OomPaul.com is...

A place to showcase my work: pipes, podcasts and painting...

Pipes: Oddly enough, I had a pipe collection when I was 12. My parents allowed me to purchase estate pipes (so long as I didn't try to smoke them) from the old guy down the road who often had them for sale at a local market. The neighborhood kids were allowed to go through all of the goods anytime he was around before they went to market. I would always gravitate to the pipes, though I can't say why. I didn't have any close relatives that smoked a pipe. I found them fascinating. Like little sculptures. I only have one surviving pipe from those days.

In 1999 after graduating from SCAD and moving from Savannah to the Atlanta area, I decided to begin collecting again. My wife and I were passing by a Tinder Box (long gone now) and I had to go in. I left that day with a full bent Peterson Aran and some Solani 633, and so it started all over again.

In 2008 I decided I wanted to offer up really bizarre pipes to help supplement the podcast which started the same year. This is how the Monstrosity brand was formed. Back then I was not yet interested in being a carver per se, but instead, leaned on other carvers who knew what they were doing in order to get unique weird pipes into the hands of folks who wanted something different, like I did. Mark Tinsky and Jon Rinaldi were huge helps to me in those very early stages. Mark would send me pre-drilled blocks to my spec to butcher and Jon would help me with bowl coating and other questions I had. Eventually, I felt the need to make pipes on my own. 

As luck would have it, Todd Johnson lived only 4 hours away from me. I requested a kind of apprenticeship with him and he agreed. I stayed at the Johnson manor (what a place!) during each week long intensive and each time, my head was swimming. I remember reading about Todd's amazing ability, but seeing it first hand and learning the various processes was one of those once in a lifetime experiences. I will never forget those times. What's more, I got to also hang out with and learn from the amazing Bruce Weaver while there.

After my last stint at Todd's workshop I would take with me a Grizzly metal lathe, a boat load of information, and new friendships. Bruce Weaver has, over the years, been an incredible help to my learning as well. Not only is he one hell of a friend, but he has also been an immensely helpful guide for me as a pipe maker. I was incredibly honored to be the cover story for Pipes and Tobacco's magazine fall 2013 edition. I am forever a student of pipe making and hope to always offer uniquely inspired works for the offbeat collector.

I remember Lars Ivarsson holding up one of my works in Chicago one year and inspecting it. He giggled and said, "I like this." It was a straight grain sitter. The bamboo shank was broken into two pieces. The delrin tenon ran the length of the broken bamboo and twine appeared to be holding the bamboo to the delrin. The stem was one of my maimed stems, multi faceted and scraped for clenching. The composition had a strong X-Y axis even though the straight grain bowl had a stand alone organic look. the tenon/shank/stem jutted out from the bowl and just stayed there hanging in the air. I liked it, too.

Another year, also in Chicago, Anne Julie came by my table. I've been a huge fan of her work since the day I saw it. She asked, "This is yours?" I said yes, and let her know that she has been a great inspiration to me from the beginning. A big smile came across her face and she said, "Then you are a good student!" I have been very honored over the years by some really incredible artists.

The very first pipe I ever made (which you can see in that P&T article) was a very traditional shape. I made that pipe during a pipe making seminar in Chicago with Brian Ruthenberg and Kirk Bosi many years ago. I ran into a flaw and Anne Julie was passing through and looking at the creations. She suggested to take the rustication all the way up the side instead of leaving it at the flaw site. I did and really liked the outcome.

That year was the first time I met Bruce Weaver. I was walking through the pre-show looking at what was for sale. As I passed by Bruce's table, he spotted the pipe I made in my hand. When he found out I had just made it during the seminar, he immediately offered me some tobacco from his private stash. "Well you gotta smoke it now!" What a great guy. A true gentleman and friend from the first moment.

Podcast: Since 2008 I've recorded persons of interest in the pipe community. My wife kept nudging me to start up a podcast and eventually, Bjarne Nielsen was coming through the Atlanta area and I thought, this might be a good time to start. I'm pleased to have run across wonderful bits of history along the way that may not have been uncovered otherwise. Bjarne was so animated, what a kind and generous fellow he was. The podcast listenership grows with each new podcast. I'm amazed that I have listeners in so many countries around the world. 

Painting: I am a listed artist (see askART.com) and began showing my work in the early '90s. Mostly I am an automatist, though I do at times force subject matter into the plane. I studied painting and graphic design at SCAD (Savannah campus), and used to be a resident artist in the open studios at City Market (Savannah) many years back. I now live in the Atlanta area and work from my home studio. While I don't currently approach galleries anymore, I still make a lot of work. My wife has her undergrad in illustration and master's in art history. We met at SCAD and our house is chock full of art and strange little collections.