Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Paul Lanier, Saint-Claude Pipe Sculptor extraordinaire

Paul Lanier was born in Pierre-de-Bresse, a small town in French Burgundy. At the very young age of four, he had already found his true vocation-flying.

Whether his inspiration came from Roland Garros (when he delighted crowds with his daring aerobatics)...

Roland Garros, French aviator during the first World War, died in a dogfight on October 5th, 1918, famous for his flying prowess and the first aerial crossing of the Mediterranean Sea on September 23, 1913. He perfected a technique for shooting through the propellers of a fighter plane. This photograph shows Roland Garros in front of a Demoiselle 1910. Bibliothèque nationale de France.

or from Adolphe Célestin Pégoud (13 June 1889 - 31 August 1915), the French aviator who became known as the pilot who flew the world's first loop, 

On the 21st of September 1913 (as a test pilot for Louis Blériot in a Blériot model XI monoplane),Pégoud flew the world's first loop. He was also the first pilot to make a parachute jump from an airplane.
At the start of World War I, Pégoud volunteered for flying duty and was immediately accepted as an observation pilot. On 5 February 1915, he and his gunner were credited with shooting down two German aircraft and forcing another to land. Soon he was flying single-seat aircraft and in April claimed two further victories. His sixth success came in July. On 31 August 1915, Pégoud was shot down by one of his prewar German students, Unteroffizier Kandulski, while intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft. He was 26 years old.

Early XXth century briar pipe, Adolphe Pégoud (or Roland Garros), Musée de la Pipe et du Diamant, Saint-Claude

flying, it would seem, set Lanier's sights to higher ground: in playing professional rugby, sculpting and pipe carving. What is evident in Lanier's high-level of craftsmanship is the keen precision of an aviator.

Growing up, Lanier loved wood carving.

Paul's first carving at the age of twelve.

When he turned fifteen, he started an apprenticeship as a furniture wood carver in Chalons-sur-Saône. For that occasion, his father offered him a set of tools, the same tools he would use over the years for all the pipes he sculpted. Lanier earned his Professional License as a Wood Sculptor (CAP de Sculpteur sur Bois) at the age of eighteen. 

He was drafted in the French air force in Indochina, 

before coming back to France where he was recruited by Saint-Claude's Second Division rugby Football Club where he played demi melee.

Saint-Claude rugby team, Paul Lanier is center front row, 1953

Watch Lanier in action...

After working for Gaston Monneret carving pipe accessories, Lanier set up his own workshop in 1955, 

 learning the art of pipemaking from a Saint-Claude pipemaker by the name of Epely.

Bronze sculpture of a Saint-Claude pipemaker, by Lanier

Over time, Lanier's love of sculpture led him to carving out of briar. Inspired by Voltaire, the great French writer and philosopher who left his mark on the 18th century as a vocal defender of tolerance and freedom of speech, Lanier carved magnificient pieces of art.

In 1742, Voltaire challenged the monks of the abbey of Saint-Claude to free the serfs in "their possession". The monks fought back claiming violation of their property rights. It is no surprise that Voltaire has inspired so many Saint-Claude pipe sculptors.

While Voltaire spoke out against religious fanatism, it is not until the French Revolution that the indentured from Saint-Claude would be freed.

Inspired by Antiquity,

French History,


Local traditions,



Contemporary celebrities,

Serge Gainsbourg (1928,1991), French painter, pianist, composer, actor and director well known for his non conformist views and dual pipe and cigarette smoking

French cartoon characters, 

Asterix le Gaulois

Obelix le Gaulois

Scenes from the Fables de la Fontaine, the famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century, 

"The Raven and the Fox"

"The Frog That Wished to Be As Big As the Ox"

"The Lion and the Rat"

Wild animals,

Species closer to us,

and in between,

Only limited by his imagination.

He also brought to life the inspiration of others,

 Proposed design for the pipe "Magellan"

"Magellan" by Lanier

Paganini by Lanier

Proposed design for the pipe "Les Blés"

"Les Blés" by Lanier

Pipe "Flamme" also known as "J'en ai fait une. J'en ferai pas deux!" by Lanier

Photography of an early XXth century pipe from Saint-Claude

"Early XXth century pipe" by Paul Lanier

carving a series of pipes on the theme of beetles for a pipe smoker, collector and entomologist friend,

Frugivore Dynaste Beetle

Frugivore Dynaste Beetle eating an apple, metal eyes, Pipe by Paul Lanier, length: 20cm; height: 7 cm, watercolor by Alain Roche

Frugivore Dynaste Beetle eating an apple, metal eyes, Pipe by Paul Lanier, length: 20cm; height: 7 cm, Private Collection

Mycophage Geotrupe Beetles

Mycophage Geotrupe Beetle feasting on a tasty cep (Boletus edulis), metal eyes, Pipe by Lanier, length: 16cm; height: 7 cm, watercolor by Alain Roche

Weevil beetle (Curculionidae) on its ears of wheat, glass eyes, Pipe by Lanier, length: 21cm; height: 8 cm, watercolor by Alain Roche

In 1983 he became a member of the Confrérie des Maîtres Pipiers.

