2000 - 2004

I have been studying and photographing pipes by Tokutomi since the spring of 2003.  Early in 2005, I assembled a catalogue of my Tokutomi photographs, ordering the images first chronologically, then attempting to group them by shape.  Naturally enough, given Toku's prolific imagination, I was only partially successful in this categorization, and with hind-sight, I now find some of my efforts quite amusing.  Also, since I started using a digital camera when I first began taking pictures of pipes, I was struggling with technology as well as technique, as I tried to figure out the best way of recording in two-dimensions Toku's astonishingly three-dimensional compositions.

So some of the commentary and a number of the photos document stages in my own journey of discovery.  But rather than try to bring all this material up to date, I've decided to post everything as I fashioned it originally.  The following catalogue, therefore, should be viewed as research notes of a continuing work-in-progress, rather than as my final understanding about Tokutomi's achievement and artistry.

(Though I have been privileged to see quite number of Toku's pipes, not all of them listed here are currently in my possession.)


Why a catalogue of older pipes by Toku?

I think Tokutomi's work can best be appreciated and understood as an process of creative improvisation and evolution.  His forms and lines undergo continual change and development as he re-imagines the possibilities contained in his blocks of briar.  Occasionally Toku will carve a series of pipes almost sequentially, in which you can see him following a particular line of creative thought;  more often, his extraordinary imagination will be working on several different themes at the same time ... or perhaps it is better to say that each time Toku sits down at the shaping wheel, his conscious mind and his carver's hands pick up one of the many "notions" that has been churning around and metamorphosing within his creative unconscious.

Toku's genius strikes me as, partly, kinesthetic (he "thinks with his hands") and non-linear (he responds in a complex, interactive way to the changing wood before him and the carvings he has already made).  The best, probably the only way to follow or appreciate such a vital and dynamic process is to watch how Toku's pipes have developed over the years.

All of which is to say that many of Toku's most striking new pipes today originate in themes and ideas he may have carved last year, the year before, or the year before that.  And I have often found that if I am perplexed by one of Toku's new forms, if I can't figure out "what he's up to," a review of similarly-shaped pipes he's made before often clarifies and enhances my understanding and my appreciation.

Thomas Looker

Curator, The Briar Gallery

January 2008

SPC 064 - Snail - 2002

SPC 241 - Snail - 2004

SPC 169 - 2003