Like a lot of other pipe makers I was a pipe smoker first. I took up pipe smoking during my second year at the University of Northern British Columbia. One of my roommates was a pipe smoker and it seemed like an interesting thing to try. Forty below didn't seem all that cold with a warm pipe in your hand and Black Cherry aromatic from the local tobacconist was just the thing for a break during late-night cram sessions.

Fast forward to 2003 and pipe and tamper making was a hobby that I enjoyed. My wife was good enough to not only buy me a small drill press, but was even tolerant enough to let me keep in in the living room of our apartment. At the time I was working in the local film industry in a lot of different capacities. I held the position of Assistant Editor, Location Scout, Trainee Assistant Director at various times. By far the most common though was as a Production Assistant which in film terms is the general infantry of the film industry. Working as a PA entailed long hours of boredom punctuated with moments of frenetic activity. My work bag would be filled with bits of wood , sandpaper, and chisels and I found a lot of time to work on my carving technique. Things would probably have progressed like that for a while if it wasn't for two events. The first was that in the end of 2003 the film industry saw a big slow-down in the number of productions coming to town and a lot of the crews were out of work myself included. Employment insurance helped, but the situation certainly was not ideal. The second event was that my wife became pregnant with our daughter. Working 15 plus hour days didn't really seem like the ideal job for a father-to-be when work picked back up again. I wanted to have more of a role in raising my child. At the same time there was a course offered on how to start a small business for people who were collecting employment insurance. I had been making pipes for a while at that point and I was just beginning to feel confident enough to begin selling my pipes. It didn't take much pondering to apply to the course and despite the current anti-tobacco environment, I was accepted. The course was a year-long and during that time I was able to learn a lot about running a small business and also work on the technical aspects of pipe making. At the end of the year I was ready to take the plunge and become a full-time pipe-maker.

Pipe making isn't something one just picks up in a day, or even a year. Despite the fact that there are no local pipe makers to apprentice with, I did get a fair bit of help over the Internet. Mark Tinsky and Trever Talbert are two who were good enough to set me on the right path when I ran into the proverbial brick wall. I also owe a debt to the pipe making community at large. Tips and new techniques are often offered and my work couldn't help but improve year by year being in the company of such people. Another seminal event was attending the Chicago pipe show for the first time and seeing what a high grade pipe should look like. Michael Parks was good enough to introduce me to the usual suspects there and drop a few tips. The learning curve continues to this day and each year I try to learn a little more and make my pipes a bit better.

So why do I like making pipes? It's a question with a lot of different answers. Pipe making is a job that offers a lot of variety and every pipe I make is a new challenge. No two pipes are ever the same and there is the potential for experimentation both technically and artistically. Pipe making is a job where you are constantly learning new things you can always challenge yourself to do new and innovative things. Making practical art is another facet of pipe making that I find really appealing. In a world full of disposable items it is important to me to make something that will last for more than a few years and will bring a hand made creativity to a place where beauty and creativity are often overlooked for the sake of practicality and manufacture cost. Knowing that people are enjoying my pipes is very gratifying I can't think of too many other professions where your work is enjoyed as an item with utility and as art.

I owe a huge debt of thanks to the pipe making community and to the pipe smoking community who are good enough to buy my pipes and keep me doing what I enjoy. Thank you all.

Best Wishes and Happy Puffing,

-Stephen Downie