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Pipes & Tobaccos Magazine, Cover



Click the image above to open a PDF version of the cover story article (the first two pages) from the 2008 Summer Pipes & Tobaccos magazine article on Will Purdy. To view the entire article, Pipes and Tobacco subscribers may click here to log on, and those of you new to this great publication may also subscribe using the same link.





Beautiful, Incredible


I own an amazingly beautiful and incredibly great smoking Will Purdy Volcano smooth straight grain with dense, eye popping 3-dimensional birdseye floating on its wide bottom. Every time I look at its graceful aesthetics I experience abstract images from Tolkienesque fantasy worlds and yet concretely find myself contemplating how converging and diverging lines and curves can intertwine into exotic, complex, organic harmony. The well cured and long seasoned briar coupled with Will's perfectionist construction technique provides it with wonderful smoking qualities. Will Purdy's style is one of the most unique, original, and functional in all the pipe world.


Fred Hanna





Will Purdy, the Anti-Cliche


In our hobby we have our own set of cliches. "This guy's pipes are great. He's the next - insert famous pipe maker here." Or, "These pipes are so distinctive. You can pick out this guy's pipes from across the room." You know, stuff like that. And really those cliches could be aptly applied to Will. But that isn't really the full picture. There's really nothing cliche about Will's pipes, or his path to making them.


As for Will's pipe making education; no cliches there. None of the ubiquitous, "Well, I picked up a PIMO kit and visited the workshop of -insert famous pipe maker here-, and now I make pipes." Will is perhaps the truest example of the autodidact as our already insular community has. And more importantly, it shows. Don't believe me, look at one of his pipes and say, "Yes, I see that this pipe is in the blah, blah, school." Or, "Well, I see the influence of so and so here." Liar, no you don't. You see Will, doing his thing.


As for the pipes themselves, no cliches there either. Like many of you I have heard myself say, "I like so and so's pipes, they're distinctive." And that's a great thing. I demand that in the pipes I collect. Fortunately for American pipe collectors, or should I clarify, collectors of American pipes, we have a plethora of unique voices to choose from. Many of those guy's pipes will be recognizable from across a crowded, and smoky showroom floor. They'll yell, "Hey, I am a unique shape by a uniquely American voice!" And that's awesome. I own many of those pipes and treasure them. But that's not Will. Will's pipes don't yell anything. They whisper.


Now, if you are looking for "Hey, they made a Ramses, I'll make a Ramses." Or, "Hey, I can make a blowfish that stands up sideways, and is pierced by bamboo, and has an ivory spear tip and is accented by six exotic woods." Well, you should probably close this site. Look elsewhere; there are plenty who will charge you handsomely to accommodate you. If you want superbly shaped, unique, and subtle creations that eschew cliches and provide smoking qualities second to none and manage to accomplish all this at a value, give Will a call.


Nothing wrong with cliches, I embody a few myself. But, I'm here to tell you, Will isn't the next (insert famous pipe maker here). Will isn't the next anybody. He is quite simply the first Will Purdy.


Mat Thomas





Style In The Highest


When I smoke one of my Purdy pipes, I feel immersed in the moment. The effortlessness smoking experience facilitates a transcendent, reflective state-of-being that I relish when I'm with my pipe. Will's pipes are servants of that experience; they smoke exquisitely.


I am not the collector I was before I started collecting Will's pipes. Through his work, I have fallen in love with the organic and the subtle. I believe that Will's aim is not to dazzle or shout but rather to for his pipes to be in the world on their own terms - just like him.


Having spent a lifetime in the arts, it has been my experience that those qualities that one finds in an artist and in his or her art are too often dissimilar. With some artists, it is as if their work found its way through some dark, brambled labyrinth to emerge miraculously bright-faced and unscathed. To compare Will's work with many other artisan's work feels absurd. It would be like looking at a flower and suggesting that the flower might be more beautiful if a petal had curled more at the tip. It is what it is. Because of that authenticity, Will Purdy's work feels real and true. With apologies to Gertrude Stein, when I think of Will Purdy's aesthetic, I believe that there is a "there there."


Will once told me that pipe-making is a vocation where "you can't wait for the muse to sit on your shoulder. You must work when you don't feel like it." That discipline, humility, and perseverance feel tangible in his work. Clearly his muse - like me and other Purdy collectors - respects and loves him.


Writing about agriculture as art, in his essay Of Discipline and Hope, Wendell Berry wrote that it "grows not only out of factual knowledge but out of cultural tradition; it is learned not only by precept but by example, by apprenticeship; and it requires not merely a competent knowledge of facts and processes, but also a complex set of attitudes, a certain culturally evolved stance, in the face of the unexpected and the unknown. That is to say, it requires style in the highest and richest sense of that term."


Wendell Berry might have been describing Will Purdy's pipe-making with those words.


Neill Archer Roan





Treasured Friends


I love beautiful hand-made pipes. I love the craftsmanship, the play of tradition and innovation, and the great smoke that they can provide. That must explain why I have more pipes by Will Purdy than by any other pipemaker. Will is a serious and exacting craftsman, but his sense of play and creativity imbue every pipe with a boldness and originality that make it a treasured friend.


I've bought pipes Will had on hand and I've commissioned some. He is a pleasure to work with and I've always been very happy with the design, finish, amazing stem work, and impeccable smoking quality. Will's a fine man to deal with and I believe his handsome pipes are among the very finest available.


