Making time for making pipes : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Making time for making pipes

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Grant Batson lives life as a headlong plunge

by William C. Nelson

Grant Batson is a 41-year-old pipemaker in Nashville, Tennessee, living in a gorgeous, upscale home and, together with his wife, Jill, shepherding four Batson children into and through adolescence, seemingly   as   if   there   were   nothing to it. Batson’s house can be a clamorous place, peppered with the shouts of teenagers and the bark of dogs and the ring of phones and the white noise of TV sports in the background—all entwined in a kind of aural maelstrom that sounds familiar in happy, busy American home life. Just knowing that much about Batson can pique one’s curiosity: Age 41 is pretty young for a pipemaker to claim three teenage daughters plus a fast-sprouting 11-year-old boy, let alone to marshal the self-generated resources needed to finance the whole operation. But that is one noticeable aspect of Batson’s makeup—when he knows what he wants, he wastes no time in homing in. Batson keeps innumerable projects and income streams chugging along all day, every day, and seldom seems to rest. “I don’t sleep a lot,” he says, “but when I do, I sleep well.” More than just a work ethic is involved here. Batson exemplifies the value of charging forward through life, unafraid of what lies in wait around the next bend. When he takes on some new responsibility or interest, he swallows it whole. So it was with his pipe craft.

batson2Batson’s level of pipemaking accomplishment, realized in just a few short years (he made his first pipe in 2012), is winning accolades and good prices. The Batson  name  is  getting  around  pretty fast in the pipe world. He is already known for a certain style that typically bespeaks Batson creations—pipes that incline to the Danish tradition but with Batson’s own decided artistic flair. He will tell you that the manner in which he settled on that style is a bit of a mystery, even to him.

Born and raised in Texas just outside of Austin, Batson moved to Nashville in 1993 to attend Lipscomb University, a small liberal arts college, where he studied public relations and Spanish. He graduated, characteristically on time, in 1997. Indulging a disposition to work with his hands despite the bachelor’s degree, Batson joined the local economy first as a cabinetmaker. “I soon met a local girl, and we got married in 1998,” he says, “and I just never left Nashville.” Ten months after their wedding day, the young Batsons were already nurturing their first child. They wanted a family; they wasted no time.

The  cabinetmaking lasted for three years, but then the firm where Batson  was employed,  observing  that he was quick as well as educated, put him to work as a project manager. He regretted leaving the woodworking, but he does allow that his new responsibilities proved a great learning experience. “I came to be in charge of a lot of large custom projects for big homes and for businesses,” he says. It was experience that augmented his résumé to the extent Batson was able to move on, while still a  young  man,  to  managing  projects for a technology company, and then a civil engineering firm. Even so, he still sneaked time in his workshop to keep his hands busy with wood. After all, it was an interest he had been pursuing since his teenage years, when his father first taught him the ways of crafting objects. “During all of these years, even before I got into project management, my brother Cory and I would be making stuff,” Batson says. “It’s just a natural part of life for us. Growing up, we never saw repair people come to the house. Dad fixed everything. I remember my dad helped my brother make a roll-top desk for his eighth-grade project. What I wanted to build was a guitar.” Batson made his first guitar at age 15.

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Category: Fall 2016, Feature Article, Pipe Articles

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