Sky blue chalk powder gently falls through the air, sprinkling the floor with a light, fine layer. The leather cue tip is now ready for action. Roman loves this moment, when the billiard balls are motionless and the players fresh. Each time he lowers his eyes to the green baize and the wooden cue slides in and out of his fingers as he takes aim, he remembers that this is not just a game, but more a school of life. Indeed, it could be said that billiards illustrates his life, apart from the fact that he actually met his future wife during a game. Each challenge that he has addressed has been like facing the white ball before dispersing the triangle of red balls. The aim has always been the same: potting the ball. However, as in billiards, the way to achieve this aim has been dotted with a number of variables, some easier to dominate than others, regarding innate and acquired skills, playing off the cushion and carefully assessing stance, all taken into consideration when achieving his aim. This approach can be applied to the time he decided to become a pediatric neurologist, which required precision, courage and staying cool to handle such fragile things as children. Yet, his skills and tenacity have always enabled him to achieve his goals, no challenge being too tough for him. For example, as a coffee-lover he was rather dissatisfied with the quality on offer in his town, so he decided to do something about it. He studied to become a barista, ending up by opening his own barista school and also became a coffee-making expert, supplying the local cafés with quality coffee and eventually even inventing his own brand, called “Coffeejazz”. Another passion is racing cars, and after work in the evening he would go to the garage and assemble engines and cars, with excellent results. One thing that Roman firmly believes is in chain reactions, namely that there is no effect without a cause, and if you know how to master the latter, the former can be guided.
Now Roman adjusts his feet, making sure there is no grit under his shoes. The first shot is fundamental, so he must keep a solid stance. His hand is firmly planted on the table and he practices warm up strokes with the cue stick between his thumb and index finger, and recalls when he was young in his father’s workshop trying to carve wood just like his father, and cutting his fingers in the process. When he thinks about it, it was in that workshop and his first attempts to copy his father that he came to love manual work. His father was an expert cabinetmaker, restoring furniture and carving all sorts of animal figurines, transforming a simple piece of fir or pine wood into a lovely artwork. Although Roman had rather less luck in producing anything so wonderful, apart from nicked fingers, he is almost sure that it was then that one of his billiard games with life began, a game that he would continue once he grew up. To live life to the full and indulge in his passions as he does calls for extensive mental and physical scope, and Roman has had quite a few pursuits over the years. After his initial attempts in his father’s workshop, the game of pipe maker has become increasingly absorbing and as a keen player he has taken up the challenge.
As he pauses to think before he hits the white ball and the coloured balls fan out over the table Roman remembers when he bought his first pipe in 1995. The same day he graduated he went to the local tobacconist to buy some cigars, but saw a pipe. As in all fateful encounters, from that time on he has always smoked pipes. His desire to know how things work, the initial shot setting into motion all the rest, led him to find out all he could about pipes. It was not so much exploring the pipe as an object in itself, but rather the creative process behind it. This is because Roman believes that art is reality interpreted subjectively by an artistic temperament. What can be more interesting than finding out about the craftsman who carved the briar wood to achieve a certain design? When he bought his first Tokutomi only three years later after his first pipe, he instantly wanted to explore the relation between material and character, creative insight and life of the pipe maker. He will always remember a few mythical models made by master pipe makers, to remind him how much beauty lies within a block of wood. Now he makes his own pipes to smoke, selecting Italian briar and sometimes strawberry wood. He adopts the same approach as for his other hobbies, thoroughly researching his subject, hours and hours of studying until he fully understands every aspect. He has also developed his own sandblasting method and selected suitable materials that can combine with the briar wood, and the results are unique. He also sleeps little at night, perhaps because in St. Petersburg nights are there to be listened to, or else it is easier to keep in touch with his American friends. It may also simply be that the world holds too many interesting things to see, which he would miss if he went to sleep.
Now that everything is ready for the first shot of the game, Roman wonders what his next activity will be in the future. One thing he knows he will never give up, and that is his passion for pipes.
Special thanks to Mr. Roman Kovalev for his precious contribution
Milan, June 2014