Grant Batson, owner of G. Batson Pipes, is a good personal friend of mine. I own three of his wonderful pipes, and almost don’t want to smoke them sometimes because they’re so beautiful. He is a true artist, and we hope you enjoy reading about how he became a craftsmen. I know we did.
To learn more about G. Batson Pipes, visit their website here.
- First, give us some background on you. Who are you, age, location.
- How did you get into making items by hand, particularly pipes?
- Why do you value handmade items?
- Where do you hope G. Batson Pipes will be in 5 years?
- What new items are you working on?
- Who are some of your favorite companies who make items by hand?
- What’s your favorite pipe?
- What’s your favorite pipe shape to make?
- Who inspires you?
- Anything you’d like to say in closing?
I live in Nashville, TN and I’m 39 years old.
I’m the husband of a beautiful, loving, intelligent and supportive wife, and father of 4 wonderful, funny, energetic and crazy-talented kids. They define me more than anything, I think. In the midst of the madness that comes with following my talents and passions, it all hinges on my family. They are my constant grounding and a daily part of everything I do.
OK, some background. I was raised in the Texas country-side by two highly-motivated do-it-yourselfer workaholics. Rural living, music, art and hard work would be the key words I’d use to describe my up-bringing. My father and one of his brothers were brilliant inventors who just seemed to understand how things worked, though, like many of their ilk, they never really saw great profits or success from their efforts. My grandmother (their mother) was a very talented artist who focused much of her art on her native Cherokee heritage, which serves as some of my inspiration, today.
My occupational background began at the age of 10. My parents helped me, my younger brother and two friends start up a small shaved ice business which thrived every year and we eventually sold when I went to college. Through the years I’ve always managed to juggle multiple jobs simultaneously and crossed many industries; from construction and HVAC, to donuts, mailrooms, golf-cart wrangler and freelance artist.
After college, I decided to flush my education down the toilet and obtain a job as an apprentice in a high-end furniture and cabinet shop. My brother, Cory, later got a job with the same company and soon, thereafter, found an interest in building himself an acoustic guitar. I had made an electric guitar, at the age of 15, in my high school shop class (as I didn’t have a use for a bird-feeder). So, having first-hand experience with the difficulties of guitar construction, it’s fair to say that I was a tad skeptical of my brother’s possibility at success. After all, he was building an acoustic (much more difficult)! He completed the guitar, after about 10 months, and with minimal design help from me.
Through the years, he continued the pursuit of lutherie and I helped where I could. Eventually, we built that crazy hobby into a legitimate business (which Cory still advances today). Through those years (about 10 years), I would moonlight with Cory on the guitars, while feeding my family with project management, drafting, IT, and electrical work for various companies.
I guess, I’ve just always had it inside. Growing up, my parents never hired anyone to get anything done. From roofing, transmission work, appliance repair, plumbing and electrical, you name it… they were do-it-yourselfers. I really just never knew any better. So, I guess the attitude of “get’r done” is, simply, in my blood.
As for pipes, that’s a funny thing. In 2011, I needed a change of scenery from the guitar world, so I left the guitar business in my brother’s capable hands and immediately immersed myself in the work of pipe-making. I had smoked a pipe from the age of 19, but it had never occurred to me that making a pipe was something I could (or should) do. In fact, I tend to look at almost everything in my life from the vantage point of “I ain’t buyin’ that… I’ll make it!”. In 16 years of marriage, my wife and I have bought only 3 pieces of furniture. I’ve just made the things we’ve needed. When I was running the guitar business, my good friend and “pipe encyclopedia”, Keith Moore, and I would sit and play music and he would tell me, “Grant, you should make pipes”. I would retort, “Keith, I don’t know how to drill a curved hole.” We would laugh and that would be the end of it. It really never crossed my mind to make a pipe. Two years later, Todd Johnson (perhaps one of America’s most talented and genius pipe makers) generously offered me the opportunity to train under him. I took him up on that for 7 months. I was enthralled and hooked. During that time, I met Teddy Knudsen (legendary Danish pipe maker), who invited me to work with him in his shop in Italy. I’m not a good enough writer to tell you how wonderful that was. Since then, I’ve worked alongside some of the world’s finest pipe makers, many of whom have become close friends.
I often find that handmade items are more interesting, unique and of higher quality. You know, made by people who actually care about what they do. The stuff I tend to value the most, though, is the stuff that comes from original thought. Michael Hedges comes to mind. He crafted some of the most unique and original stringed music on the planet.
I hope I’m making better and better pipes and that people still love them. I have ideas of doing all sorts of things, but I have to say that there is something nice and simple about making sawdust at home and also having a genuine, one-on-one relationships with my clients. Those are elements that I hope will always be there.
This year I have a goal of increasing my creativity. Actually, I don’t really have a deficit of creativity, so it would perhaps be more accurate to say, I’d like to take more time to explore my creative concepts. A few weeks ago, I made some peculiar pipes that included brass, cow horn, bamboo and some exotic woods. They were not ordinary. In the process of making them, I had a dozen other ideas that I sketched out. I hope to steal some time away and work on these soon. (photos attached)
As I previously mentioned, my favorite artisans tend to be people who create stuff of which I’ve never seen nor would have thought. Peter Atwood is a guy whom I’ve followed (and bought from) for some time. He makes killer gadgets. Saddleback leather is a great company with legit goods. If I’m honest, I don’t really keep up with too many other artisans. I wish I had the time. I tend to make most things I need and, thus, don’t have the need to discover all the cool stuff that’s out there. There are some handmade items that have peaked my interest but I wouldn’t know a “company” to deem a “favorite” would be handpan drums and fly rods. I’d like to make one of these for myself one day.
My favorite pipe is a pretty simple one. Smokes great. No fuss. (attached)
My favorite pipe shape to make is … well, it’s not really a shape. My favorite way to make a pipe is to take a block of briar to the wheel with absolutely no conceived notion of what it will become. One thing leads to another and before I know it, I have a funky pipe. That’s the most fun for me.
Josh Garrels makes killer music that inspires me daily in the shop.
My family and friends inspire me. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by great people.
It’s starting to look like a triple rainbow.
To learn more about G. Batson Pipes, visit their website here.