Ian Walker is the artist behind Northern Briars, however the Walkers’ roots in the pipe world go back to 1922 when Ian’s grandfather, George Walker, started working for the English pipe manufacturer Duncan Briars.
By 1931, George was the factory foreman, wherein he trained pipe makers and finishers until his departure in 1958.
It was this new beginning that saw the introduction of the next Walker generation, as son Peter Walker joined his father in launching Northern Briar Pipe Repair Service. In addition to repairs, Northern Briar did make their own pipes, however, this accounted for little of their business at the time.
Although Ian inevitably joined the family business in 1972, he was not subject to any special treatment. Only after sweeping the floor and completing menial tasks we might associate with the loathed duties of some unfortunate intern could Ian shine. Well, literally—then it was on to polishing the pipes and cutting silver rings for them, but the proverbial shine is coming.
By the time of the Walkers’ next big venture—opening a Tobacconist Shop in 1983—Ian had taken the helm on repairs, building quite the reputation for his work. The natural next step was to take his intimate knowledge of pipes and start making them himself. Soon, his pipes were being sold in numerous local shops.
Ever since, Ian has been dazzling the global tobacco community with his ornate, classic pipes. He frequents conferences and events all over the world as a proud representative of English craftsmanship.
“Sometimes I try to emulate the Italian or Danish styles,” Walker admits, “but at the end of the day they always seem to have an English twist to them. Classic shapes become classic shapes for a reason. The pipes I make today are very much like the pipes I made in 1983.”
Now, over 60 years since the establishment of Northern Briars, the third Walker keeps the family business thriving. No surprise—he surely knows a thing or two about staying afloat, as his workshop is now aboard a canal boat on which Ian and his wife live, cruising along the many canals of England.