A Conversation With Damiano Rovera
This article is courtesy of Smokingpipes.com, and used her by permission. All rights reserved.
Ardor has been made by four generations of Roveras since its inception in 1911. Damiano, along with his father Dorelio, makes Ardor today. He also makes the new Damiano Rovera line which, while sharing stylistic ideas with Ardor, also takes some of those ideas in new directions. Recently, Damiano conducted an interview by email with Bear Graves:
BEAR:Every pipe maker seems to have a common theme that is apparent in the majority of his work. Yours are very distinct. What is your inspiration and how do you maintain your theme? Why are your pipes special?
DAMIANO: At the outset of talking about my work, you have to understand that I love making pipes, even if I was a millionaire and set for life, I would not give up pipe making. It is something inside me. I look at a block and already see the completed pipe within. The satisfaction that I derive from crafting a raw piece of briar into that vision is something that is profound, and very difficult to explain.
My theme? I try to envision the man who will own it. I want to create something of comfort that will be treasured by both the smoker and collector and follow him throughout his life. The pipe must be a friend. A friend who will share the bad, as well as the good. If I am to create that friend, that friend must not only fit the smoker like a custom made glove, it must be the best. That man above not only drives my shaping and engineering, but the ornamentation. Something as simple as a different mount or bit will not only emphasize a particular shape or line, it will give the pipe a special face. Every pipe should be as special as a best friend. That is my theme!
BEAR: If somebody has never tried one of your pipes, why should they buy one?
DAMIANO: While just a different manner of looking at things, I believe the pipe should ask the man to buy it, and not the opposite. Any man who smokes and collects pipes wants the best! If a pipe smoker appreciates the taste of very well aged briar, can see the effort that we put into the details and engineering, and enjoys that he is holding a pipe that is unique, shaped unlike anything else out there… they should smoke an Ardor.
BEAR: Describe a perfect pipe making day.
DAMIANO: A perfect pipe making day starts in the early morning, when I give the first kiss to my wife and little boy. Knowing they are well and happy helps me relax and concentrate on the day ahead. After a few minutes in the office, I start to look at the briar. The briar speaks to me and my hands and heart follow to create the pipe that lies within. As I mentioned, the shape of a pipe seems to come unbidden from a conscious creativity. The pipe is in there, I just need to remove the superfluous to get to it. If I hit problems, I head to my garden. After about ten minutes of thinking and walking, solutions appear to me. During moments of mental relaxation, my mind takes in shapes that would pass by unnoticed if lost in thought. Shapes and inspiration abound if we look at the world with a fresh set of eyes. To make a perfect pipe is a long journey and, like a long journey, if you look around, the trip becomes more enjoyable and the end of the journey comes upon you faster than you had first thought.
BEAR: Your Giant Series of pipes are popular in the US. Do they have much of a following in Europe, or does the popularity seem to be a US phenomenon?
DAMIANO: While we do sell a few Giants to our European customers, the overwhelming majority goes to the US. I think the reason is because Americans aren't as straight laced as Europeans, they are more open to new ideas and willing to try all life has to offer or, in this case, the pipes we are able to offer. In short, I think of Americans have open minds and are open people.
BEAR: Which pipe makers influence you?
DAMIANO: I really love the shaping and ornamentation of Danish pipe makers. Their ability to obtain the best from every piece of briar and their state of the art staining is fantastic! The ability to maximize grain through the use of high contrast staining is something I emphasize in my Damiano series.
BEAR: Tell us about your Damiano series of pipes.
DAMIANO: Well, they are pipes made completely with my point of view and inspiration. What do I demand from these pipes? They must speak! Speak in the sense that they would be so different that they would be recognized among hundreds of other pipes at the first look. This "difference" will not be easy to arrive at, but I know my love of pipe making and all my effort will come back to me and reflect in my pipes, I am sure of this!
Having said that, I do not want to leave anyone with the impression that Ardor is inferior to the Damiano series. The very idea would be crazy; I make Ardor's as well. But while Ardor pipes come from a union of minds of two men of different ages and ideas, Damiano's come from a completely young and fresh mindset.
BEAR: Do you smoke a pipe? What is your favorite tobacco?
DAMIANO: Yes! I smoke Ardor pipes. I love some of the fantastic shapes that have found life in the past couple of years.
Regarding the tobacco I, smoke a mix made by a Swiss friend, a tobacco with an English taste that, candidly, is not mild by any means. Anyway the English tobaccos are now my favorites, with all due respect to the amphora green I have been smoking since my youth.
BEAR: Do you ever have visitors to your workshop? Tell us about some of them.
DAMIANO: I have different visitors to our showroom, but very few people ever see our workshop. My father is quite zealous in keeping people out. As an example, I can tell you that a man, who is now a good friend, came every year to buy a pipe and see "the famous work shop". He always left with a pipe, but never a view. Well finally, after 5 years my father decided to show him the workshop and they spent a Sunday to make two special pipes. My father made the shapes based on the man's suggestion and, after that, my father left him to clean and finish the pipes under his view. The man was exhausted at the end, but so happy that he gave a kiss to my father, saying that he felt a great emotion that only could be compared to the birth of his son! Now he is a prominent collector of our pipes as well as a good friend!
BEAR: What are your plans for the future?
DAMIANO: My plans for the future? Well I hope to continue to advance as a pipe maker and to have the satisfaction of a well received product. I think money is important to carry on our life in a good way. But the satisfaction of seeing a man smoking a Damiano or Ardor is something that money can't buy.
BEAR: Aside from making pipes, what other things or interests are you passionate about?
DAMIANO: I love basketball. Point of fact, up to last year, I was playing in a national league, but this year I have really stressed for time and am not sure if I will be able to continue or not. Other than that, I spend all my free time with my fantastic wife and my little boy Ricky, who is three years old and is the motor of my life.
Sure, I have a lot of friends and sometimes I invite 15-20 of them over and have a full day with them. In the summertime we grill outside and drink good wine. Still, the best moments are when we pull out our Ardor pipes, smoke and have conversation. It's here that I must give my sweet wife credit, having that many people in our house leads to a state of total confusion inside and in the garden. Still, these gatherings are part of my life and she loves me. What can I say? The woman is an angel!
One last thing I would like to share. Ardor is Ardor, but I owe my success in the US to Steve Monjure. Steve is like a father to me. Hard working, patient, and passionate about pipes, his love for me, my family, and our product has made Ardor a success in the US. For this he has my utmost love and respect, as well as my eternal gratitude.