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Bertan > Bertan 19 Zeramika herrikoia Gipuzkoan > Ingeles bertsioa: Clay pipes
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Clay pipes

196. Pipe found in La Concha Bay .© Jose López
196. Pipe found in La Concha Bay .© Jose López

Pipes have been used for smoking since ancient times, although in Europe they were only introduced for smoking tobacco in the sixteenth century. As the habit spread, so too did the manufacture of clay pipes. A workshop for making clay pipes is known to have been built in Broseley (England) in 1575.

197. Farmer with his pipe in a photograph taken in Ojanguren.© Gipuzkoako Artxibo Orrokorra
197. Farmer with his pipe in a photograph taken in Ojanguren.© Gipuzkoako Artxibo Orrokorra

English exiles, persecuted for their religious ideas by King James I, began manufacturing this type of pipe in Holland in 1608, and the industry there is still thriving. These Dutch pipes gained great success and soon spread to the rest of Europe. In France they are know to have been manufactured at least from 1620. As in the case of Holland, this development was due to English exiles.

198. Mould identified in the Museum of Basque Archaeology, Ethnography and History as being of 'short type'. It is 16.2 cm long, 4.5 cm wide and 4.5 cm high. The bowl does not have a 'heel' (a small protrusion at the base of the bowl). One side of the stem is marked 'HEPPE' and the other 'BILBAO'. The bowl has a small protrusion.© Enrike Ibabe
198. Mould identified in the Museum of Basque Archaeology, Ethnography and History as being of 'short type'. It is 16.2 cm long, 4.5 cm wide and 4.5 cm high. The bowl does not have a 'heel' (a small protrusion at the base of the bowl). One side of the stem is marked 'HEPPE' and the other 'BILBAO'. The bowl has a small protrusion.© Enrike Ibabe

In the Iberian peninsula and the Balearic Islands, manufacture did not begin until the eighteenth century. It was on the islands, as well as in Catalonia and the Basque Country, where the custom first became popular.

I have taken these brief notes from María del Mar López Colom's fascinating work, Pipas de arcilla halladas en Gipuzkoa . She analyses 340 remains of pipes, estimating their age and origin, among other characteristics. Most date from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And the greatest number come from Holland, followed by England and France. Most of the pipes (295 pieces) were found in San Sebastian, chiefly in La Concha bay and the mouth of the harbour.

199. Pipe in the Basque Ethnological and Archaeological Museum in Bilbao. On one side of the stem, according to the museum, it reads 'Canto', and on the other 'G. Pries'. On one side of the bowl there is a 'country character' and on the other 'an elephant'. The stem is 10.1 cm long and bowl has a diameter of 2 cm.© Enrike Ibabe
199. Pipe in the Basque Ethnological and Archaeological Museum in Bilbao. On one side of the stem, according to the museum, it reads 'Canto', and on the other 'G. Pries'. On one side of the bowl there is a 'country character' and on the other 'an elephant'. The stem is 10.1 cm long and bowl has a diameter of 2 cm.© Enrike Ibabe

Clay pipes continued to be used in the Basque Country into the twentieth century, as we can see from many old photographs of farmers and fishermen They were very popular, since they allowed the full taste of the tobacco to be enjoyed, and also because they were relatively affordable. Because of the fragility of the pipes, they were kept safely tucked in berets, and smokers often carried two in case one broke. According to María del Mar López Colom, a smoker might break around four pipes a week.

200. 'Long' mould. Length 20.6 cm. Width 5.8 cm. Height 4.3 cm. One side of the stem is marked 'VIUDA E HIJOS' [WIDOW AND CHILDREN] and on the other 'DE JULIO HEPPE' [OF JULIO HEPPE]. The bowl has a heel.© Enrike Ibabe
200. 'Long' mould. Length 20.6 cm. Width 5.8 cm. Height 4.3 cm. One side of the stem is marked 'VIUDA E HIJOS' [WIDOW AND CHILDREN] and on the other 'DE JULIO HEPPE' [OF JULIO HEPPE]. The bowl has a heel.© Enrike Ibabe

In our work on the pottery of the Basque Country, published in 1995, we spoke of the one manufacturer of such pipes in the Basque Country: the Heppe family pottery in Bilbao.

The clay used, kaolin, came from the San Luis iron mine in Calle Miravillas in Bilbao. This clay was tipped into a pit and stirred together with water. Then it was left to dry for a while. The clay was then placed on a table and beaten with an iron bar until it reached the consistency of lard. Finally it was kneaded by hand. A piece of clay was then roughly drawn into the shape of a pipe, and a stainless steel needle was stuck into the stem. With the needle still inside, the pipe was placed in a two-part steel mould, which was then placed in a press, which applied pressure to the mould. With the pipe in the mould and the press, the hole in the bowl was made using a punch. The pipe was then removed from the mould and left to dry in the sun. Once it had attained a certain consistency the pipe was trimmed to remove any lumps of clay. The needle was then removed from the stem, and the pipe was put out in the sun to dry again.

201. About forty years ago, I bought about a dozen clay pipes in a grocer's shop in Usurbil, which I seem to remember stood beside the main road. I always thought they might have come from the Heppe pottery, but if this was the case, they must have been made in some other mould, since the bowl had no heel and there was no inscription on the pipe.© Jose López
201. About forty years ago, I bought about a dozen clay pipes in a grocer's shop in Usurbil, which I seem to remember stood beside the main road. I always thought they might have come from the Heppe pottery, but if this was the case, they must have been made in some other mould, since the bowl had no heel and there was no inscription on the pipe.© Jose López

The pipes were fired in the kiln along with the other vessels made in the pottery. They were placed on the first level of the kiln, inside boxes of refractory clay, so that they were not directly exposed to the fire, as this would have dulled their white colour.

A gross (twelve dozen) of pipes were placed in each box, and there were four boxes to a firing, hence 576 pipes. The Heppes fired about 6912 pipes every year, which they sold to "Biloria", an establishment in Calle Colón de Larreategi, between Alameda de Mazarredo and the Ensanche market. "Biloria" then distributed them to different parts of the Basque Country. Three steel moulds from the Heppe pottery are preserved in the Basque Museum in Bilbao.

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