At SATX Pipe, we’re fortunate to work with artisan pipe makers from all over the world to bring you an incredibly diverse array of pipes. Each piece is painstakingly and masterfully crafted by hand, every detail attended to with care. We’ve had the pleasure of developing deep relationships with our roster of carvers, and in our “A Closer Look” series of profiles we’d like to give you a chance to get to know some of these amazing pipe makers a bit better too.
In the world of artisan pipes, it’s no secret that we tend to place a great deal of emphasis on the lineage of teachers that a pipe maker is trained under. Many specialized crafts are like this, with knowledge and skill typically being passed from teacher to student, and so on down the line. But there will always be exceptions to the rule—a select few of our pipe makers have been largely self-taught, relying on their natural talents, an irrepressible will to learn, and a love of the art form itself. Regardless of how a pipe maker learned their craft, the ultimate proof is in the final product—how the pipe looks, feels, and smokes.
Yang Kun of YMGK pipes in China began his journey as a pipe maker in 2010. Like so many of us, he was awestruck when he encountered the work of some of the great Danish pipe makers. Reflecting back, Yang says that he was captivated by the beauty of these pipes at first glance—he had not known that a simple piece of wood could express beauty so powerfully, like a painting or a sculpture. Yang has always had a deep appreciation for art and culture. Before he began earning a living as a pipe maker, he was a makeup artist for Chinese television and film. He’s enjoying his career change very much and offers a lot of gratitude to his wife, who supported the family while he studied pipe making intensively. Yang’s family means everything to him and he hopes to share his passion for the arts with his son—currently the boy is taking up the drums! We hope that all the noise won’t distract Yang from making more incredible pipes.
For two years, Yang worked to learn the basic techniques of pipe making, while also studying the culture and history of the form. Youtube was a helpful resource for him, but without professional tools and more knowledge about specific techniques, he found that his first pipes left a lot to be desired. He doubled down on his efforts to improve.
Yang caught a big break when he met a teacher named Qui who had been making pipes for decades, having learned himself from accomplished Danish teachers. Yang credits his teacher with rapidly accelerating his skill and knowledge. Maybe more importantly, Qui encouraged him to develop his own individual style rather than copying other pipe designs over and over again.
Yang’s skill and style are on full display in this asymmetrical freeform piece that would likely stand out in any pipe collection. He blends the influence of traditional Danish designs with his own aesthetic sense that draws on Asian art and some of his masterful peers in the Chinese pipe-making community, including John He, Sam Cui, and Ping Zahn.
Yang describes his artistic process as fluid, allowing the high-grade Italian and Grecian briar to dictate how it will best be shaped. Lately, he’s been enjoying experimenting with blowfish designs. With the right piece of briar, this blowfish shape allows for both the straight grain and birdseye of the wood to be displayed. Asymmetry is another feature to look for in Yang’s work—embracing asymmetry allows the natural beauty of the briar to stand out and results in more individualized pieces.
The expertly crafted products we provide at SATX Pipe move beyond a simple search for “wood tobacco pipes near me,” allowing access to some of the most talented and dedicated tobacco pipe makers around the world. We’re lucky to work with individuals like Yang Kun and to have the opportunity to bring his distinctive pipes to you.