Just in case you missed it- Vice Canada released a new video highlighting Tokyo Smoke and their new project partnered with Partisan.
Tokyo Smoke according to their website is a “a leading Canadian lifestyle brand, the first to elevate a new, burgeoning industry. Driven by design, Tokyo Smoke is ushering in a new era with high end coffee, an elevated retail experience and the best curated smoking goods alongside Tokyo Smoke’s own renowned line of products.”  Recently co-founder Alan Gertner spoke with said, “Tokyo Smoke wasn’t to be a Bob Marley-inspired head shop, or one of the many illegal dispensaries, but instead a home to the creative class. It’s not about the prototypical stoner, we want to build a brand for the contemporary urban citizen—it’s clean and elegant, which signals quality and transformation.”
So what is Tokyo Smoke? It is not a dispensary- but clearly intends to sell non-LP Tokyo Smoke branded cannabis on their website.
Company head of operations Geoff DeGrasse stated in reference to the shops’ selling paraphernalia but not cannabis: “We’re totally aboveboard. We’re waiting for legislation till we actually sell recreational pot in Canada.” Tokyo Smoke is a coffee-shop. A literal coffee shop, not an Amsterdam Coffee Shop. You can pick up a cup of coffee alongside a shop of branded merchandise such as sweaters and shirts or actual cannabis paraphernalia.
So you have a coffee shop that appeals to the top tier toker. We have similar styled stores in Los Angeles such as the Hitman Coffee Shop, personal glass gallery of Hitman Doug selling memberships that allow for safe consumption access while enjoying a good brew where you cannot purchase cannabis (but there is a rosin press on site). Tokyo Smoke partnered with Partisan is an architecture firm that was set to create inspired smoking paraphernalia just in time for the major holiday.
This is where the poop soup hit the fan.
A short segment covering the new launch of the collaboration was titled appropriately by Vice Canada
“This Bong Costs $13,000” with the caption “This $13,000 bong could probably survive space travel”. Right up front. A very editorialized title.
Alan Gertner Co-Founder is on screen with Alex Josephson, designer at Partisan. The first statement is the acknowledgement that this bong isn’t for everyone. Not everyone will be buying a 13,000 CAD bong. He begins with justifying the purchase of a bong- something that even on a recreational level doesn’t compare to a basic non-luxury class vehicle. Comparing two completely different things. Why would I buy a Toyota? Probably because I need it to work and live. If I am buying a 13,000 CAD bong, there are other elements involved in my decisions for what I go with. I’m not looking for a daily driver at that point.
The elements of Intent, Concept, Design and Material all come to mind.
“We’re interested in is really about how design affects bigger picture issues. In this case, I think that marijauana culture has been unthoughtful.”
Bigger picture issues are no directly address. Big picture? Is this function, is this about social constructs and behavior? No. Gertner explains “ There’s basically only ever been one pipe, only ever been one bong”.
Is he upset over lack of choice- I first thought! Spoon pipes? A straight pipe? A steam roller? A beaker base?
You can also check out our trip to Contemporary Pipemaking during Art Basel Miami featuring a collaboration show. Even some Honey Dragons glass rigs by Joe Peters. You can also check out our coverage of the Champs Glass Art Competition on Youtube.
Josephson states they questioned from a “design perspective” what they can do to the pipe.
Not functionality- design. Just “design” perspective. Not “contemporary design”, “late 20th century design and forms”….no. Just a design perspective. The same “design” I think of as a hipster in a Starbucks typing away on their Apple laptop with their thick rim Ray Bans and as he jots down notes on a Moleskine. A superficial statement with no meaning that also stereotypes what someone refers to as “design”. Again this also has to do with the editing of the video.
Form follows function is a common phrase through around the industrial design community. It’s a concept and idea that has inspired generations. To distilled something down to “design” is very arbitrary. It would have been interesting to maybe see some paths they took that created their vision.
This video covers the design process of two pipes for this collaboration. The 13,000 CAD pipe called the Io Water Pipe, also available for 750 CAD for black porcelain. The second pipe is the Crater Pipe, 420 CAD for steel or 175 CAD for black ceramic porcelain. The first design that stood out to me was the crater pipe. With a name like Crater, the inspiration seems clear. The bubbly compact nature of the pipe while appealing also calls to mind the technique called “swiss percs”.
So the innovative nature of this Crater design is questionable.
As seen- the mouth piece and bowl of the Crater is extremely small nor is it removable as some pieces sometimes have down stems and bowls for ease of cleaning. Something that may have been inspired by one-hitters and the on-the-go pipe. Reminds one of the small awkward rigs that burn your nose with the lighter
The Io Water Pipe, the main belle of the ball. Also with a built-in bowl. This bowl and the entire pipe is created with a “high-quality” steel. Josephson goes on a side statement to make a point that the photo-types/molds for these products are not created by a maker bot. A makerbot can range from 1,300 to 6,500 USD. Instead- these printers were meant to “print objects to save weight to go to space”. So was weight a factor to your design process? What inspired taking the step to make it lightweight? Never addressed in the cut.
