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Introducing UNCANNY?! Material

Introducing UNCANNY?! Material

Posted by Greg Rosenberg on 8th May 2024

Eugene Falco is a man of many hats, and not just the flat caps—proverbial hats too. He is the pipe maker behind the brand UNCANNY?! Material (often abbreviated as U?!), a visual artist, co-host of the Greywoodie Show with Nathan Davis of Greywoodie/Kaywoodie, and helps to run and organize the Capitaland Pipe Show.

UNCANNY?! Material - Chicago Pipe Show 2024

From his alluringly unorthodox pipe design; to the distinctive tin art he’s contributed to recent Sutliff releases; to the dry, witty asides humoring listeners of the podcast, Falco brings a personal touch to all of these endeavors.

I’m excited to say that among the many pipes we left the Chicago Pipe Show with is a selection from UNCANNY?! Material. So, what better way to introduce Falco’s work to the site than with a profile on the artist?

UNCANNY?! Material tobacco pipes

Falco’s background is in art and marketing, primarily in the tourism industry as the manager and arts director at a local cavern attraction in upstate New York, “The Cave” as you’ll hear it referred to on the Greywoodie Show.

Falco’s introduction to pipes came just as Davis was overhauling his career to join the industry.

A collector of pre-war Kaywoodie pipes, Davis found appreciation for their recent productions and struck up a friendship with Bill Feuerbach, who was the sole carver for the once large pipe factory. Davis had already been making his own pipes in his nQa workshop, but began apprenticing under Feuerbach, starting his own brand, Greywoodie, all the while taking on the retail side of the Kaywoodie business.

UNCANNY?! Material Signature Billiard
U?! Signature Billiard

“One day Nathan showed up at The Cave to talk to my boss about quitting his job and starting an online pipe store,” Falco recalls. “It caught my interest and then I got roped into it. I’ve been in it ever since.”

Intrigued by Davis’ plans as he was, Falco had no prior history with pipes—as a hobbyist or maker—but something about it just struck a fascination. “It was strange enough to pique my interest, to eavesdrop into the conversation. I didn’t know that people still cared about pipes at all, and I was wrong.”

Falco would often hang out with Davis in his workshop, until one day he asked Davis to show him how to make a pipe.

UNCANNY?! Material Pokergeist Glowy
U?! Pokergeist Glowy

Falco’s style is uniquely his own, and reflects that of his other artistic pursuits; a sort of marriage between dark and whimsical, appropriately uncanny. But while there are other makers on the weird or eccentric side, Falco found an appreciation for the traditional shapes, and felt more drawn to bringing his own character to these classics—”to make something that’s essentially a traditional shape in a more interesting way, without being too exaggerated." He does give the caveat, "sometimes they are a little more exaggerated than they should be.”

UNCANNY?! Material Pokergeist Glowy
U?! Pokergeist Glowy

This style was present from the earliest UNCANNY?! pipes, but Falco's natural bent for tinkering and experimenting only further informed his approach to pipe making, as he took on more creative approaches toward executing his uncanny ideas. The stems are a prime example, which stand out with eye-catching color in most every UNCANNY?! pipe.

“Basically, UNCANNY?! started from a need for material. We wanted to start to get into colored stems and things. I was like, well, I like science, so I'll just make it. I bought a bunch of different resins and stuff and started making accent pieces—that's how it started. And then that snowballed into its own thing, because you can't just pour resin, then you need compression equipment and stuff to get the bubbles out. Then I decided to start casting my own stems, which meant that I had to actually learn how to make molds and cast those.”

UNCANNY?! Material Irridated Creamcicle Lovat
U?! Irradiated Creamcicle Lovat

Taking stem making in-house greatly broadened the possibilities for pursuing the idiosyncrasy that is in UNCANNY?!'s DNA. We can see this in the vibrant character and sometimes even pleasing dissonance the stems bring to the composition. Some even take on a luminescent glow under blacklight, paired with stummels that change color to a radiant violet. Beyond aesthetics, this also allowed Falco more control over the material. The stems are made of polyester resin, which Falco tells me is more durable than epoxy resin.

“You get less breakage out of it if you drop it. You’re more likely to crack your shank than you are the stem, especially if it’s shorter. It’s better on the teeth. It’s just a better material for stem making than epoxy resin.”

UNCANNY?! Material Irridated Creamcicle Lovat
U?! Irradiated Creamcicle Lovat

Another UNCANNY?! pipes differentia are the finishes. Falco doesn’t have a traditional approach to this process, not in the way many makers will be guided by grain orientation.

“I'd love to give you the old pipe maker's trope, where I pick up a piece of wood, I look at it, and it speaks to me and from there I know what kind of rustication it is. But really it just depends on how I feel that day—like what I want to accomplish, and I pay very little regard to grain patterns on most things.”

UNCANNY?! Material Mermanicorn Billiard
U?! Mermanicorn Billiard

UNCANNY?! pipes are often sandblasted and rusticated, eschewing uniformity in favor of combination finishes that show interesting designs on the bowl—swirls and winding serpentine patterns, or craterous terrain whose depressions gleam with a sparkling finish. They all have an unmistakable UNCANNY?! Material character, but it’s not hard to see how each is its own fantasia, formed from whatever whims Flaco was riding out while crafting it.

UNCANNY?! Material Half Seawitch Lovat
U?! Half Seawitch Lovat

One style that has garnered attention in particular is the UNCANNY?! Seawitch rustication. Inspired by Walt Cannoy’s Lava Rock finish, the Seawitch employs each of Falco’s finishing styles to achieve the weathered, tafoni-like result.

UNCANNY?! Material Green Seawitch Billiard
U?! Green Seawitch Billiard

“If you really look at it there's what I call suede blasting, just getting a texture on it, but not really digging into it with the sandblast. Then there's some wire brushing involved, because I like a lot of parts of the Seawitches to look like old, wooden ship decking. So, you just take some of the material out with that and then it's making it look like coral, which takes a really long time because, it may not look it, but I'm pretty particular on the different pass-throughs and things like that and what I can get away with. Gauging the meat of the bowl that you have determines how many pass-throughs you can get. I'm generally pleased with the finished product."

Finally, the stain is applied, really pulling together that nautical, worn aspect befitting of the name.

“I'm not very good at writing down recipes. I don't write anything down, I just do it. I just know how to do it. I’m trying to get that particular look of something in the deep as opposed to something volcanic, I think, is what really separates the sea witch from like the volcano finish—making it look corroded and old.”

Pipe making isn't the only way Falco engages with the world of pipes and tobaccos. Whether or not you were previously familiar with UNCANNY?! Material, you’ve likely seen his art on recent Sutliff limited releases.

Sutliff Phantom Crumble Kake pipe tobacco

On one episode of the Greywoodie Show, Davis and Falco were poking fun at the abundance of bird-themed tin art they noticed in recent releases. Falco challenged Sutliff president Jeremey McKenna to give him a shot at something different. McKenna responded, and Falco was tasked with creating tin art for the 6th Sutliff Barrel Aged Crumble Kake, which would be called Phantom Privateer.

Eugene Falco tin art

Falco has made several other tin designs for Sutliff since, including Maple Shadows, Krampusnacht, Cringle Flake 2023, and Blackthorn Shillelagh.

“I think Phantom Privateer kind of proved that the tobacco industry could also have a stake in the craft beer art style of labels.”

There's more to come from Falco, from tin art to artisan pipes, and we're thrilled to host these uncanny creations on