Alex Florov: Smooth Reverse Calabash Ryu ni Shukufuku Sareta Tako Tobacco Pipe

Product Number: 002-354-0232

The American Pipe Making Exposition is a Smokingpipes tradition, having been held every July since 2015, and is a celebration of both artisans and their work. The Expo unites some of America's finest carvers under a single theme and gives them free reign to showcase their creativity and ingenuity within that theme, resulting in a selection of pipes that are some of the most striking, singular creations that we've had the pleasure of presenting. 2022 saw Calabash engineering as its theme and this includes reverse Calabash engineering, something present in this piece from Alex Florov.

The name of this piece is "Ryu ni Shukufuku Sareta Tako," a phrase that translates into English as "Octopus Blessed by a Dragon" from Japanese and reveals the inspiration for its shaping. Not only has Florov thoroughly infused this pipe with a Japanese sensibility throughout, but he's taken inspiration from both the natural world and the world of mythology, all coalescing in a pipe whose form is utterly striking. There's an incredible amount of detail here, with an abundance of texture for the fingers to appreciate all throughout the stummel. The footprint of this pipe is remarkably compact, measuring in at just a touch over four and a half inches long, and every bit of that has been used to add even more minute detail to the piece, most notably on the left flank.

Here we see an outcropping of briar that starts at the bowl, carved in a squared off rectangular shape that then extends to the shank in an arc that bridges the gap between both halves of the pipe, its surfaces covered in craggy plateau that allows it to further stand out from the brilliant contrast stain of the rest of the stummel. At the shank, the extension drapes over the briar there and descends in two separate lines to form a pair of points, the one closest to the stem originating from a peak which stands out from the shank in stunning relief. Immediately images of a dragon's wing are brought to mind, as if the flying reptile were cradling the shank with one of its appendages.

Of course, this is the blessing, making the shank the octopus in this situation. This isn't a stretch to consider, as a reverse Calabash's condensation chamber is housed in the shank, and Florov has used that to his advantage by expanding the breadth of the shank dramatically, rounding out the silhouette and creating a fantastic surface for the ridgelines which flow through it. The roundness evokes the head of the octopus, while the eight ridges surrounding it call to mind the eight tentacles of the octopus, as if it were covering its face with them. The top of the shank is fitted with a large push-style mortise that's ringed with an equally large band of Ivorite, the peaks of the ridges continued in shape through both, and from here ebbs the stem: a demurely curved length of black vulcanite that showcases a broad expansion ring. The vertical orientation of the mortise sees the stem take on an acrobatic arc from its mounting point, making clenching a distinct possibility and lending the aft side further visual appeal.

The bowl is quite a bit more slim than the shank, rising out of a very tight transition that enhances the visual separation of the two halves by offering a great deal of negative space, with the actual transition being quite low-set. There's a gentle expansion of briar as the bowl builds to its walls to the rim, flaring out softly to a mid-set waist and tapering very slightly to the rim. Three of the ridges that start on the shank plunge through the underside and sweep up into the bowl, as if the octopus were thanking the dragon for its blessing, and meet the rim at a trio of peaks before being joined by another that's centered exclusively on the bowl. Two of these peaks even push into the rim itself, rising higher than their surroundings like the pointed ears of a dragon. There's so much rich organicism here that it's almost difficult to fathom, and this work brings to mind Florov's 2021 Expo entry thanks to its evocative presence and sculptural carving, the final product a triumph of his intense creativity.

-John McElheny
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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 4.54 in./115.32 mm.
  • Weight: 2.51 oz./71.17 g.
  • Bowl Height: 2.09 in./53.09 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.40 in./35.56 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.71 in./18.03 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 1.96 in./49.78 mm.
  • Stem Material: Vulcanite
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Freehand
  • Finish: Smooth
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: United States
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