Josephson emphasized “I don’t wanna talk about money” but you just compared your 3-D printer to the common 3-D Printer which also is quite the investment even as a hobbyist.
From a 750 CAD ceramic “procelain” pipe to 13,000 CAD seems like a far reach for the Io Water Pipe.
The mark up from the Crater Pipe is from 175 to 420 CAD, a bit less than two and half times the initial price. Porcelain to Stainless Steel.
How does the mark up occur for the Io?
Through the art market.
Josephson and Gertner as out of touch with the greater glass & functional art community really paid attention to the market for art objects. Only 5 of these pipes are available. A pipe that is fabricated with the aid of a machine. Something where prices do go down with the increase in manufacturing. To an extent. A lot of the feedback has been in regards to the classic artist versus fabrication argument- for example Jeff Koons “Balloon Dog” (Various 1994-2016) or Tony Smith’s steel cube “Die” (1962). The tables can be turned for when one asks- are people like Dale Chihuly creating art objects even though he is no longer making them? With the 3D modeling involved their hand and thought process was definitely involved but others argue otherwise.
This poses the next question- are these meant to be smoked from?
Ceramic has been questioned on and off in the functional glass community when ceramic nails were surging in popularity. Stainless Steel on the other hand is very difficult to discuss because it comes in varying states, there is no information on what type of steel the pipe is cast from currently on the Tokyo Smoke site.
Discussions of stainless steel dissolve down into a conversation about the dangers of hexavalent chromium which is recognized as a carcinogen worldwide including the United States and Canada (where Tokyo Smoke is located). From The United States Department of Labor; Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA.gov) states “The risk of developing lung cancer increases with the amount of hexavalent chromium inhaled and the length of time… [you are] exposed. “ The hexavalent reaction comes from exposing the chromium to high heat and repeated exposure. If you are constantly burning bowls in this will it get hot enough? These pieces are unable to be used for dabbing- exposure to concentrated high heat from torches or e-nail attachments, so they may not have been intended for those type of cannabis products (concentrates, full spectrum extracts, hash). Chromium is also water soluble. This also factors into your cleaning of the pipe. Oxidation and cleaners also factor in. The longevity of this piece is highly variable to it’s maintenance (from salt & alcohol mixes to pre-bottled solutions). Often in the functional glass community terms like “scientific glass”, “medical” or even “American/German glass” are terms used to help guide the consumer to safer products. Nothing comes from the current video editing that explains the steel further or the product page.
When you buy a 13,000$ Toyota you are buying a car to use, a practical investment. You get insurance and use it until you wreck it.
When you buy an Io Water Pipe- you are buying an art object for the bourgeoisie to display pride in flaunting wealth for the sake of wealth rather than the intent of the theoretical object- using it to toke from.
A lot of the internet has displayed their absolutely detest for this video and Tokyo Smoke’s display of disconnection with the greater cannabis community.
An apology was made public on the Tokyo Smoke Facebook Page:
We appreciate the comments regarding the Io Pipe. We inadvertently insulted a community we respect and for that we are truly sorry.
Our goal with this collaboration was to see how we could use new materials and manufacturing processes to build something beautiful. Our goal will always be to provide opportunities for creativity in the cannabis space. Creatives have helped shape the industry to where it currently is and will play a huge role in how we collectively move forward.
In our excitement about stainless steel and aerospace technology, we disparaged some of those creatives and we apologize.
We firmly believe there should be as much choice and debate about preference, style and materiality in the cannabis sector as in other retail experiences. This impassioned community deserves a great conversation and a great product selection. We’re excited to be part of that ongoing discussion. – [x]
This came following the swarm of people taking to social media to attack and harass the shop in any post relating to the release.
The hashtag #TokyoJoke which inspired the article was a very straightforward standard reaction for the internet. The first few days everyone will be talking shit and leaving lasting scores that will leave it’s impression on sites like Yelp and Facebook. Their reputation with the general audience who pays attention will leave their mark. Artist has gone and are already making stickers with jokes in regards to the PR Nightmare.
The reactions come from a large combination of factors. The Vice Canada editing, their editorialized title with the major focus being price (instead of an angle such as innovative techniques, which 3D printing isn’t, you can see 3D printed bongs on our Champs and BIG show videos on youtube) or just the two men representing an elitist niche who spoke in the video. Vice Canada simply cut the video, Josephson called the cannabis community “unthoughtful”, disrespecting thousands of artist globally. Gertner said “only ever been one bong”. The cannabis community has fought tirelessly over the concepts of ownership to certain designs in the glass world such a faberge egg rig, the juice box or even slop cup. To group hundreds of years of techniques globally into a silly analogy as the dragon bong was an ignorant swipe at variety of tastes and interests in the functional glass art community to elevate himself and the superficial branding of the “legal high end cannabis consumption” market.
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