A pipe begins with a material. Briar, clay, meerchaum, even a corncob! Yet these natural elements must be foremed. The right piece of briar must be selected, the clay must be mixed correctly, only certain cobs will do for making a great corncob pipe...
The right materials will bring about the best experience. They will look beautiful, when crafted with skill. Many pipe smokers can attest to the hours of pleasure they have recieved from examining pipe after pipe after pipe at a tobacconist, or at an online retailer. Shapes are considerd, and grain patterns are scrutinized. The best materials will also provide a smoking experience that is cool and dry, without gurgling or overheating to the discomfort of the hand. Some materials allow are affected by what is smoked in them and begin to provide a deliciously layered "seasoned" experince. Other materials give the smoker the purest "just the facts" view of the particularly tobacco.
Not only thisbut the shapes themselves are appealing. From soft curves to hard angles. From big bowls that almost take two hands to hold, to a tiny cup from which only a few sweet sips can be made before the experience has run its course. Some will argue for a favorite or best size of bowl, but not me. I like them all. Small, medium and large bowls all provide such wonderful experiences when they are treated properly, and they all offer different kinds of appreciation. For many collectors things will go in phases. Once drawn to bulldogs, then brought to a phase of looking at Canadians, then obsessed with apple shapes, it is difficult to imagine that a person could run out of new pipes to appreciate.
But many pipes may look the same, no two are. They all bring their own little nuances and personalities to the table. Thus the pipe I hold in my hand that came from a major manufacturerer is still very especially mine, and while strikingly similar to the uninformed a true pipe smoker will be able to pick his pipe out of a lineup of similar ones because of this lttle ding, or pecularity in the grain. Each pipe is much like a snowflake in its dear and subtle uniqueness.
Finally, while this work of art will be supporting a flaming ember for hours on end proper use could mean a lifetime of enjoyment, and often even more. This gives a continuity to the experience of pipe enjoyment that seems absent elsewhere in life. It is personal, and while you may borrow another man's pipe, you will not know it as a friend. It can only be a passing meeting, until you have invested enough in that bit of art to really appreciate it.