About my Collection and Interest in this Topic
My interest in clay pipes began as a family shared hobby with siblings when I was a child. Days out often involved exploring the villages and countryside learning about nature and local history; and where ever there was old looking soil we often found fragments of these broken pipes as well as pottery which indicated that people of past times had been active in the area.
The first finds were simply smashed pieces of pipe stem and bowl that stood out against the darker soil. They had small intricate patterns on them such as leaves and flowers, some with parts of pictures or even words and names. They looked almost natural in some ways with weathered surfaces and the way the stems and bowls had broken but the elegant shapes were very eye-catching quite unlike anything else I had seen.
When you are young and living in Devon you are taught all about the famous legends and the people that lived here, especially the Tudor Sea Captains that sailed to America to set up the Colonies and Queen Elizabeth I. I felt as though I wanted to reach out and touch them because they had lived here and made such an impression on history. Devon has so many historic families and in a way their stories live on and speak to me from the past.
I was told that some of the pieces of broken pipe that I found might date back to the time of Sir Walter Raleigh and I liked the thought of finding the very first pipes he had ever smoked although I later realised that people all over the country had them, especially by the end of the 17th Century. At the same time I also found part of a Tudor jug handle with what looked like Queen Elizabeth I on it and she suddenly seemed a lot more real to me as well. (This is Tudor period Saintonge Pottery made in France)
As time went by the interest in pipes and other topics grew and although space was often in short supply we always managed to fill the house with more finds - I expect a lot of people can relate to this!
I have always been very artistic in character and so in the 1990's I decided to enjoy experimenting more with ceramics at home and began to make clay pipes as an important part of my study in this subject. I wanted to explore aspects of pipe making as well as understanding how artists in past times had expressed their skills in the subjects portrayed on pipes and what had influenced their themes. Before long I found that I was enjoying this very much and from then on supplied pipes to collectors, smokers, re-enactors and museums as well as for TV and the Movies.
Just as important has been the Dawnmist Website which has been a means through which I have been able to communicate with people from all over the world on this subject. I have been able to answer questions about finds made in the garden or while walking the dog. Archaeologists and historians often write with questions and for those that I can not answer fully I can usually put them in touch with someone who might be researching a specific area within this field.
Pottery and glass finds from ploughed land close to towns and villages. Date: 1630-1860
Re-enactment for Television of an 18th Century Welsh Poet smoking a long pipe made by Heather Coleman.
You can see some of the other pipes I have made here...