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From the Archives

May 22, 2009


Memorial Day Greetings from Japan

I just received this wonderful photo from Toku showing his bluegrass band playing in Maebashi, Japan, earlier this month.  Those of you who have visited the You-Tube site to hear recordings of their music will recognize the windmill-dominated scene.  (See photos and links in my exhibit,  Japan, October 2008, in Current Exhibits. Look for the Other Photos, Country-Eastern section.)


 ROUTE:   Current Exhibits, "Japan, October 2008,"

 Other Photos,  "Country Eastern"




Contemplating Briar



Briar pipes have always been objects to look at as well as to smoke. For a long while standards of beauty for pipes have focused on the regularity and visibility of grain and the overall attractiveness of shape as it reflected or enhanced certain familiar pipe forms. I derived much pleasure from these principles myself and never thought to question or enlarge upon them. Then I saw some of Tokutomiís pipes, and to my surprise, I found myself engaging with briar carvings in a new way and experiencing new kinds of enjoyment.

Tokutomiís work challenged and fascinated me. ... The more I studied a composition, the more I was able to see through its unfamiliar contours and discover new insights and understanding. My initial confusion gave way to the kind of rich emotional response that I usually associate with looking at a painting or a piece of sculpture. ...

Tokutomiís briars [are not] trying to be [just] works or art or "sculptures for the hand." They are always objects to be smoked as well as to be looked at. Yet Tokutomiís particular mixture of "art and craft" strikes me as brilliantly original: he seems to inhabit with gracefulness and ease that fascinating middle ground between aesthetics and functionality Ė and to do so with a distinctively Japanese flair. ...Tokutomiís artistry and the careful, patient observation with eye and hand that his compositions inspire have led me to regard his pipes as objects for contemplation as well as tools for smoking.

And my experience with Tokuís aesthetic has forever changed the pleasures and insights I derive from the work of other pipe-makers. I feel encouraged to open my sensibilities to the creative vision that any talented carver imparts to the briar he or she shapes. A pipe then becomes an occasion not only for a pleasing smoke but equally for a contemplation of the artisanís imagination as it engages with that mysterious human impulse to make what is useful into what is also beautiful.

Thomas Looker

Student of Pipes

Curator, The Briar Gallery

From: "To Play Elegantly With Briar," Pipes and Tobaccos, Summer 2006

Reprinted, with extensions, in the Pipe Notes section


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