Letting out a huge yawn, Nico settles comfortably under the workbench and is ready to continue his day amidst the regular rasp of sandpaper on briar, Kurt’s peaceful silence and the familiar notes of The Dark Side of the Moon. Even he can tell that the album has nearly come to an end, and is playing the final track, Eclipse. He gives a start every time the heartbeat fades in followed by the words “There is no dark side in the moon, really. Matter of fact it’s all dark. The only thing that makes it look light is the sun”. It is as if the words referred to the man that he has faithfully followed everywhere for years. There are some things that animals understand better than humans, as they are able to tune into the very essence of their masters and internalize it, without speaking. It’s the same thing for Nico, for Kurt is an open book.
When the album by Pink Floyd first came out Kurt was only a young man only in his early twenties. No university, although he had tried for a couple of years, but he constantly sought to keep a balance between his sunlit and dark sides, as young people of that age do. He loves being alone in his workshop, and working alone even more so, which is why he chose to become a pipe maker. He occasionally touches his Labrador lightly with his foot or else bends down to stroke his back. This contact makes him at peace with the world, both inside and out.
Ever since he was a child, Kurt had wanted to be an archaeologist, for nothing fascinates him more than seeking history in the hidden folds of an object, in buildings, or else amongst the remains of a buried city. Traces left by humanity, whether deliberate or not, which can be pieced together to understand the past, the present and lives, through imagination, conjecture and hypothesis. The same thing could be said of the game of poker and why it is so fascinating. You only see the cards you have been dealt by chance when you are holding them fanned out in your hand. Your opponents try to get clues as to the cards your holding by observing your actions and bluffs, and it is only at the end that everyone gets the whole picture. It is here at the card table, that Kurt is able to express his true nature, in the solitude of deciding what to keep or discard, or which mask to wear to distract his opponents. Likewise, Kurt likes working alone because it is in those peaceful moments that he seeks to reveal his true self. He occasionally talks to Nico who watches over him while he creates his pipes and when Eclipse comes on he also gives a little start.
It seems ages since 1983 when he was thirty-three, an important age for a man, and walking by Kai Nielsen’s shop prompted him to choose pipe making as his future career. When he announced this decision at home, it was above all his father who encouraged him. Thinking about this makes Kurt laugh: “That way he’ll stay out of trouble” they said. Anything would have been fine for his parents as long as he channeled his energy into something constructive, and working with briar could be an answer. Kurt did not need to be told twice. After all, shaping matter to create something useful was the type of work that he had always sought in his inner world. Removing, adjusting and smoothing over. The craftsman’s apprenticeship coincided with growing up, an ongoing challenge. Kurt believes that you never stop learning. He sold his first pipes for next to nothing in pubs and bars. Being paid for his artistry is highly gratifying and drives him on, as although he knows that no work is without some sort of compensation and pipe making is a job, nevertheless he believes that it is when the pipe is in the hands of its owner that it comes to life. When it leaves the craftsman’s workshop it begins its real story.
Kurt has been shaping briar and himself for over thirty years, transforming pieces of wood into personal traces left in the world, traces that bear fragments of his personality, his history and that of the whole world, producing classic shapes, experimenting and reinterpreting. When he stamps his logo on the pipe, a golden triangle with slightly-rounded corners, the prism on the album cover of Dark Side of the Moon always comes to mind. Seeking to round the edges of his own prism that filters the light of his nature has become a daily challenge.
Special thanks to Mr. Kurt Balleby Hansen for his precious contribution
Milan, October 2014