I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and I thought I would post it here for opinions. I love a good pipe. It may be a nice pipe but it’s no Van Gogh sunflower. Like pop songs, they all pretty much follow the same pattern. This is neither good nor bad, just an observation. I’ve written this essay for your consideration and tomato tossing. I apologize that the prose is a bit pedantic. No offense is intended one way or the other but I thought this would be an interesting topic of discussion... The definition of Art with a capital A is something that has no utilitarian purpose. This is a common denominator from the caves of Lascaux to the Sistine Chapel to whatever cow pie you find hanging in a gallery downtown today. Art provokes thinking but aside from that, it isn’t useful. It has a cultural significance but beyond being a subject of conversation or debate, or exciting the sensations, you can’t boil water with a work of art except at a bonfire. It exists in its own realm without any other reason for being. Art, like laughter, is an human evolutionary enigma. Art museums are full of artifacts such as pots, pitchers, boxes, clocks, and furniture that are exhibited as Art but their primary function was to be a useful article. They are in museums because they have been preserved and their decoration illustrates the aesthetic tastes of the time in which they were produced. No one admires a Grecian urn for how much olive oil it holds but for the scene painted on its sides. An artifact does not automatically qualify something as Art. The clay may be beautifully handled and fired, but these are secondary considerations compared to the ink work a painter used on an available surface. A potter is not a sculptor. A collection of musical instruments may display the finesse and refinements of those who crafted them, but the Art of Music lies in the playing not in the materials. I read a lot about how the shapes and finishes of tobacco pipes are Art and I have to disagree. Pipe smiths are not usually referred to as “pipe artists” and, perhaps unconsciously, rightly so. They are smiths, craftsmen, artisans. There is nothing wrong with this and, while there is an art to fashioning a beautiful pipe, and a beautiful pipe is a beautiful thing indeed, it is erroneous to include a the fanciest custom calla lily pipe bowl in the same category of work as Picasso’s “Guernica.” You may not think much of Cubism so feel free to substitute Picasso for any painter, sculptor, composer, musician, or choreographer of your choice. The Belgian Surrealist painter Rene Magritte put it best in his painting “The Treachery of Images.” Against a plain background, he painted an image of a tobacco pipe over the legend “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” -This is not a pipe. It is a picture of a pipe. No one will ever enjoy any smoking pleasure from a painting on the wall. It is completely non-functional, useless in any sense unless you are hiding a hole in the plaster over your sofa. This is not meant to denigrate the skills of the pipe makers of the world. Quite the reverse. The world’s unheralded and unknown pipe makers have added more practical pleasure to any tobacco smoker’s day than the least avant garde artiste. The pipe makers add an extra, often indescribable dimension to enjoying one of the most delicious pleasures available in this weary world. A well made pipe is a cherished friend forever, as any pipe smoker will tell you. Their creations are not Art though. They are well made pipes. Working with and accenting the grain; knowing the limitations of the materials at hand; carving, polishing, dressing, detailing, fashioning everything so that every detail of the pipe smoking experience is enhanced to the ultimate degree of focussed contemplation and reverie, a pipe smith knows his or her job and practices it well, raising the carving of briar or meerschaum or corn cobs, or the casting of clay, to peak perfection, They are akin to angels. Despite all this, I cannot say they are artists. Their goals are limited to those who enjoy tobacco. A pipe maker may take risks but if, after all the work is done, the pipe doesn’t smoke well, it is scrap no matter how attractive it looks. A pipe, no matter how well made, is limited to the function of holding lit tobacco. A pipe makes no claim to universal appeal. That is the job of Art. On first encounter, a pipe smoker may think he sees divinity in a pipe but what he really sees is the sublime experience of smoking that pipe in his mind’s eye. The pleasure of a pipe ultimately comes from the smoking, not from the vessel that delivers those precious moments when one feels at one with the cosmos. Like a violin, a pipe does not give up its purpose until put to use. This is different from Art. Art indicates the divine or universal human essence to anyone who views it. A pipe, after all, is just a pipe. Collectors may think otherwise, but when all is said and done and their heirs have to auction off the estate, they are selling pipes, not Art, whatever the pedigree.