Complex simplicity : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Complex simplicity


For Bennie Pipes, less is more

by Stephen A. Ross

Danish pipemaker Benni Jørgensen sits quietly at the kitchen table inside his home in Præstø, Denmark, a community of nearly 4,000 people that’s approximately 60 miles from Copenhagen on the southeastern coast of Zealand. He sips his coffee and surveys the backyard, which he has turned into something of a nature preserve, complete with a koi pond and a stunning garden that, in mid-April, is experiencing the beginnings of its first blooms of the year. Despite the gentle drizzle that has come in from the nearby Baltic Sea, a few hummingbirds seeking nourishment actively flit about the garden. The scene is peaceful and idyllic.

Benni4Describing how paying attention to the world’s little wonders could lead to great discoveries, Lebanese-American artist and author Kahlil Gibran once wrote, “I discovered the secret of the sea in meditation upon a dewdrop.” Benni must get the same benefit from these moments of quiet reflection on the world’s gentle wonders as he enjoys his coffee each morning before walking over to his workshop—just a few yards from his house—to begin the day’s work.

Like Gibran, Benni discovers and then explores complexity from his observations

Bennie Jorgensen

Bennie Jorgensen

of uncomplicated splendor. While he makes mostly classically inspired shapes, Benni’s pipes are known for simplicity and smooth, graceful lines, which replicate the effortless beauty on display in his backyard garden.

Born in 1955, Benni was a cabinet- maker until 1980, when a back injury made him seek other work. A pipe smoker, Benni visited the W.Ø. Larsen shop in Copenhagen one day and was thrilled to see the pipes for sale there. Returning home, he spoke with a pipe- smoking friend about how much fun it would be to make pipes. Unable to continue making cabinets, Benni reasoned that his carpentry skills could be put to good use in making pipes. He discovered that Teddy Knudsen, a pipe-maker for W.Ø. Larsen, lived nearby. He contacted Knudsen and arranged an appointment.

The two men discussed pipemaking, and Benni bought some supplies from Knudsen. Armed with the fresh supplies, inspiration from Knudsen, his Bennie2woodworking skill and enthusiasm for making pipes, Benni returned home ready to make his first pipe and anxious to see the result. After all, pipemaking couldn’t be that difficult for an experienced carpenter, could it?

“Cabinets are square, pipes are not,” the 60-year-old Benni says and laughs. “I thought that my first pipes were fantastic at the time, but now when I look at them I can see that they are not. I had a lot to learn.”

Benni also had a few friends who encouraged him. There was his very good friend who bought the first pipe Benni made. And then there was Knudsen, whose pipes Benni tried to replicate and whom Benni sought for critiques of his pipes.

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Category: Fall 2015, Feature Article

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