When a newer pipe artisan first arrives at those twin points wherein both his skill set is solid enough and his confidence is high enough to choose a first “signature” shape – why on earth would he elect that form to be one that the general pipe community held to be little more than a quirky novelty? In the case of Reiichi “Ray” Kurusu, his response was to answer that question with a question: “Why regard a shape which has the potential to stand toe-to-toe with any other as 'quirky', when the adjective you are looking for is “practical”?” Indeed.
Right from the word “jump”, every Nosewarmer (really have to come up with another term, fer chrissakes) Ray created was invested with 100% of his talent, creativity and enthusiasm, rather than treated as something which could be produced from a small block. This approach paid off in a spectacular manner; robust briars of Western traditional shaping, save a truncated length, appear in the photos taken at the beginning of Reiichi’s earliest shows, and there were rarely any to be seen in similar shots taken near the end of the same. Turns out that collectors appreciate an impeccably crafted classic, which just also happens to be imminently portable, and the fact that a Ray-Warmer™ will always include cool extra touches (such as the off-angle, twin rings of boxwood which you see here) is always a welcome bonus.
--R. ‘Bear’ Graves