We’re one of the largest names in the business of purveying artisan-made pipes. Nonetheless, even for us, Kei-ichi Gotoh briars come few and far between. Much of the reason for this is simply that Gotoh only makes but a very few pipes annually, resulting in very high demand for a handful of briars, split between both private collectors and the tiny number of retailers whom he has a relationship with.
Here in this Gotoh freehand, the shaping is reminiscent of a very unconventional Blowfish he made, from what I’ve gathered, this very year. However, while both share a similar profile with shank, bowl, and stem-base each sporting wide, individually distinguished forms separated by tightly cinched transitions, as well as concavely curved rims, I don’t think anyone mistake them for each other. For one thing, while the rim of the Blowfish was a shallow, gentle crescent, the rim here is shaped far more dramatically, creating an outline reminiscent of the “horns” of an immense stag beetle. Secondly, there’s the equally drastic difference in sheer volume; the Blowfish was, in terms of cross-section, but a mere sliver compared to this briar. From one extreme to the other, he evidently shaped the two along a shared theme for their silhouettes, but only here carried all the drama of the concept into the third dimension, that of depth. The Blowfish was as flat as a flounder, whereas here each of the three forms -- bowl, shank, and stem-base -- are offered up in forms as full and round as a gourd.
It’s not a simple repetition of roundness, though, as only the stem-base is symmetrical in design; the bowl being elongated across its height and length, with a very slight bit rolling in its orientation towards the left, while the shank is stretched out towards either flank, and rolling towards the right when viewed from above. This tweaking, in both its obvious and its more subtle manners, makes things far more interesting, smoothly organic, and active; three spheres or ovoids would prove novel, but rather static, while the more complex work Gotoh put into this piece has really made it come alive.
- Eric N. Squires