Tsuge Ikebana: Smooth Fish (Fukuda) (O) (172) (2015)

Product Number: 002-623-4630

The Tsuge Ikebana workshop is the most revered, legendary artisan pipe workshop in all of Japan, and their existence outside of the standard Tsuge line allows them to produce intricately carved, subtly detailed pieces of functional briar sculpture. Ikebana literally translates into English as "living flowers," at it refers to the highest art of Japanese floral arrangement, these compositions intended to encourage silence and a quiet appreciation of the careful configuration of the flowers. It is this drive to create beautiful works of natural art that inspires the artisans working at the workshop, their reverence to the art of pipe making reflected in every aspect of their work. For the entirety of its existence the Ikebana workshop has been led by an enigmatic, nearly mythical figure in Kazuhiro Fukuda, whose 40 years of experience has rendered him possibly the most practiced, talented artisan in all of Japan. As the years have gone by, Fukuda has taken a bit of a step back in his production, training the newest member of their team, Asami Kikuchi, to act as a kind of successor to his mantle, taking her from brand new apprentice to the level of master in only a year, owed to the fact that she spent 6 days a week, 8 hours a day, working next to Fukuda. All of this by no means indicates that he has stopped making pipes, on the contrary, he continues to produce exemplary work every chance that he gets, and, considering his tutelage at the hands of none other than Sixten Ivarsson, it's not surprising to see him produce a Fish like this, unlike any other he has ever made, and almost perfectly in line with the Danish tradition.

To me, the most striking element of this piece is its compactness, measuring in a just over 4.5 inches in length, filling every single bit of the space this pipe takes us with incredible detail. The stem is a trim saddle that is curved elegantly, meeting a lenticular shank face whose pleasing asymmetry sees it dip just a tad lower on the left side, the shank itself flipped upward, just as the tail of a fish, the angle of the transition seeing the shank end and rim at the same level as each other. The sharp end of the shank face begins a sweeping ridgeline that dives into the underside and up through the heel, dissipating into the body of the bowl just below the rim. The transition is supply cheeked and, on the left side, this cheeking follows the same line as the ridge, plunging and rising with it with an implied line that never sees the two fully meet, but brings the eye invariably to the fore of the pipe. The underside of the pipe follows a consistent undercurve that lifts the bowl upward and provides a leaping kind of look that exudes the appearance of a fish jumping out of the water. The shape of the bowl is soft, curved almost to the point of being chubby and its shape appears to urge forward, with a slight bit of extra mass focused on the fore of the bowl. The rim is chamfered, leading to the tobacco chamber, which, for the size of this piece, is surprisingly capacious, its walls thick enough to promote comfortable, cool smoking. The profile of this pipe is different at nearly every angle, with the ridgeline, of course, more prominent on the left flank, the structure it provides contrasting with the softness of the rest of the stummel, while, on the left, the curves abound, their gentle fluidity speaking to the difficulty of rendering this shape. When viewed from the fore, we see the most dramatic effect of the ridgeline, seemingly separating the pipe into two halves, the left side stepping down into the right, with the line ebbing slightly to the right in a pleasing, enchanting display of asymmetry. The stummel is commended by a light mahogany stain, completely enshrouded by dense, fine striations of flame and straight grain, with growth rings peeking through their tendrils, while the underside and rim are awash with swathes of dense birdseye. A phenomenal offering from a legendary artisan, this Fish is the culmination of over 40 years of experience and training from the most formative, influential carver in the Danish school.

-John McElheny
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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 4.53 in./115.06 mm.
  • Weight: 1.90 oz./53.86 g.
  • Bowl Height: 1.81 in./45.97 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.33 in./33.78 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.76 in./19.30 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 1.73 in./43.94 mm.
  • Stem Material: Vulcanite
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Freehand
  • Finish: Smooth
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: Japan
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