional Pesaro school of pipe making in which he has refined into his own style to create his brand. Cristian has been making pipes for five years now. Together with his wife Cinzia they created this lovely brand.

You are beautiful in your uncommon elegance,
you fascinate me with your waving charm.
Warm and precious wood, slow burning fire
Will you be my … Scarlet Queen?

(L to R) Lori Brown, Kevin Godbee, Cinzia Evangelis, & Cristian Galeazzi.
(Photo Courtesy of The Pipe Tart)

Cristian gets his wood from Ireland for his Morta pipes. They come as a large block of Bog Oak, which is fossilized and over 3,000 years old. He creates his shapes from the middle of the wood and then works out. The wood is so light that the pipes made from it weigh less than 50 grams. In comparison, a pipe made out of Briar wood weighs about 80 grams.

For his pipes made from Briar wood, he ages the wood for three years and air cures it. He buys this wood from Tuscany. Italian Briar and German Ebonite are used for the stems.

Cristian has developed a grading system of 1 to 6 for his smooth pipes. He only has ever made one pipe that received a 6 rating. The rating is based on the quality of the straight grain and of the smoothness and the perfection of the wood … meaning the presence/absence of sand pits.

I loved the Regina Scarlatta brand so much that I purchased my first pipe ever, by myself, from Cristian. My pipe has a 4 rating only due to two very, very tiny visible sand pits.

He has a higher end brand which can be denoted by a Queen with a star on the pipe shaft. This means it is a "special one".

The passion that exudes from both Cristian and Cinzia is both enchanting and enthralling I loved meeting them and learning about his detailed method of pipe making.

They currently sell the Regina Scarlatta brand direct to consumer from their website – and at pipe shows, but they can also be found in certain pipe shops & webstores. The pipes range in price from 150 euros – 500 euros.

Nikolaj Nielsen – The Danish Pipe Shop

I first met Nikolaj when we went to pick up our welcome packets at the Fornace Curti the first day and then he joined us at the café. Kevin has known him for years, as he has been an advertiser on for many years. He is charismatic, charming and very passionate about the hobby and his famous shop!

Nikolaj says, "Business is good and remains good". The trend of younger pipe smokers joining the community continues to grow. He said that on average, his store starts off one new pipe smoker a day. They have tailored their business to help the new pipe smoker so that when they leave their shop, they walk out with the entire package: from the right pipe, to a tobacco that they will enjoy as a new smoker, to a tamper, a lighter and all of the cleaning accessories that are necessary. The shop also teaches the new smoker how to light the pipe, keep it lit, smoke it and maintain the health of the pipe with proper cleaning techniques. They feel this is very important as to not lose the new potential pipe smoker to the wrong tobacco, wrong pipe, etc.

Nikolaj also talked about how much the purchasing process has changed over the last five years. He said that five years ago only 1% of their inventory was purchased online. Astoundingly, today, 45% of the shop’s business is conducted online. Because of this, business has grown so much that they have outgrown their current space in Copenhagen. They are located on the corner of a very famous pedestrian only street and much of their success has been because of this location. Because of that, they are being very careful in the search for a new space.

Kevin Godbee (L) & Nikolaj Nielsen from The Danish Pipe Shop

He also discussed how much the in-store purchasing process has changed because of the internet presence online. The majority of the time, Buyers have already studied the pipes online, so that when they walk into the store they say what they want based on the online pipe number. When this first happened they were not sure how to handle it, because they did not have the in-store pipes cataloged as they were in the online store. The shop had to adapt by creating a cross reference between the shop inventory and the online presence of the pipe. With 3,000+ pipes, this was quite a daunting task, but they have now worked through that and Nikolaj said that this is not a complaint because all of these "challenges are positive".

Nikolaj says that some of the guys that come into the store now know more about tobacco than he does. He said that it can be hard to keep up, but again this is a positive. The store is his passion. In business with Tom Eltang, a renowned pipe maker himself, Nikolaj said, "Tom and I want this to be the best pipe shop in the world, maybe not the biggest, but the best!"

It was great to meet all of these wonderful people in Milan, and we are glad we accepted Luca’s invitation to Neatpipes The Party 2.0. Afterwards, we took a week to tour Rome and Venice. Throughout all of Italy, all of the Italian people were extremely friendly and accommodating, and the food was indescribably delicious! We can’t wait to go back!

Note: Small opening photo of three pipes at the top of the article are Cristian Galeazzi’s pipes

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4 Responses

  • Thank you for this, especially the Anne Julie part, what a great lady.

  • Great follow up to the Party 2.0 article, and a nice insight into the latest crop of briar superstars.