I believe the year was 2002, Jon Tillman and I were representing Smokingpipes.com at the now-defunct Tucson pipe show. Notable moments from the show included having a vendor demonstrate the resilience of his pipes by repeatedly running his F-250 over one (seriously), the look on Walt Cannoy’s face when 2lbs of carne seca absorbed about a gallon of beer in his stomach, and having our pictures taken in the 117 degree heat of Nogales with a burra, complete with sombreros and serapes. The actual highlight of the show, at least to me, was my introduction to (and subsequent immediate purchase of) the work of Hiroyuki Tokutomi.
Even in 2002, I was already an ardent admirer of the Japanese pipe shaping aesthetic and figured that I had been (pretty much) exposed to all the tradition could offer. Then I saw John unwrap Tokutomi’s work, and my smugness evanesced and was replaced with awe. The Nihon work that I already owned showed roots within the concept of wabi-sabi. Toku’s work was wabi-sabi. The pipe I bought (with a ‘last 4’ SKU of 0003) was this squat Apple. Notice some commonalities with the pipe now in front of you? More importantly, check out the differences; size aside (this is one incredibly petite charmer), crafted from Bo Nordh legacy briar, the sense of the geological that played in my first Tokutomi has been replaced with a form that seems to be in a constant movement, yielding to less resilient forces in an ever-changing environment. Inertia has replaced stasis, mineral has become fauna and, if I had to lean one way or the other, the amount of hypnotic fascination has increased. Only Toku-san.
--R. ‘Bear’ Graves