At the pre-show I sat next to Manno and his family from Briar Pipe, who brought briar from Italy, lots of briar, and very nice briar it was! It became apparent that they had many boxes with them back at their room so I set an appointment, not an easy process as Manno's daughter was the only one who spoke English, and while she was very cute and tireless in her efforts to communicate with us, it was tough going! But it worked, and back in their room Saturday night I was able to hand pick about 50 choice blocks which I now have curring in my workshop. It should be ready to use next Spring. This was the first opportunity I've had to hand pick briar, and it was wonderful! I'm looking forward to a trip to Italy as soon as I can manage it, meanwhile I'll look forward to picking out wood in Chicago next year. Mimmo from Romeo Briar had also brought lots of blocks, but by the time I got to it the higher profile makers had picked over it pretty well.
Meike Huijssen of SEM was also there, man was she there! And it was great to be able to pick up some high quality German Ebonite from her.
Among pipe maker visits I enjoyed meeting and visiting with pipe maker and guitar builder, Joe Nelson of Old Nellie Pipes, my table neighbor for the main show. I was also able to spend some time and enjoy some Woodford Reserve with Michael Lindner. Michael was kind enough to critique several of my pipes. He was very encouraging and also offered some excellent suggestions. Brad Pohlmann was also very gracious with his time and I always love seeing his work in person. He is making some amazing pipes! I was also on the fringes of some wonderful discussions with the Danes who were there in force, and many other great pipe makers from around the World. It's an amazing experience to rub shoulders with so many great pipe makers all in one spot. I'm really looking forward to having more time and energy for Chicago next year when it falls after the hectic end of the semester!