A Stout Collaboration

18th September, 2009: Posted by glpease in Pipes

I can’t keep quiet about this anymore. It’s been driving me nuts not being able to talk about it, but we’re finally close enough to the release, and I’m thinking it’s safe to break the silence. After all, the first batch of pipes are done, and they’re stamped, and they’re coming to Richmond, so it’s pretty clear at this point that it’s really happening. It’s not so much that it’s been a Top-Secret, eyes only sort of thing. It’s just that up until this week, it might still have been just another dream. But, now it’s real. Now, it’s time to spill the fagioli.

Back in 2007, Luca diPiazza began discussing a new project to be done in cooperation with Radice. The idea was that Luca and I would create some fun designs that would be made by Radice in limited editions. The first design was to be a shorter, stouter rhodesian variant, almost a Brucianaso (nose warmer) in proportion.

Luca and I discussed the shape concept and the design parameters. I drew up the final sketch, and sent it off to Radice, from which three prototypes were made. Luca and I then selected the one that we felt right for the final model. I smoked that lovely ‘prototipo’ for a couple of weeks, just to make sure that the internal details were right. I’ve always really liked the way Radice’s pipes smoke, and fully expected this one to be great, but it seemed a good excuse to smoke a new pipe. It was fantastic, of course, and so the project was now officially well underway!

Unfortunately, I had to return the prototypes to Italy. “Don’t worry, Greg,” Luca reassured. “You’ll get your pipe back.”  Alas, even more unfortunately, mille grazie to the vagaries of the Italian post, these first three pieces never completed their journey from San Francisco to Milano. We lost the prototypes, I lost my pipe, and we had to start the process over. (That’s it, by the way, right down there.)

So, Radice made three more prototypes from the original drawings, and these were subjected to the same scrutinies of the rigorous selection process, with Luca and I individually choosing our favourite, then discussing our choice. Not really much to discuss. Once again, we both chose the same example, with only very minor changes to be made. This time, the prototypes were hand delivered, and carried across the Atlantic in Luca’s luggage to minimize risk of them getting lost in some darkened corner of an Italian post office. You’d think we were dealing with highly valuable, secret technology or priceless jewels here, but once bitten, twice shy. (I hope the guy who nicked the originals is enjoying my pipe as much as I would be.)

So, we were back on track, a little later than we’d hoped, but once again, the project was underway. From there, it was a matter of doing all the other stuff related to building a product. A logo had to be designed, and a stamp made for the pipes. We had to decide on the size of the edition (100), and how they’d be numbered and graded. The pipes had to be made, the silver bands sourced and applied. The finished pipes had to be sorted, graded, stamped and made ready for sale. There’s a lot more to this than I was anticipating. Thankfully, Luca has been the point man in Italy, doing his usual excellent job of managing the details, whilst I sit here in California, and handle the easy stuff.

Over the past couple months, as we’ve gotten closer and closer, Luca has kept me from going insane with anticipation by sending the occasional teasing photo of the project’s progress. It’s been fun watching as these little beauties have come to life. It’s a treat for me to finally be able to share some of those images. Of course, I’ve leaked pictures to various friends in the pipe world; it’s always nice to have sanity checks along the way with projects like this. The unanimous response has been, “When can I get one?” So, though when we started this, we thought 100 pipes might be a lot, I’m already starting to wonder if we’ll need to do a second edition.

The first batch of pipes will be unveiled at the CORPS show on 2nd-4th October, and more will be finding their way to selected Radice retailers in the coming weeks. We made the decision not to attempt to impose grades upon the pipes in the edition. Instead, 100 pipes will be made, and critically graded as they come. In other words, we won’t know how many Silk-Cuts, how many Clears, how many Rubinos, &c will be made until the edition is complete.

Luca and I have been like two excited little kids in a candy store with this project, and are already working on our next design, which should appear sometime in ‘la Primavara’ of 2010.  We’ve got some other ideas up our sleeves, as well. Stay tuned for more from Pease/diPiazza Design.