J. Alan: Partially Sandblasted Fugu with Bamboo (1819)

Product Number: 002-376-0360

J. Alan pipes are handmade by Jeff Gracik in San Diego, California. His journey into the world of pipe making began during his first year of studying for his graduate's degree when he purchased a pair of briar blocks and a pair of pre-formed stems, determined to make a set of pipes that he could use for himself. These two original pipes were carved with borrowed hand tools on the floor of his in-laws' home over Christmas break, and it was this first step that ignited a passion within him. After this decisive event, Gracik was determined to expand his knowledge, setting out to study with some of the most accomplished artisans in the world, starting with none other than Todd Johnson, one of the most well-respected carvers in America. He then went on to work with both Jody Davis and Tonni Nielsen, setting the foundations for this future work in one of the best ways possible.

Gracik is no stranger to the Fugu shape, and he's accented it with bamboo in the past before. This rendition, though, is differentiated by its strong degree of bend, something that, not only is notable for its rarity, but for the incredible way in which it alters the overall shape of the pipe. It's not as simple as just stating that this arc offers a more comfortable smoking posture, for the added verticality offered by this addition imbues this example with a sculptural kind stature, a lift that poises the demurely curved stem in such a way that reminds me of fine art given the languid curvature of the build. Not only this, but there is a palpable compositional symmetry that I see here, as the S-curve of the two elements match each other exactly, not just in their shape but in their length, making the rear of this pipe nearly perfectly harmonious. A trim stem meets this trailing arc of bamboo seamlessly, transitioning to the bowl in its own wide arc, ebbing to the bowl and seemingly rounding the flanks, meeting itself at the underside in something of an unbroken flow. The flanks of said bowl are paneled, with the left side lent a more neatly ovoid construction than, and a bit smaller, than the right, while the right flank at first glance, is carved in an even egg-like shape. In reality, the right flank showcases Gracik's talent for harmonious asymmetry, lifting higher and bowing out toward the rim, before curving back inward as it nears the bowl's fore more so than when it began, giving the line a kind of S-curve and aiding in fostering a dynamic look when viewed, especially from above.

A dual finish graces the surface of this piece, with the larger, left panel receiving a smooth stain that reveals a beautiful birdseye pattern beneath the warm mahogany hues, its swirling, pinpricked surface simply mesmerizing. The rest of the stummel features a low-depth sandblast, with textural birdseye on the left flank not only offering a diversity in tactile appeal, but visually strikes the observer when looked at in concert with the smooth finish. The panel that wraps the bowl down the middle has been expertly shaped in such a way that unveils growth rings completely encircling the panels, as well as striations of raised cross grain that pierce through each undulation. The color palette that Gracik has utilized here is nothing short of beautiful, with the natural tones of the bamboo matching the slightly darker stummel wonderfully, and the black stem contrasting both of them, elevating a piece that is already both elegant and organic to even greater heights.

-John McElheny
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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 6.25 in./158.75 mm.
  • Weight: 1.76 oz./49.90 g.
  • Bowl Height: 1.63 in./41.40 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.29 in./32.77 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.74 in./18.80 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 1.64 in./41.66 mm.
  • Stem Material: Vulcanite
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Freehand
  • Finish: Partial Sandblast
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: United States
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