Certainly - today there are pipemakers in Calabria who are better known to many pipesters than Domenico Grenci ever was. Nevertheless he had many faithful friends abroad - all above in the USA - who admired this master's work. His popularity in the States results from the fact that he lived for some years in Chicago, IL where he worked as an ebony wood sculptor before he began making pipes.
Returning home to Brognaturo, a small village in the Serra San Bruno, he opened a pipe workshop there. In a cabinet of the workshop were always some the most beautiful and best pieces on display, for many Italian and foreign customers gladly came there in order to pick up their next Grenci directly from the master himself. A frequent and especially honored visitor was the former Italian president of the state Sandro Pertini (1896 – 1990), a great pipe smoker and connoisseur who loved to combine his facility trips with visits to his favorite pipemakers when the official part was over. Another important customer was Luciano Lama (1921 – 1996), sectretary of Italy's most important trade union CGIL.
The Calabrian briar Domenico Grenci used was stored in an especially conditioned cellar room where it rested in constant temperature and moisture for 10 years prior to the processing. The pipes were made by entire handwork and also the mouthpieces were cut by hand. The bulk of Grenci's pipes was smooth in most cases - only few pieces were sand blastated or rusticated when showing excellent graining otherwise. Generally, blasting and rusticating contradicted his high claims on his pipes. All models were formed free hand and mostly of generous dimensions. Grenci dedicated highest attention to the course of the grain. Light tones, but nevertheless rich in contrast, were preferred for staining in order to show the entire beauty of the wood. Therefore he also refused to coat the bowl's interior.
Giuseppe Zangari (*1960), today famed as a sculptor and painter from Brognaturo, started his artistic career under Domenico Grenci.
When Domenico Grenci passed away in 1998 he left behind not only the workshop to his sons Antonio and Vincenzo but also his many many special technologies. He who dropped in there, always met a Grenci in the workshop from dawn till dusk and was welcome to look at all steps of pipe making.
Paolo Becker remembers: "Domenico Grenci, whom I remember with affection and am honored to have known, was the person who introduced my father (Fritz Becker) and I to the secrets of selecting briar for pipe making. This shy and quiet Calabrian artisan taught my father everything he knew about briar. As a matter of fact, he not only imparted all his knowledge on him, but also offered us a part of his personal reserve of seasoned briar, while we waited for the newer briar to season.
Today, I still rely on the teachings of Domenico Grenci to choose the briar for my pipes. I look for briar in old mills and evaluate its color, consistency, relative weight and density, just as I was taught."
Grenci, 89822 Brognaturo (Vibo Valentia)