Ceramics meet cannabis – where art meets function
For many cannabis enthusiasts, buying bongs, rigs, and other smoking devices is akin to collecting art. While some may still prefer to roll up a joint or charge their vaporizer, others are curating an assortment of pieces often made of glass.
Some ceramicists have set out to change that, making functional smoking pieces that assimilate into stunning interiors. These pieces from brands like Summerland and Wandering Bud exist where function meets art, just like a heady glass rig.
Why ceramic bongs?
Many may ask how smoking out of ceramic might differ from glass, metal, vapes, and other standard accessories. For one, the ceramic medium allows more room to play than glass. Glass-blowing methods limit those pieces to specific shapes, which doesn’t apply to ceramic bongs and pipes.
Wandering Bud founder Riley Brain also notes that the inability to see the smoke build-up can be an adjustment for many seasoned consumers.
Liam Kaczmar, founder and creative director for the minimalist ceramic smoking line Summerland, also spoke on how the opacity of a ceramic bong can be startling. However, after getting acclimated to a new piece, he claims that the body learns how to control a hit.
He also finds that smoking out of a natural material like ceramics enhances the consumption experience.
“They (cannabis consumers) may notice a more grounded feeling to their session that I find is due to the natural materials providing an earthier setting. Ceramic pieces become tools for ritual more than utilitarian objects,” Kaczmar told GreenState via email.
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Wandering Bud designs bongs, pipes, ashtrays, and grinders to be functional and an intentional aesthetic component of an interior. This balance is difficult to pull off with a natural medium.
“It’s been a challenge to maintain the design aesthetic I have envisioned without sacrificing function,” Brain told GreenState. “I can’t say I did that perfectly in the beginning, but we’re doing a pretty dang good job of that now.”
Starting a ceramic smoking accessories brand
Neither of the artists we spoke to has formal ceramics training, but both founders had ideas for a ceramic pipe that led them to build their brands. While running a clothing business, Kaczmar worked with a seamstress who was also a ceramicist and approached them about an idea for a pipe shaped like an apple.
From that conversation, the first Summerland pipe was born, and Fruit Fantasy continues to be a bestseller for the brand.
“We soon converted half of our design studio into a ceramics studio and thus began a messy foray into ceramics,” Kaczmar shared.
Before starting the brand, Kaczmar attended art school and took classes in molding and sculpture but never ceramics. Much of his ceramic knowledge has come through doing–a sentiment echoed by Wandering Bud founder Riley Brain.
“I learned through trial and error, YouTube, building relationships with experienced artists on Instagram, and I did take a few classes at a local ceramics studio,” Brain said.
Brain has been drawn to surface design as her love for the medium evolves. This inspiration is evident in the soon-to-be-released Flora Bong, which features a softened beaker shape decorated with ornate designs akin to an antique crystal decanter.
Kaczmar drives the Summerland aesthetic toward simplicity, launching the first all-white ceramic collection at a time when simple bongs started and ended with scientific glass. As of late, the artist is drawing from primitive folk craft and wabi-sabi–honing in on chunky oil paintings, heritage surf history, and The New Age as wells of inspiration.
“As our work has evolved beyond the initial line of pure white porcelain bongs, I find myself drawn to even simpler materials, more organic and natural elements, less refined than the purity of porcelain,” Kaczmar said. “I am often in search of a quality in material that brings an authentic and timeless feeling, evoking a sense of wonder and connection with the world around us.”
Challenges where ceramics meet cannabis
They are elegant, functional, and inspired–but they are also subject to the faults of prohibition. Like plant-touching cannabis brands, ceramicists are censored on social media and denied access to banking.
Brain is active on TikTok, Instagram, and other platforms, where she uses imaginative language and synonyms for cannabis terminology to avoid blowback. But still, Wandering Bud has faced “countless” bans without notice, which makes it hard to operate a business, let alone grow one.
“It has been difficult to run a cannabis-adjacent business amongst prohibition, primarily because of banking regulations and corporate censorship across social media,” Kaczmar added. “There are definite limitations that we’ve needed to figure out creative solutions to overcome, and there are other things that we’ve learned to simply accept and not waste our limited resources fighting.”
As these brands fight to throw clay another day, fellow ceramicists continue to enter the space with novel ideas, like this ceramic pipe modeled to look like an inhaler. Ceramic bongs and pipes are a welcome addition to the world of art you can smoke out of, and another sign of normalization as artists, corporations, and even fast food chains more openly accept cannabis culture.