Clay pipe stems and bowls are one of the most common finds on the Thames foreshore. They are the cigarette butts of their day, dating from 1580 to early 1900s; the oldest ones are plain, becoming more decorative the more recently they were made. When tobacco first came to England it was costly, and sold already in clay pipes which would be discarded after one or two uses.
I picked up so many, their chalky texture began to remind me of delicate bones. It seemed natural to make them into a puppet, or perhaps even a London ancestral doll. I used a china bottle top (minus the rubber seal) found mudlarking for the head and some old buttons for the joints. When threading the pipe stems together I noticed many still had tobacco lodged in them, (as well as Thames mud of course), it made me wonder about the lives of the people who smoked them.
|Old man with a pipe, 1883, Vincent Van Gogh|