With Tsuge Ikebana Grading, ‘B’ & ‘C’ become something of a fuzzy crossover point between sandblasted and smooth. You will never see an ‘A’ grade smooth. You will never see a ‘D’ grade sandblast. You will, however, occasionally find a smooth lurking within the ‘B’s, and a blast biding in the ‘C’s. Perusing our archives, I took a look at what few sandblasts we have placed on the site with a ‘C’ rating (roughly six percent of the category), and the grain of this bent Rhodesian would stand on the top of the entire lot. Because I can’t mentally deduct on the basis of shape, indeed, I believe that I could make a case for this briar having the best shape of the Cs we have presented, my only explanation for this ravishing Rhodesian wearing a ‘B’ stamp is that Tsuge/Fukuda-san are making a point of being especially conservative with the debut pipes from their newest, and star artisan.
Feasting my eyes upon the first set of Kikuchi Ikebanas released to the world, Asami’s affinity for the bent Rhodesian was as immediately evident as it was stunning; we received three and every one of them seemed to quietly state, “This is how it’s done...” With the interpretation now on your screen, Asami-san deftly executed her vision in a manner that presents a combination of impeccable balance and elongation, from the profile vantage (shots one & two), a definitive modernism in the width and perfect proportions seen from the top (shot three), and look at how it all pulls together in the fourth shot (great job, as usual, Chris!). Grain follows form, with a tiny, nova-like burst of intense birdseye on the fore of the heel, acting as a sun source for the lovely rings which radiate outward, and there is zero ‘bleed’ of ring grain, upon hitting shape’s signature double-rings (but a ton of crosscut on the top and bottom of the shank). Should you elect to be amongst the first in the world to own the pipe-art of Asami Kikuchi, this would be a magnificent start.
--R. ‘Bear’ Graves