Father the Flame is a documentary profiling Lee von Erck, a world-renowned American pipe maker, smoker, repairer, and collector, along with the men and women pipe-making artisans and collectors of pipes that he is associated with.

Director(s) Chad Terpstra
Written By N/A
Date Released 6/4/2019
Genre(s) Documentary
Good, If You Like
  • Documentaries
  • Pipes, Smoking
  • Woodworking
  • Nature
Isn’t For You If You Don’t Like Documentaries
Noted Cast
Himself Lee von Erck
Himself Domenico “Mimmo” Romeo
Himself Sykes Wilford
Himself Antoine Grenard
Himself Lars Ivarsson
Himself Travis Erickson
Herself Deb Collins

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Father the Flame Summary

Director Terpstra follows Von Erck, who by nature, is a solitary man, on a journey of the creative process in pipe-making and to explain the culture of the pipe-smoking and collecting aficionado.  We travel to locations in the US as well as foreign destinations, to learn about the art of making briar wood pipes, the kind of wood that allows for a slower burn to the wood and provides a better-tasting tobacco experience.  We meet two pipe-making families, one from Italy, the Romeo’s: consisting of the father, Filippo “Pippo,” son Domenico “Mimmo,” and his wife, Karin, who are friends with Von Erck and provide him with the briar he uses.  The other, from Denmark, are the Ivarsson’s, Lars and his daughter Nanna Ivarsson, son and granddaughter of Sixten, who was one of the greatest pipe makers in the world, that are carrying on the tradition of hand-made pipes.


A Culture Of Pleasure Which Began With A Specific Purpose

We meet collectors at the Tokyo (Japan) Pipe Show and Chicago International Pipe Show and shop owners from Denmark and Germany, and there are interviews with people such as Antoine Grenard, who owns the Chacom Pipe Factory in Saint-Claude, France, one of the oldest-running factories in the world, and the birthplace of briar-made pipes.  Archival footage from the Library of Congress and British Pathe’ explain the birth and development of the culture of pipe smoking, where we learn of the pipe’s origins in North America, where native tribes used them for spiritual communion and ceremonial significance. Smoking, in their rituals, was like prayer as the smoke rose into the heavens, where they asked for protection and healing, and not for personal pleasure smoking, as it is best known for today.  Travis Erickson, a sacred pipe carver, uses pipestone rock and special cutting tools to make his ceremonial pipes.

Father the Flame Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

I enjoyed watching the artisans at work on their pipes, and although I do not smoke, their work looks so beautiful that I wouldn’t mind owning one or more of them.  Although Von Erck never married or had any children to carry on his craft, it is good to know that his work is appreciated by collectors and that we have people like the Romero’s and the Ivarsson’s to carry on the pipe-making traditions of the past.

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Avatar of Tiwanna Ellerbe

An avid lover of stand up comedy, documentaries, films which frequent TCM, and old school television, Tiwanna has spent decades in pursuit of discovering the new and admiring those who paved the way and connecting the sometimes starkly different generations of creators.

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