From Pipes&Tobaccos Magazine, Winter 2015,
- Tamper revolution - (by Stephen A. Ross) -
ZapZap Tampers explore new expressions of one of pipe smoking’s simplest tools -
A set of old billiard balls he picked up at a secondhand store was all it took for Dmitri Plechtchev’s fertile mind to start considering what he could do with them. An accomplished artist with paintings and sculptures that had been featured in numerous exhibitions and shows in and around Copenhagen, Denmark, Plechtchev began to experiment with a vast array of materials to explore and use in his artwork, and using billiard balls was his latest experiment. He wanted to cut a few open just to see what was inside. Dissecting the balls made by the Belgian manufacturer Aramith revealed a medley of interesting colors and lines.
He bought another batch of balls to confirm his discovery and learned that, although billiard balls look the same on the outside, each one was as individual as a fingerprint or a snowflake on the inside. These old billiard balls showed a promising new avenue for expression, but Plechtchev had no immediate idea how he could use them—the diameter of a billiard ball is just 2.25 inches.
One day in 2008 the 42-year-old Russian had his eureka moment. A devoted pipe smoker since his days at an art school in Vladimir, Russia, approximately 100 miles east of Moscow, Plechtchev looked forward to attending that year’s European Slow Smoking Championship and pipe exhibition in Wurselen, Germany. He had a champagne taste in pipes, with a few pipes from some of the world’s top pipemakers in his collection, but that year he had a beer budget. Reasoning that he could make something to bring to Germany and trade for a pipe or two, Plechtchev turned those dissected parts of billiard balls into a dozen or so pipe tampers and took them to the show. He wasn’t prepared for the reaction his tampers received there.
“I showed them to some friends, and they were amazed and asked where I had bought them,” he explains. “I told them that I had made them, which amazed them even more. I sold all of the tampers that I had brought, and I got some orders for more tampers. I even made a contact with a Russian pipe dealer who asked me to make tampers for him to sell in his shop. He’s my exclusive dealer in Russia right now and was my first contact with a Russian pipe shop, Pipeshop.ru.”
Plechtchev quickly realized that his experiment in tamper making could be turned into a business. He returned to his home, a brick cottage that’s more than a century old and located in Gimlinge, a small village outside of Slagelse, Denmark, that has a population of approximately 175 people, and started pondering the possibilities of what other types of materials he could use to make tampers.
Next to the house that Plechtchev shares with wife, Vibeke, daughter, Nina, and son, Viktor, is an even older four-room farmhouse that he has turned into his workshop. Some of his sculptures and Vibeke’s illustrations are on display inside the workshop, with other Plechtchev works of art scattered around the yard.
Plechtchev has turned one room inside the workshop into a study, where he enjoys a pipe and scans through technical manuals, catalogs detailing different kinds of wood, books on metalworking, an illustrative treatise on Russian Orthodox religious artwork, a Bible and science fiction novels as sources for inspiration. The most important book in his library is Alastair Leslie’s 300 Years of Tobacco Stoppers: Fine Works of Art in Miniature.