To paraphrase Maxim Gorky, ‘When you love, everything is understood’. In his mid-forties, Kenichiro Sakurai is a seemingly boundless bundle of energy and boasts a teaching position at the Nagaoka Institute of Design. His paintings have been exhibited at Studio Hana-Yu-Raku in Japan, Espace E & C, Galerie Carre D'or in France, as well as the 19th La Fine Arts Presente Son exhibition, where he walked away with the top honors. In the mid-late 2000’s, Ken became enthralled with briar as an art medium. He began with a handling, analysis and aesthetic deconstruction of pipe designs from virtually every imaginable school, and then set about applying his unique perspective to the singular union of function and beauty that is the briar pipe. As a result, while Kenichiro admires the work of many pipe artisans, when asked to cite any mentors, his response is roughly ‘I suppose the closest thing that I have to a mentor would be me’. Again, ‘When you love, everything is understood’.
Sakurai-san’s briar is impeccably sourced Algerian and many of his presentations will include the discrete use of Tsuishu, an adornment which is created by a painstakingly slow layering of thin sheets of lacquer, then cut to reveal a side view that contains a myriad of impossibly thin, multi-colored striations. The only other pipe master (that I am aware of) who occasionally employs Tsuishu is Master Smio Satou. Due to running Atelier KEN Gallery of Calligraphy and Graphic designs, Sakurai’s annual production is less than 30 pipes a year. Thankfully for collectors around the world, Ken is slowly devoting more time to his briar sculptures, with an eye towards full time production. For this pipe collector, that time cannot come soon enough.
In an artisanal world where the word ‘unique’ can be applied so often that it almost ceases to have impact, the designs of Kenichiro Sakurai are both advanced and visionary. Nick and I are completely smitten with the work of Ken-san, and believe that our discerning customers will become aficionados as well.
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