For more images of Elie's artistry, please visit his website: Elie's Freehand Pipes
I am Elie, living and working in Portugal and in Belgium.
There's not that much to be told about me. I'm a mostly self taught pipe maker who is passionate about this art. As you will notice from the images: I don't stick to one style, one material.
I love to work with briar (at this moment Algerian), but even more with olive- and strawberry-wood, that I harvest, cut, select and dry myself in Portugal.
So: from the tree to the customer, it all passes through my hands. The mark on my pipes says: "Handmade by Elie Belgium". But your pipe may have travelled a lot. From Portugal to Belgium where it was roughly cut and drilled, back to Portugal to make the pipe until almost finished, and than back to Belgium where it is polished, and then to the pipe smoker. Or just "all done in Belgium" (except for the material preparation).
Olive wood isn't used that much in pipes, and I never saw one made of strawberry wood, Medronheiro. But I like the waves that are completely different from briar grain. There are a lot of myths hanging around in the pipe-world around olive-wood pipes. They would burn through rapidly, would turn fast to a bitter taste, etc. None of this is true. Any pipe that is misused as a furnace might burn through. And my own olive-wood pipe still smokes without bitterness.
As I said: I make briar pipes too. Now, there's a lot of emphasis on straight grains. I smoked a pipe from my sixteenth year on, and all those many years, I bought pipes that I could afford. Never heard, nor cared about straight grains. There are many people who won't like my opinion about it. But briar is a natural product. Where in nature does one find straight lines? Except for some theoretical physical concepts? Nature is wilder and more versatile than that. Perfectly straight grains are the freaks of nature. I might have straight grains among the pipes that I produce, but that's less important to me. Some might find this a form of blasphemy, so be it.
My emphasis is on form and colour. And quality, of course.
There is a lot of controversy around my work been noticed on the internet. I can live with that. If pipemaking may no longer be a form of free expression and art, like some conservative pipe smokers (the majority) would like to dictate it, the pipe world would be a dull and dead place where status is the main feature (bragging about expensive standard pipes that almost all look the same).
I'm going on, my own way, trying to renew things. Despite the denigrating and even agressive comments on forums. I'm not claiming to make big art, but trying to create beauty on a few square inches. And I'm grateful to my loyal fans who support me in doing my own thing, away from commercial goals. Their kind words like "Artiste-pipier", "Elie makes smokeable art", encourage me to follow my own path.
About quality : I have 5 grades.(CHANGED!)
A+ : Highest grade which you will rarely see on this site. 'A+'means to me: 'can't be better'.
A: Technically OK. Be it that my A can be someone else's A+.
B: Small flaws, hardly noticeable.
C: Something went wrong, but it is perfectly smokeable. Maybe the flaw won't mind to you.
R: Reject. In this case, something went horribly wrong, but I hate to throw away a perfectly smokable pipe. I won't forget the times, when I couldn't afford myself a freehand. Today there are still a lot of people in that situation, and their number is growing. I will lose money on this grade, but I don't mind.