Third row(left to right): Alain Letuillier, Claude Bernard, Michel Waille, Jean-Paul Berrod, Gerard Chapel; Second row: Yves Grenard, Jacques Craen, Nino Ferrer, Brugevin, René Chapel; First row : Dominique Jeantet, Michel Domas, Paul Lanier, Jean-Charles Lacroix (1995)

He was commissioned by the Confrérie to carve the portrait of the Premier Fumeur de Pipe de France, an honor bestowed every year by the Confrérie upon a pipe smoker who could serve as ambassador of the pipe lover community. He would assume the responsibility until 2007.

Bertrand Blier (1939- ), Premier Fumeur de Pipes de France, 1985,  French director, writer and script writer.

Bertrand Blier by Lanier

Claude Chabrol, Premier Fumeur de Pipes de France, 1988. Claude Chabrol (1930–2010) was a French film director, a member of the French New Wave (nouvelle vague) group of filmmakers (with Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Éric Rohmer) who first came to prominence at the end of the 1950s.

Nino Ferrer, Premier Fumeur de Pipes de France, 1993. Nino Agostino Arturo Maria Ferrari, aka Nino Ferrer, born August 15, 1934 in Genoa, Italy, died August 19, 1998 in Montcuq, Lot, France, was an Italo-French singer, author and composer.

Nino Ferrer by Lanier, Musée de la Pipe et du Diamant, Saint-Claude

Nino Ferrer by Lanier, Musée de la Pipe et du Diamant, Saint-Claude

As a preliminary step for each portrait, Paul would create a larger version of the head out of clay or plasticine,

Lanier molding the head in clay

before using a pantograph with a ratio of 1:2 for a rough carving of the ébauchon (80 percent there...),

Lanier's workshop

and finishing the most critical last 20 percent with a variety of milling tools and chisels , 

Lanier carving a portrait from clay model and front, left and right side photographs

In 1991 this pipe won Lanier the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF 91) for Pipe Sculpture

and in 1994 he earned the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF 94) for Pipe Turning with this elegant pipe,

Oval shank - Bowl with acetate inlays.

gaining international recognition,


and traveling to Paris, Holland, Germany and Japan, where he would set up his own workshop and demonstrate the art of sculpting pipes in front of admiring crowds,

in the 1990's Lanier returned to his original vocation as a sculptor,

but kept sculpting more pipe masterpieces, 


some classic,

Lanier carved "hand made" pipes for Butz-Choquin for over 20 years. This pipe belongs to the gooseneck series ("col de cygne"). The curved bore ("perçage courbe") is the work of Maurice Monneret, a brilliant mechanic and brother of Gaston Monneret. Dim: 6 1/4 inches long with a 2 1/4 inch bowl and a 7/8 inch bore.

Courtesy of the Duyck Collection

some "haute voltige",

 haute voltige that he has practised in more ways than one...

Trans. "Watch out for those two! They look quite respectable, and then they start making acrobaties in restricted areas! JUST LIKE THIS GUY PAUL LANIER!" Cartoon by Jacques Faizant. N.D.R. It is rumored by sources that wish to remain anonymous, that Paul flew above the field of the local stadium at a strictly forbidden height during the opening ceremony of local festivities.

©2012 Sophy M. Laughing; Lanier Flying Pipe Animation

Paul, the free spirited master carver passed away in June 2015.

A much larger collection of pipes by Lanier can be seen at the Musée de la Pipe et du Diamant de Saint-Claude where it is presented next to a selection of other masterpieces by the most inspired pipe turners and carvers of Saint-Claude from the XIXth and XXth centuries.

(Many thanks to Paul Lanier, the Musée de la Pipe et du Diamant de Saint-Claude,  Chacom, J. Craen, G. Guyot, P. Cousin, JLB and Sophy Laughing for making this post possible)  


  1. Bravo! Spectacular pipe carver! Such happiness and beauty the hands of a Master coaxed from a block of briar. Bravo & merci!