Mark Balkovec: Bold Departures
Mark has made quite an impact in the Social Media world and has done a great job advertising his brand and in general, just getting the name out. Probably best known for his cutting-edge designs that for the most part border on the traditional (concentrating on large poker, sitters and similar large frame, short-shanked pipes), let it be known that Mr. Balkovec has chops.
Marks pipes, like his advertising and social media presence, as well as thew way he carries his advertising can be described with just one word: BOLD. Funny thing is, while the first thing you might think of when you see Mark, his pipes, his over-all appearance is Bad-A** biker type dude, but Mark is a man who cares deeply about the product he produces, has great compassion, and has a heart of gold. Recently, we in the pipe world mourned with Mark at the news of the passing of his father, a man that (it was clearly obvious) that Mark loved and respected dearly. While many of us passed on our condolences for his loss, Mark accepted those gestures with humility and respect, all the while extolling the love, honor, and respect he had for his father.
But alas, bold it is. Bold pipes to be sure. Big, husky, large, over-sized, super-sized, have all been words I have heard to describe what Mark makes in pipes. While this may be what we see most frequently, there is more to mark than big, bold pokers. But you will also find variations on several traditional themes, straight-out traditional pipes and more – all expertly carved and finished. Great work all the way around. His chaps are not only versatile, they are well skilled in all areas.
To Mark’s great credit however, as much as one might finding themselves seeing one-dimensionalism in Mark’s most prominent works with regards to shape or style, he has created his own niche that is wildly popular, and works tirelessly to fill it I’m sure. It is a great thing when you come into an industry and create your own niche that is immediately popular with buyers, smokers, collectors alike. Any business man dreams of such a scenario. But for Mark, is is pipe making first.
Marks skills in the area of rustication and carving are excellent. While most pipes we see of his are in fact rusticated, the styling and type are different throughout his creations, each one uniquely cool. Some deep, some slight, some linear, some more dimensional.When he does vary from the rusticated to smooth, the work is done with equal talent. On his web site he confesses:
Briar Pipes have been around for over a century. Many Pipe Carvers have come and gone over the years. I am one of those carvers that will try and leave my mark in the pipe world. Using different materials such as acrylic and metal, I incorporate an eye catching inlay or band on the pipe or the stem.”
Perhaps oversimplification is a gift Mark has, but I prefer to think of it as humility in the face of success. Mark’s custom ordered pipes are now back-ordered 65+ deep, a list he keeps posted on his web site and updated weekly. He is so bust that he has announced he is not taking any more orders until 2013. With a world-side audience (produced in large part because of Mark’s on-line presence) his pipes are now also being sold through the Danish Pipe Shop while supplies on hand last.
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