Conversation With A Conversation With Maurizio Tombari

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A Conversation With Maurizio Tombari of Le Nuvole Pipes, by Bear Graves

I recently (03/2006) caught up with Maurizio, via email, at his home in Pesaro, Italy, and asked him a few questions that were of great importance to me and, hopefully, to you, our dear readers. This response must have been especially trying to Maurizio, for he recently had an industrial accident while working on a curved pipe. The briar slipped and he sawed well into his ring finger, resulting in a tendon surgery to repair. That finger in now immobilized, and he is out of pipe making commission for the next 40 days. My thanks to him and my best wishes for a speedy recovery! Here's the interview:

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?

Maurizio: When I first latched on to the idea of making pipes, I started by drawing out shape and engineering concepts on paper, with the intention of creating original, and highly smokeable pipes. My wife, Stefania, has had a life long interest in architecture and design, started to help me, giving me some fresh perspective. The two of us have always been inspired by the timeless potteries, amphorae, vases, and their intriguing shapes. My home, Pesaro, has been a leading area in the production of ceramics, hailing back to the middle ages. As of late, we have been more actively pursuing the concept of wind, and it's shaping effects on natural, living materials.

BEAR: Why are your pipes special?

Maurizio: Oh, that's quite a bit to quantify in a concrete manner. In general, my clients tell me that they love the elegance of our shapes, their light weight, excellent engineering, and great flavor. The last quality I can attribute to my workshop ans its briar storage. I installed temperature and humidification controls, and have isolated my briar in a soundless, vibration free environment. Under these conditions, the briar is aged to perfection.

BEAR: If somebody has never tried one of your pipes, why should they buy one?

Maurizio: If a pipe smoker desires a well shaped, highly engineered pipe of light weight and top notch smoking qualities, they should try a Le Nuvole.

BEAR: Would you describe a perfect pipe making day?

Maurizio: I get up very early in the morning, and handle my mail, and email. Shortly thereafter, I head down to the workshop, put on my headphones to listen to music, and begin my work on the bowls of the pipes I have in process. I have a three story home. We live on the third floor, my parents on the second, and the first floor is reserved as my workshop. Sometimes, I have to leave for the bank, local associations, and other personal chores, but we can pretend that this doesn't happen on a "perfect" day ;). After lunch, I begin work on the stems, curving them, applying my symbol... in short, a perfect pipe day is one when I can spend all day making my pipes!

BEAR: How important is Stefania to your work? Would you describe her role?

Maurizio: In the beginning Stefania didn't know anything regarding pipe engineering; oddly enough, this limited knowledge gave her the flexibility to create some of our most original shapes. These days, I can say that she designs most of my pipes. While she does not actually make the pipes, you can see her vision, fused with mine, in each and every pipe. We really love spending our time talking about Le Nuvole, and I feel this has helped us bond tightly as a couple, and leads to a long lasting relationship.

BEAR: Which pipe makers influence you?

Maurizio: When I first started to design Le Nuvole, I didn't know anything regarding the web, so I didn't have the exposure to a wide variety of pipe makers that the web brings. In person, I had seen some Italian pipes, many Dunhills and some Charatans. I have always admired Castello in particular. And Stefania had only encountered my pipes. Today Stefania doesn't look to any other pipe makers for her shaping inspiration, but to our vision of what they should look like. Personally, I like in particular Larry Roush, Rolando Negoita and Peter Matzhold's pipemaking and design.

BEAR: Tell me about your Zed series of pipes.

Maurizio: If Le Nuvole pipes in general are the result of a search for balance, the "Zed" series stems from fantasies that, deviating from rationality, lead to shapes that are playful, organic, and free-flowing.

BEAR: Do you smoke a pipe? What is your favorite tobacco?

Maurizio: I bought my first pipe (four months before I started working for Mastro de Paja) in summer of 1978 and I've never abandoned pipesmoking. I've always smoked Elizabethan Mixture, and at the moment my favorite tobaccos are Crown Achievement, plus GL Pease Blackpoint and Caravan.

BEAR: Aside from the creation of beautiful pipes, what are your other interests? What brings the passion out in you?

Maurizio: Before starting with le Nuvole I used to spend all my time painting. now I never have this desire because I think my pipemaking really satisfies my need for visual expression. I love reading prose and poetry, really like music, especially pop, enjoy relaxing or walking and admiring the sea and the hills that surround my city.

BEAR: What are your plans for the future?

Maurizio: To improve my pipe making and, hence, my pipes. To continue to live in a beautiful, relaxing place ;).