Elegant, refined, seductive. Clark Gable, famous Hollywood actor of the last century, man icon of success and a symbol of America during the economic boom, reinforced this image of himself often accompanied by a pipe. A great admirer of this small object, a pipe, in fact, has always been considered a symbol of elegance and sophistication and, even today, remains an object of reverence of collectors and enthusiasts.
The story of Vilma, pipe-maker
Vilma Armellini knows pipes well, she has been a pipe-maker for 11 years. She designs, constructs and sells her pipes all over the world, and in particular in the American and Chinese markets.
The story of the Armellini business is linked to that of Barasso, a small town located in the heart of northern Italy. In 1958 when Rossi Pipes opened its doors, many of the town’s inhabitants wanted to supplement their incomes, so they began working there. After some time, many decided to open their own workshops (a number of those are still currently active).
Even Mauro Armellini, a professional bodybuilder, in a short time made it his own business. His success allowed him to grow and employ 12 workers. Mauro’s passion and dedication involved the entire family. He had just one rule for his four daughters, if they wanted to go out with their friends, they first had to spend a few hours working in the workshop. Upon his death, Vilma, his second child, did not want the sacrifices of his father to vanished and so she took over the reins of the business. Her experience has not been without obstacles. As the only woman in Italy to hold her position in this sector, she has had to fight against the distrust of an industry which has always been controlled and benefited by men. Her ability to win their confidence and appreciation has been Vilma’s real, true success.
Up to 16 hrs of work for a unique handmade pipe
Armellini pipes are all made with quality materials, using only Italian roots, which, compared with those coming from other areas, promise a very low level of wear and tear. In other words, the pipes have a much longer lifespan. Careful attention is paid to every detail; each product may be worked on for 3 to 16 hours, resulting with an annual production rate of only 1,200 pieces. There are classic pipes which start at €60 euro leading to their “works of art”, the handmade pipes which can cost up to €300. “There is talk of material value,” says Vilma, “but actually each pipe I make is a part of me and in the end, I often regret having to sell it.” In fact, in all her pipes, even in the classic, machine-made pieces, she has tried to insert original elements reflecting her sensibility and her taste; for example, the use of materials not typically used for the pipe stems like bamboo or horn.
Despite the toll the crisis has played on the sector, caused by Italian laws against smoking, praise for Armellini pipes is never lacking. Among some of the Armellini family’s more illustrious customers was the President of the Republic, Sandro Pertini who in occasion of the victory of the national football team at the World Cup of 1982 in Spain gave a pipe to technical referee, Enzo Bearzot, so as to capture this internationally important Italian success with a product just as prestigious.
Even today Vilma encounters disapproving looks when she smokes a pipe in public. Yet this doesn’t stop her; this elegant female-version of Clark Gable, lighting up a rhinestone covered pipe she made with her own hands.
Via G. Matteotti 66, 21020 Barasso (VA) firstname.lastname@example.org
photo courtesy of Armellini