Crafted by Hand. Photo Diary

The artisans: who are they, what inspires them, what are their skills and how do they fathom their mission today? This photo diary leaves a visual imprint of a journey into the depths of the Bulgarian craftspeople’s destiny by creating portraits of skilled masters, illustrating their creative processes and showcasing the sophistication of their articles.

Published: 05.01.2023
Creative concept and photography: Rosina Pencheva
Text: Maria Boncheva

The first in Bulgaria to work professionally in crafting classic two-piece briar tobacco pipes.

Co-founder of the Bulgarian Pipe Club registered in 2019.

Listed in the Homo Faber Guide.
In Europe, tobacco-pipe making was introduced with the arrival of tobacco from America, initially in Britain, to the British nobility, and from there it spread to the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Denmark and to the rest of Western and Central Europe. A turning point in pipe making was the accidental discovery of the wood from the trunk of а bushy tree from the briar elm family (lat. Erica Arborea). Growing in inaccessible and dry places in the coastal areas of the Mediterranean, this tree species forms a thickened pear-shaped bulb at the base of the trunk whose function is to store water needed for the survival of the plant during dry periods. Due to its strength and capillary structure, as well as to the beautiful natural patterns of the wood, it was quickly promoted as the main material for crafting modern two-piece pipes: it does not burn easily during smoking; it has no specific scent which would interfere with tobacco aroma; its capillary structure captures the condensation formed during smoking and gives it away. And above all, briar proved to be far stronger and much more accessible than the main raw material for making pipes until then – the white, brittle silicate, known as sea foam or meerschaum, whose usable deposits were confined to the territory of Turkey alone.
Original designs by Getz, including prototypes for international pipe clubs, a 15-year anniversary pipe (right, middle), a pipe designed by his daughter – shape and inlay drawings (bottom left)
Original designs by Getz, including prototypes for international pipe clubs, a 15-year anniversary pipe (right, middle), a pipe designed by his daughter – shape and inlay drawings (bottom left)
Solo exhibition, Brave Creation, Sofia, September 2022
Solo exhibition, Brave Creation, Sofia, September 2022
Design inspired by the Native American pipe, solo exhibition, Brave Creation, Sofia, September 2022
Design inspired by the Native American pipe, solo exhibition, Brave Creation, Sofia, September 2022
Solo exhibition, Brave Creation, Sofia, September 2022
Solo exhibition, Brave Creation, Sofia, September 2022
Classic Canadian model with a rustic finish, solo exhibition, Brave Creation, Sofia, September 2022
Classic Canadian model with a rustic finish, solo exhibition, Brave Creation, Sofia, September 2022
Solo exhibition, Brave Creation, Sofia, September 2022
Solo exhibition, Brave Creation, Sofia, September 2022
A project of two pipes created for Getz's colleague and friend – the engraver Anton Marinov and his wife. The models are an eloquent example of a combination of smooth and sandblasted finish.
A project of two pipes created for Getz's colleague and friend – the engraver Anton Marinov and his wife. The models are an eloquent example of a combination of smooth and sandblasted finish.
While the craft was gaining momentum across most of Europe, Bulgaria was still under Ottoman rule. In the Bulgarian lands, ceramic and bronze pipes were made according to the Ottoman pattern. Still, the craft was concentrated entirely in a guild which denied any access to Bulgarians, even as apprentices, explains Georgi Todorov-Getz. Pipe making did not develop even after the Liberation either. During communism, low-quality pipes were imported from a Czech state-owned factory within the framework of CMEA (the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) and the craft failed to take a foothold locally.

The most challenging and special project in Getz's practice is for a scuba diver client. The pipe he crafted in 2018 is a prototype of the iconic Mark V Normobaric Heavy Diving Helmet. The preparation for crafting this tobacco pipe took Getz nearly two months, during which he researched, sketched, and selected appropriate parts – clockwork elements, parts of water taps, brass works and other "whirlpools". The functioning pipe contains a total of over 100 parts.

