I have an idea for a TV reality show, inspired by one of my wife’s favorites, Project Runway. I call it Project Pipe-Making. Over the season several aspiring pipe makers would be given a series of challenges for which they would be judged by a panel of established pipe makers and collectors. Contestants might be challenged to make particular classical shapes, freehands, smooths, carveds, sandblasts, straights, bents, churchwardens, etc. They might be required to use different pipe materials (briar, cherrywood, pear, clay, meerschaum, corn cob, etc.) and stem materials (vulcanite, acrylic, ebonite). Other criteria could be also used. The contestants would have access to high-grade tools and machines, just as contestants on fashion-design and cooking shows do.
The contestants would then be judged on craftsmanship, aesthetics, and originality. A stunning prize would await the winner. This would be a great way to give a boost to up-and-coming pipe makers. Something similar could be done for tobacco blenders, but that would be less interesting for viewers, I’m afraid.
I realize that in our anti-tobacco culture this idea has as much chance of being accepted by a television network as a sitcom about an inept Nazi POW camp. (Hey, wait a minute!) I thought it was worth proposing it anyway.