Four years after the death of Giancarlo Guidi, his vision remains alive at Ser Jacopo
by Stephen A. Ross
Maurizio Fraternale, the owner of Ser Jacopo, is a proud man. His pride isn’t boastful but rather stems from the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a promise to a friend who is no longer living. Fraternale’s office serves many functions. Not only is it the place where he manages a staff of approximately a half-dozen pipemakers, balances accounts and examines sales figures from Ser Jacopo’s international markets, but it is also a storage room where hundreds of Ser Jacopo pipes are kept in wooden cabinets and in glass cases ready for sale. The office also serves as something like a museum and a tribute to Fraternale’s late friend and business partner, Giancarlo Guidi, who established Ser Jacopo nearly 40 years ago. Fraternale peruses the collection and constantly points out specific pipes within it as special examples of the genius of Guidi, who passed away on Aug. 6, 2012, after a long battle with stomach cancer.
“Until he died, Giancarlo designed every pipe that Ser Jacopo made,” Fraternale explains. “He would sketch his ideas of a new pipe on paper and then give it to the pipemakers to see if his ideas could be made into pipes. He was very creative, and sometimes it took him a long time to finish a design, but they were almost always special and worth the wait.”
Fraternale joined Ser Jacopo as commercial manager in 1996. Twelve years later, he became Guidi’s business partner. Fraternale concentrated on sales, which left Guidi to do what he did best—dream up new pipe designs and manage the small factory. However, as Guidi’s health began to fail, Fraternale became more involved with the factory’s management. The two men had long discussions about the future of Ser Jacopo, and Fraternale made a promise to his dying friend.
“He talked a lot about what he wanted to do with Ser Jacopo,” Fraternale recalls. “I am doing my best to see that his vision continues on and that it also evolves to present pipe smokers around the world with new and interesting designs. That’s really been the focus of Giancarlo’s vision at Ser Jacopo from the very beginning.”
It’s a vision that began in 1982 when Guidi, one of the founding partners in the Italian pipemaking company Mastro de Paja, had had enough. The company he had helped create a little more than a decade previously had grown tremendously and had sparked something of an Italian pipe renaissance, with Guidi churning out unique, fanciful new smoking sculptures that captured imaginations worldwide. With the success, however, came headaches. The business of running a pipemaking factory had begun to take more of Guidi’s attention, leaving less time for the passionate artist to pursue the joys of creation. Discus- sions between Guidi and his business partners became increasingly heated, and rather than continue unhappily in a job that had become too much like a chore, Guidi left Mastro de Paja.
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