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Daily discipline

On Friday late in the day while Tina and I were walking down the street to get a light dinner, a call came in on my BlackBerry from Rad Davis in Foley, Alabama. I had sent him copies of a drawing that included one of his pipes as a subject, and subsequently on seeing his weekly addition to his online store, had dropped him a note admiring his dedication to the work. He was calling to say thanks.

Rad is an inspiration to me. He is one of a relatively small number of pipe carvers who makes his full time living this way, and he makes an impressive number of consistently excellent pipes at an even pace, week after week, year after year. What I said to him in my note was that in my experience, it's not so difficult, given talent and some skills, to turn out something terrific when the mood hits. Far more challenging is to do it every single day, at a high standard of excellence and with such fidelity to a recognizable and ever improving sense of form, proportion, and detail. Dependably. Whether you feel like it or not.

My contact with Rad has been very little for someone whom I would call a friend and colleague, but I know Rad through his work. The nearly ascetic qualities of iconically simple beauty in the forms he creates, without fussy frills or gimmicky touches tell me a great deal about who he is and how he lives his life. I can only hope that I can continue my own efforts as an artist, every day, whether I want to or not, constantly and patiently striving to improve over the day before.

Pipe by Rad Davis and Alex Florov for Quality Briar

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Reader Comments (1)

First, that is a wonderful sketch of Rad's work. I love seeing it. Second, I agree with your assessment of Rad's value. I wouldn't call Rad undervalued because those of us who have his pipes love them. I would call him underappreciated because he is one of the best artisanal pipemakers out there. Further, the variability in quality with his work is unbelievably small. He is incredibly consistent and that consistency is the child of discipline, as you point out.

In the music world, you're not evaluated by the notes you play, but by the notes you miss. Only discipline will make the swing between best and worst unnoticeable. The muse is powerless to make this happen.

July 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNeill Roan

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