Spare parts for the tobacco pipe – a prototype of the iconic Mark V Normobaric Heavy Diving Helmet model made by Getz in 2018
Spare parts for the tobacco pipe – a prototype of the iconic Mark V Normobaric Heavy Diving Helmet model made by Getz in 2018
Tobacco pipe – a prototype of the iconic Mark V Normobaric Heavy Diving Helmet model made by Getz in 2018
Tobacco pipe – a prototype of the iconic Mark V Normobaric Heavy Diving Helmet model made by Getz in 2018
"Pipe making blends perfectly the skills, aesthetic views and my own pursuits as an artist." says Getz
"Pipe making blends perfectly the skills, aesthetic views and my own pursuits as an artist." says Getz
This was so until the point when in 1999, Georgi Todorov-Getz decided to return to the town of Sopot after 5 years spent in Prague. The young family man who had graduated in industrial design, first from the Kazanlak High School of Art, and then from the National Academy of Art in Sofia, was faced with the logical question of what he would do back home. Until that moment, he had varied experience – from making silver jewelry, through graphic design, to selling tickets for classical concerts in the Czech capital dressed up in Mozartian clothes. Originally, the idea to introduce the new craft to Bulgaria came from his father-in-law. Getz had a crush on pipes anyway – he bought his first one in high school out of pure curiosity, and in the Czech Republic there is a tradition in this craft and ample opportunities to gain knowledge and obtain the necessary tools.
Process of crafting two tobacco pipes intended for the engraver Anton Marinov and his wife. The decorative ring on the neck of the mouthpiece is made of a silver ring and ivory. The finished pipes can be seen in a color photo, further up the page.
Georgi Todorov-Getz explored the very best specialized shops in the Czech capital and the beginner's luck did not betray him. When he crossed the threshold of the shop run by Karel Hinger – the King of Pipes, the owner was just giving an interview to a local journalist, so Getz actually received the answers to the questions he had come to ask. Equipped with this initial enthusiasm, a pipe-making manual in the Czech language, few tools though enough to finish one pipe, as well as with a full set of blanks for beginners, Getz made his first pipe back in the Czech Republic.
"To some extent, I am self-taught, although I have the respective education, and was trained both technically and in art."
"To some extent, I am self-taught, although I have the respective education, and was trained both technically and in art."
Miniature routers are part of Getz's toolkit
Miniature routers are part of Getz's toolkit
A multi-wall pipe with a horn-like curve in the process of intermediate pickling. The purpose of this stage of production is to enhance the contrast of the pattern of the wood itself.
A multi-wall pipe with a horn-like curve in the process of intermediate pickling. The purpose of this stage of production is to enhance the contrast of the pattern of the wood itself.
Finished tobacco pipes and some in progress, along with briar wood blocks and Getz sketches
Finished tobacco pipes and some in progress, along with briar wood blocks and Getz sketches
Stage of Getz's conceptual project – interpretation of the so-called pocket pipe model where the mouthpiece is rotated towards the head and this makes it compact.
Stage of Getz's conceptual project – interpretation of the so-called pocket pipe model where the mouthpiece is rotated towards the head and this makes it compact.
Type of metal stamps with which Getz marks his crafted pipes and thus "signs" them for authorship
Type of metal stamps with which Getz marks his crafted pipes and thus "signs" them for authorship
Pipes with the so-called second cooling chamber (reverse calabash)
Pipes with the so-called second cooling chamber (reverse calabash)
Opening of the second cooling chamber (reverse calabash)
Opening of the second cooling chamber (reverse calabash)
“As early as a child, I already made scale models of cars, and airplanes from wood. This took me to the High School of Art in Kazanlak.”
“As early as a child, I already made scale models of cars, and airplanes from wood. This took me to the High School of Art in Kazanlak.”
Filing the mouthpiece to make it flat
Filing the mouthpiece to make it flat
I do not have a teacher proper. For ten years or so after the beginning, I worked actively with a Czech master, however it was more about partnership and exchange, because I had already gathered a decent speed.
I do not have a teacher proper. For ten years or so after the beginning, I worked actively with a Czech master, however it was more about partnership and exchange, because I had already gathered a decent speed.
This was 23 years ago. In practice, the self-taught craftsman has already had hundreds of briar blocks passing through his hands. Classic shapes with excellent symmetry, original unconventional models, custom-made copies, club pipes – all articles crafted by the master stand out demonstrating his excellent knowledge of materials, technical literacy and signature style. For the wooden bowls of the pipes, master Gets uses a smooth polishing technique, sandblasting and rustication, alone or combined, depending on the specifics of the wood material and the shape of the pipe. For the mouthpiece and joints, he uses classic polymers and acrylics, inlays of silver, bone, resins. His items are known on the Bulgarian market, which, according to the pipe maker, has seen an upsurge in recent years, but also on the international market. He takes part in international charity plein air events and exhibitions, makes club pipes for foreign clubs, and last year also crafted a club pipe for the Bulgarian Pipe Club registered in 2019. For the time being, there are only four more masters of this emerging craft in Bulgaria.
"I always try to introduce something new and different to any job I do to make sure there is a fresh challenge I am faced with as an artisan."
"I always try to introduce something new and different to any job I do to make sure there is a fresh challenge I am faced with as an artisan."
PROJECT
Crafted by Hand. Photo Diary (2022)

IDEA & PHOTOGRAPHY
Rosina Pencheva

TEXT
Maria Boncheva

CRAFTS CONSULTANCY
Rositsa Bineva

GRAPHIC DESIGN
Kostadin Kokalanov

TRANSLATION
Daniela Konstantinova

COMMUNICATIONS
Maya Ivanova

DIGITAL CONTENT
Rosina Pencheva
Denislava Dikova (assistant)

PRODUCTION
PARTNERSHIP
CO-FUNDING
2022 Culture Program, Gabrovo Municipality

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