J. Alan Pipes
If you take a look at the pipe making greats, you will usually find one of a couple of paths into their craft. Either they were born into a home where there were pipe makers, Lars and Nanna Ivarsson (Ivarssons) come to mind of course, but so do many others, or they played with it for a bit over a long period of time, then finally put their all into the briar; Peter Matzhold comes to mind. Then we have Jeff Gracik.
J.Alan pipes are made by Jeffrey A. Burt-Gracik in lovely San Diego, California. Having chosen an ideal location to not only live and surf, but make pipes in a workshop that gets neither too cold nor too hot, Jeff is one of the very few makers worldwide that has ideal working conditions.
Born of Meadville, Pennsylvania, Princeton educated, Jeff played with making a couple of pipes while earning his Master's degree. He then immediately became addicted to the craft and went full-time pipe maker.
Jeff Gracik does nothing by half measure, and his pipes were no exception. He didn't want to create a product that was "acceptable" but one that excelled. To this end, he devoured the PIMO book and sought advice from pipe maker Tim West. Shortly, Jeff made the pilgrimage to learn side by side with his friend and mentor, American master Todd Johnson. Pipe makers to follow included Danish carver Tonni Nielsen and American wizard Jody Davis (J. Davis Pipes).
Jeff's shaping aesthetic, while showing obvious influences from the likes of Todd, Jody, and Tonni, is quite impossible to pigeon hole. He never approaches a block of briar with a specific theme in mind, rather allowing his mood to combine with the dictates of the wood's grain to create something so "within the moment," that it's exact likes will never be seen again.
All J.Alan pipes are shaped from exquisite blocks of top-grade briar cured and aged to make the best pieces possible. Each stem is expertly hand-cut and slotted from ebonite, cumberland, or vintage Bakelite. Perfect mouth-feel completes each piece, which is why you will never question the smoking properties of a J.Alan pipe after trying your first. Limiting use of accents for consistency and a body of work, one might occasionally find bamboo, silver (which Jeff does himself), boxwood, and a few others. Finishing only smooth or blasted pieces, each J.Alan is a full extension of the maker. Being an avid surfer, Jeff's highest grade (and rarely produced) is the "Wave." Other pieces aren't graded, but easily fit on a timeline as each is stamped with the number of production and the year. Courtesy smokingpipes.com
Zen Blowfish, Jeff's description: This is undoubtedly one of my finest creations. It was as if my hands were completely guided by a force outside themselves. The wood cooperated perfectly (anyone who works with briar knows how rare this is) and left me a pipe that has not a single visible surface flaw and has exceptional grain. The piece is clearly inspired by the spectacular work of Gotoh-san, yet my own style is overwhelmingly present within it. The design thrusts angularity and sensual curves together into a composition that could not be complete without their mutual presence. This pipe is an accomplishment that I will not soon forget.
Blasted Dublin, Jeff's Description: This sandblasted Dublin is a workhorse pipe with unexpected grace. Its egg-shaped top profile continue through to the shank face which is capped with a generous ring of pre-ban elephant ivory. The grain on this wood simply could not have performed better in the sandblaster. I wish they all were like this; beautifully defined, deep, regular rings. To top it all off, the pipe is light as a feather.
Dewdrop, Jeff's description: Sometimes as an artist, you simply cannot trace the origin of an idea nor identify its genesis. The Dewdrop was not inspired by its namesake but instead came to be identified as one as it morphed and developed into its final self. The pipe underwent countless reconceptions, inversions, and variations before my mind finally wrapped itself around the task of its creation. Its lines, angles, rolls, and curves are manifold and so organic that the piece is difficult to explain. Instead, I will simply say that I am indeed pleased.
The Genesis of J. Alan Pipes (from Jeff's website )
Like many other pipemakers before me, I began with a few hobby-grade briar blocks, preformed stems, and a few hand tools. Soon after making my first few pipes, I began to explore my creativity and technical ability by increasing the difficulty of designs and utilizing exotic hardwoods as decorative extensions and inserts. A major turn in my understanding of pipe design and engineering occurred under the tutelage of the artisan behind STOA Briars, Todd Johnson. Todd introduced me to the Danish pipemaking tradition by helping hone my designs into more graceful, flowing creations. Additionally, acquainted me with the unique Danish drilling techniques that enable the pipemaker to fully utilize the grain of each block. This experience represented a transition point in my craft from hobby-quality to high-grade smoking pipes. After retooling my shop and acquiring better materials, I was able to combine these with the knowledge I had gained while working with Todd and increase the quality of my products.
I continue to seek consultation and criticism from collectors, experts, and fellow pipemakers. I am especially indebted to Tyler Beard (Tyler Lane Pipes), Neil Flancbaum, Jody Davis (J. Davis Pipes), Keith Moore, Jeff Folloder, and Jesper Klith for their time and expertise. It is because of their help that my craftsmanship and artistic sensibilities are able to continue to develop and mature. J. Alan Pipes represent a commitment to constant improvement and refinement of both design and engineering. It is my desire to make the most beautiful and best smoking pipes that I am able to create. Please feel free to browse through the showroomto see this commitment in process.
Jeff, along with his brother Jeremy started Alan Brothers Pipes in the Spring of 2013, in order to offer Jeff designed pipes at a more affordable price point with hand finished machine made pipes.
Jeff is also offering pipe making tools, which are availabe through Vermont Freehand
- See also, A Conversation with Jeff Gracik.
- Excellent interview on Tobaccodays.com
- You may also enjoy Brian Levine's interviews with Jeff on the Pipes Magazine Radio Show, Episode 320, and an very early Episode 13
Jeff Gracik Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jalanpipes/ J. Alan Pipes Website: https://jalanpipes.com/ Email: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 609-937-8317