Hiroyuki Tokutomi: Sandblasted Freehand with Mastodon Ivory (Snail) Tobacco Pipe

Product Number: 002-141-0989

Jorn Micke. In certain segments of the pipe collector world, the name alone evokes a certain sense of awe. Micke is less well known on this side of the Atlantic than he is in Europe or, especially, Japan, where much of his work went for most of the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1970s, Micke was held in the highest esteem in the United States too, however.

So, you ask quite rightly, what does all of this have to do with Tokutomi and the present pipe? This piece is a variation, by way of a handful of derivatives by Tokutomi over the years, of a very famous shape made by Jorn Micke. Unfortunately, I can't find a photographic example of the original Micke shape. I've only seen one example of it, and that was in Kikisui, the most famous Japanese pipe shop, in the Ginza in Tokyo; as a sandblast, it retailed for slightly north of $10,000. I wish I had pictorial evidence for this particular pipes ancestor, but I do have a photo of an example made by Tokutomi in 2003. (Please excuse the thoroughly awful photography, but it's the only example I have that is fairly close to the original Micke shape).

The anatomical inferences made by the original composition are plain to see. A professor of mine once quipped that all art has to do with sex or death.obviously, this particular idea stems from the former. What is interesting, though, is that this interpretation (as in, the one for which this description is being written) is less overtly sexual and far more of an abstraction. It's a more generic organic ideal rather than a clear depiction of the sexual act.

It fascinates me that Tokutomi has all but left behind the original intention of the piece--a highly abstract representation of coitus-- even as he refers back to it. In some respects all pipes have this inherently phallic idea-- the mere fact that we describe the sides of the bowl around the shank as the 'cheeks' is indicative of the underlying phallic themes prevalent in all pipes. That Micke took this one step further and made it overt is a clear artistic statement on that. That Tokutomi would, in turn, take that more overt statement, render it more abstract, and thereby engage playfully on a theme that many would consider too overt is both interesting and, coming from Tokutomi, slightly surprising. Tokutomi is by no means being prudish (as his earlier variation on the theme can attest), he's just doing to this shape what he has done to countless others: re-rendering the western idea within a Japanese-Buddhist artistic paradigm.

Sandblasted, as were so many of Micke's iterations of this shape, but with the asymmetrical 'cheeks' and the luscious curvature of the shank, it is an homage, but one that clearly seeks to move on from the themes of the original. The shank is far less overtly phallic in Tokutomi's representation. It is much more plant-like, with its flaring, pinching, and dual-edges at 4 o'clock and 10 o'clock. The bowl, no longer at all overtly referencing a beautiful bottom is twisted into something, if taken as a representative buttocks, would be truly grotesque. It's far better interpreted in a wider abstract organic context; it's more fundamental and suggestive than overt.

It's a brilliant piece. Consciously or unconsciously, Tokutomi has wrought something quite new here.

-- Sykes Wilford

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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 5.42 in./137.67 mm.
  • Weight: 1.90 oz./53.86 g.
  • Bowl Height: 1.66 in./42.16 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.15 in./29.21 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.75 in./19.05 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 2.14 in./54.36 mm.
  • Stem Material: Vulcanite
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Freehand
  • Finish: Sandblast
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: Japan
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