Pipe by TSUGE factory – To be a craftsman, not to be an artist


Three pipe making artists


TSUGE factory, a pipe maker, was established in March, 1936 in Japan. I have a dream to obtain a pipe of TSUGE IKEBANA model one day. There are three artists making TSUGE IKEBANA models now; Kazuhiro Fukuda, Asami Kikuchi, and Yoshiro Oi, whose works are all full-handmade and never the same.


Kazuhiro Fukuda hold Mt. Fuji just finished.


Kazuhiro Hukuda is proud of his seventy year career as a pipe making artist. He was born in the family of a genuine smoking tool manufacturer and used to deliver the goods from his home to TSUGE factory in his childhood. He went Denmark, a kingdom of pipe, to study pipe making in 1960’s with the fund sponsored by TSUGE factory. Only a small number of Japanese people had been to study abroad at that time. He was not even allowed to take a note of chemical agents while he was under training in Denmark; therefore he wrote everything he had learned on the day after he returned the accommodation, such as the name of the chemical agent, details of measuring methods, or how to polish the work.


Kazuhiro Fukuda shapes Mt. Fuji from a piece of brier.


Fukuda is a world leading pipe making artist today without any doubt, which can be proved by the fact that if you see the pipes of IKEBANA series they have no artists’ names imprinted. This is because that Kazuhiro Fukuda, a pioneer of IKEBANA line, has been the only artist who was producing the pipe of IKEBANA for ages. There is a legend in Japanese pipe industry that ‘Mount Fuji’ made by Fukuda cannot be delivered in three years after a customer places the order.


A pipe of Ikebana series made by Kazuhiro Fukuda


Kazuhiro Fukuda took a piece of brier, the raw material wood before shaped to a pipe, in his hand at his workshop. The young artist working in the factory pipe making line murmured then. “Mr. Fukuda is imaging no less than two hundred patterns of finishing views in his head now. He can instantly come up with those ideas. He knows how he can turn the various types of brier pieces into attractive forms of pipes, which taste marvelous at the same time. That is why he is called one of the best pipe producers in the world.”


Asami Kukuchi is an up and coming artist who has been trained by Kazuhiro Fukuda and following the Ikebana series production. However her works are not copied models of Fukuda but express her individual ideas strongly. She has originally learned molding design, means sculptures, at the art college. Kyozaburo Tsuge, a president of TSUGE Factory spotted her talent and opened the path for her as a pipe making artist.


Pipe Making Artists at TSUGE Factory: Asami Kikuchi (front), Kazuhiro Fukuda (back)


Kikuchi states, “A human is used to looking at his/her own body, where the beauty of the body is connected with all shapes. A man is used to looking at male body, while a woman is familiar with female body as I am. I think that is a natural theme I was given therefore I am pursuing the physical beauty of women in my works.” This is quite convincing once you see Asami’s works, which are so seductive and delicate somehow. She added, “I am good at making smaller pipes than male artists as my hands are in compact size compared to men.” We all know that women sometimes become fearless and cruel. So I would describe Ikebana series produced by Kikuchi as romantic, delicate, but bold representation.


I would like you to look at the bamboo part of the pipe Kikuchi made. Japanese bamboo roots produced in Wakayama prefecture don’t grow rapidly but develop their joints at intervals of several centimeters under severe weather conditions. Their diameters are various so she fits shanks or mouthpieces with bamboo parts all by her hands. That is the hardest work you have ever seen and she has accomplished it without any gaps in between.


Above: A pipe of Ikebana series made by Yoshiro Oi
Below: A pipe of Ikebana series made by Asami Kikuchi


Yoshiro Oi made an attempt to make a pipe at the age of twenty-five when he found that the adults smoking pipes were cool. “I took out the rose root in my garden, and shaped it again and again. I finally made up the one looked like a pipe. However I cannot tell how it tasted bad when I actually tried smoking!” He even didn’t know that the wood root called ‘brier’ should be used to make a pipe. After that he became a mechanic piling up the broad knowledge about tools and machines used in pipe production. He has spent most of his life as a skilled worker in pipe manufacturing industry where he played an important role as a consultant to many pipe making artists. In the end he himself became one of the artists producing Ikebana series. In my opinion, his works are full of freedom, egoistic, and a little bit twisted, therefore of course attractive. I am a writer not a businessman, means I live in my own kingdom. I believe that a person like me might need the pipe made by Yoshiro, so that I can grow the story ideas for my books while smoking in my heavenly relaxed study.


Yoshiro Oi shaves an air hole in ellipse by hand, which is usually shaved in circle.


I would say that Ikebana series can be characterized as the work using original woods effectively as much as possible. The artists do not conquer the materials in the way they like but keep its nature to be used at maximum. Hardly any parts have been shaved off with waste. This reminds me of Japanese spirits to “use the things with care to the full” and to “finish up the natural product as it is”, both of which are expressed faithfully in Ikebana series. Plus, what excites me most is a fantastic smoking flavor brought by stress-free manufacturing method applied to air hole. These characteristics must attract many pipe smoking lovers in the world.



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