Tsuge Ikebana: Smooth Blowfish (Ohi) (K) (285) (2015) Tobacco Pipe

Product Number: 002-623-2560

Meaning "living flowers" and named in reference to Japan's lauded flower-arrangement art form, Tsuge's Ikebana workshop comprises three artisans who individually carve pipes under the Ikebana name. A similar, organic aesthetic often unites the workshop's pipes, regularly showcasing distinctively Japanese interpretations of Danish shapes, yet each carver retains their own personal design style, with this Blowfish having been fashioned by Yoshirou Ohi.

The Blowfish, or "Fugu" as it's called in Japanese, is a design championed by the Japanese artisan pipe-making tradition, specifically Hiroyuki Tokutomi. Having traveled to Denmark to study under Sixten Ivarsson in the 1970s, Tokutomi reinterpreted a number of Danish shapes through his own creative lens. One such design was the Fish shape, and in Toku's Fugu rendition he effectively captured a fish's fluid, flowing nature rather than the Danish Fish shape's more subtle suggestion. Ohi has followed that Japanese tradition in this piece, and as is characteristic of such renditions, this pipe comprises a paneled shank and a bowl whose bulbous flanks are separated by a central facet that wraps fore and aft.

When viewed aerially, that central panel curves slightly to favor the right side, imbuing the design with asymmetry and lending the impression of a swimming fish. That fluidity is reinforced by the shank's upward curl in profile and sudden flare at the face, yet its breadth remains consistent — only when viewed from above does it reveal a taper toward the transition. Such varied elements add intrigue to the composition, creating a complex arrangement of lines and motifs that differ depending on the vantage point.

That said, while this piece's organic elements are evident, it also possesses a certain architectural quality — more so than many other Blowfish renditions. Most versions feature paneled shanks, but they're often tilted or shaped without uniform facets. In contrast, Ohi has crafted a more symmetrical, rectangular shank for this piece, and its ridgelines halt at the transition rather than continuing into the bowl. Such shaping separates the shank and bowl and creates a certain sense of rigidity that contrasts the shape's more fluid elements.

The reason for these design cues is evident when observing the grain, and distinctive grain patterns dominate the composition depending on how it's viewed: From above, parallel striations of cross grain perfectly frame the upper and lower panels of the shank, as well as the bowl's central facet, while from the sides, swathes of dense birdseye are evident across the bowl's ridgeline-wrapped flanks and the shank's sides. The patterns are highlighted in a rich, mahogany stain, and the piece is fitted to a hand-cut, vulcanite stem, beautifully integrated into the composition via an expansion disc at the base that subtly mirrors the shaping of the shank face.

-Truett Smith
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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 5.29 in./134.37 mm.
  • Weight: 2.16 oz./61.23 g.
  • Bowl Height: 1.88 in./47.75 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.35 in./34.29 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.81 in./20.57 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 1.74 in./44.20 mm.
  • Stem Material: Vulcanite
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Blowfish
  • Finish: Smooth
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: Japan
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