Kevin Moran





Something Special


There "is" something special about a Will Purdy pipe. Many pipes I own smoke special and Will's are no exception in that category. That's not what I'm talking about. There is something above all else about how he shapes his creations and that's the hook for me!


My first impression? WOW! This pipe is really something special. Hard to define as there is nothing "fancy" about it, it's just,.. well it's just perfect. The fit and finish from the drilling to the highly polished surface is pure perfection. Even the tobacco chamber was smooth as glass.


The bit work on this one is almost delicate but enough of a button to make it secure when clenched. The shaping of the pipe is also so perfect that you'd think all pipes should be this same shape. Obviously I don't mean that all pipes should be this same shape, it's just that this one seems so perfectly balanced and natural that it could be no other way.


Add to all this, the grain patterns follow the unique shape so perfectly. Yeah, I know, it's really the other way around but it just doesn't seem that way. On your website you said "Finally, I found another Organic Tadpole block!" and I guess that's what I mean. The grain and shape are one. Incredible!


I've spent most of my adult life as an autobody repairman. I was good and I worked on many show cars. The point is I have a feel for surface shapes,... you have to be able to sense the slightest change in shape with your hands to be able to say, that's right. I cannot tell you how perfect my Purdy Tadpole is. If you look at the photos on the website, trust me, that does not tell the tale. Running my fingers over the bowl reveals so many subtle shape changes and each one is perfect. Each one belongs there and the pipe would not be the same without them. You are a gifted artist Will and I'm proud to own one of your creations.


I was reluctant to put fire to this beauty. I wanted to keep it just as it was. It was perfect and I did not want to change that in any way! Weird!


Fortunately I quickly got over that and the first bowl of Embarcadero tasted oh so good! :-D


BTW, you may have noticed a repeated word in all this, I just noticed it. "Perfect", that is the keyword for this pipe.


A happy smoker of a Will Purdy pipe!


Ed Anderson





Ideal Engineering


I have been collecting pipes for many years, and I generally purchase pipes from people who I have come to know a bit. Every pipe in my collection has a memory attached to it. I remember the purchase, the carver or merchant, and even the setting in which it was purchased; although some were commissions or otherwise purchased from a distance from a carver I know. I must say that in general, I can endorse several carvers; there are some very talented people out there. However, it is a smaller population of carvers who are making a mark with pieces that I believe are uniquely distinctive. Many carvers today are experimenting with forms and styles and their work is all over the place. That's not necessarily bad, they make some fantastic pipes. Carvers with a hyper-focus in certain essential elements of form and style, however, are rare. Will falls into that group. When you see a Purdy - you can tell it's a Purdy. How?


I was talking to Will one time about stem treatments, bands and / or inserts, that type of thing. Will told me he preferred not to use them. Not because he could not craft them, but because he said that the addition added an element of uncertainty to the pipe. If the pipe is simply briar and a stem, one only needs to concern oneself with the expansion and contraction of two elements. Adding a third element, a material that will behave over time differently than the briar and the stem material, increases the chances of something becoming loose, misaligned or cracked over time. He may have also said that he prefers a pipe to be the essence of simplicity. He did not say anything about 'gilding a lily' but I think that concept has a role in his thinking as well. He makes his pipes from block and rod; that's it. I like that.


As it relates to workmanship, I can say that one can be certain of ideal engineering. How can I be so sure? First off, the man is a fanatic. Ask him to tell you about airway design and you will get the idea. Second, I own Will Purdy Pipes. I smoke them. They are perfect. I have his first Roma Series pipe from 2002. This is a Volcano with no nomenclature; I don't believe Will was selling his pipes at this time. I have his second Roma from 2003, a Dublinesque pipe with an unusually organic shape. I also have the honor of owning his Roma 2004, the Cornucopia; his first Turtle Grade pipe.


But the most important Purdy that I own is a Tapered Shank Dublin with no nomenclature. It was at the 2002 Chicago Pipe Show that I met Will for the first time. He was scouting the show, talking to people, and showing a few of his own hand carved pieces. One evening I was sitting with my wife and some friends, Tony Deissler, Ken Lamb, Greg Pease, and a bit later Sykes Wilford and Jon Tillman. I'm not sure who introduced Will, it may have been Tony or Greg, but in any case Will was there too and we were all sipping some 20 Year Old whiskey (Old Rip Van Winkle) that I had brought along to share. It was there that I first saw the pipes that Will carved; he had brought along a case of his early work to collect feedback. A small tapered shank Dublin caught my eye. I kept picking it up and putting it down. Do you know what it's like when a pipe speaks to you? This pipe was, to me, perfect in every proportion. I asked Will if I could buy it and he replied that his work was not yet ready for sale.


I was disappointed, but I respected him. This guy was the real deal. Remember that wine company that would release no wine before it's time? Well, here we had a pipe carver that was unwilling to release a pipe with his name on it unless it met with his standards. I think I asked him to reconsider once or twice and then abandoned the matter. We talked tobacco and pipes and I kept picking up the tapered shank Dublin and putting it down again until Will finally put his pipes away.


Months later it came in the mail with a note. Will took pity on me and sent it along. So what was the big flaw? Well, there is a very small natural fissure on the inside rim at the top of the bowl. I've been smoking this pipe for years and it never amounted to anything at all. It is a wonderful smoker, and a wonderful memory.


I write this note with a strong endorsement of Will's work. I will prize the Purdy pipes that I own, and over time I expect to add more of his work to my collection.


Ernie Carabillo III