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Behind the Brand: Summerland

Behind the Brand: Summerland

For part three of our Behind the Brand blog series we spoke to Liam Kaczmar, Designer and Founder of Summerland.

Summerland offers modern and minimal design combined with a beautiful, Californian, 70s vibe. Liam launched Summerland with a line of handmade ceramic bongs and pipes – all with a focus on natural materials and low impact packaging.

Read about the birth of Summerland from a broken glass bong, an obvious hole in the market, a trip through the advertising industry, and some float tank inspiration.

What inspired you to start your company? Tell us a little bit about your products and brand.

I forgot about my glass bong in the freezer, which shattered, so I was on the hunt for a better replacement. Although I liked the utilitarian quality of my scientific piece, it lacked soul in material. I lived on Haight Street in San Francisco, which was one of the birthplaces of the hippie movement and now holds a head shop at every other storefront. Every errand and grocery run was a meditation on bong design. I was surprised that all I saw was scientific glass or swirly alien genitals; there was nothing that I wanted to leave on my shelf and see every day. Surely someone in Amsterdam was making something minimal, or maybe I could find a simple relic from the 70s? Nope. There was a very obvious hole in the market.

So, being an artist and designer, I decided to take it as an opportunity to try and create something better myself. I was drawn to ceramic as a material. It had elegance and soul in it’s simplicity, with use that dates back to very early human civilizations. It’s a very natural material that’s minimally processed. It’s literally the earth. Glaze is a thin layer of glass, making it just as safe and easy to clean as glass pieces.

With this material, we could start very DIY in the studio and did not have to work with a glass blower or seek out sketchy foreign manufacturers. Our first product was the Fruit Fantasy pipe, which was created back in 2011. The apple pipe was test product; the goal was always to make bongs. Instead I went broke and took a full-time job in advertising.

In 2015 I finally had enough savings to quit and put to use the years spent stacking pennies and researching and ruminating on these damn bongs (I realized the solution to our unique down stem in a float-tank). I went full force and re-launched the brand with 3 bong designs and another pipe, all in glossy white. Since then we have grown the brand across a few more objects and finishes and hope to keep evolving.

What do you love about your job?

What are some of the challenges you face working in the cannabis industry?

There’s a lot of strange things happening in the fast moving industry. The biggest challenges are definitely the regulations and stigma against anything remotely drug related. We sell art, not drugs, but because they can be used to smoke a controversial plant, It’s really hard to do any kind of legitimate banking. We’ve been shut down by so many credit card processors.

Another challenge is in advertising. The facebook/instagram monopoly on media makes it very hard to gain eyeballs outside of your algorithmic bubble. If you are a normal brand you can pay for sponsored ads and they open up your organic network. But if you are a dirty cannabis brand, that game is off limits, so we’re mostly preaching to the choir.

What’s your cannabis ritual?

My methods rotate pretty much weekly. Some weeks I’m into smoking bongs with hemp wick, some weeks I’m rolling joints or smoking pipes on the go, and some weeks Im looking for clarity/grounding and completely abstain.

My most ritualistic tendency, however, is getting super high and going to yoga class, which I try to get to a few times each week. The combination creates an amazing meditative experience that has informed my life in a very positive way. Yes, you can have a similar or even more pronounced experience without substances, but the weed helps to open the spiritual doorways much faster at this point in my practice.

Which other brands (cannabis or not) do you love and admire?

To be honest, I look at my local health food store’s bulk section as a model for ideal consumption. There is no bullshit built around a product, which is what many brands specialize in. You put the bare ingredient in a reusable container and pay by weight, take it home, and use it. They have pretty much everything you would ever need in your kitchen available. There are no costs hidden in packaging and marketing, no added sugars, preservatives, etc. It forces you to be a better cook and adapt to healthier living. After shopping and cooking this way for awhile, you realize how effortless it can be maintain a lifestyle that is super healthy for both yourself and the environment. Sadly most “modern” places lack good bulk shopping. I wish that stores like this were a lot more common so that everyone could have access to this form of living. Combined with a local farmer’s market, you’re eating so good for pennies on the dollar!

Cannabis could be (and was) like this! but regulation and branding is surrounding a purely organic product with insane amounts of waste.

I try to keep this mentality with Summerland. We use very low-impact packaging that is fully re-usable, recyclable, and compostable. Our products are made locally by hand from natural materials. Ceramic is clay made from mud and minerals which will return to the earth without harm. “Made from Earth, by Hand, in California.”

Learn more about the modern, stylish cannabis accessories at Leaff. We chatted with Liam Kaczmar, Founder and Designer of Summerland. Summerland's range of minimalist bongs and pipes pay a simple, stylish and fun nod to the 70s.

Summerland Ceramics

Smoking devices like rolling papers, pipes and bongs aren’t exempt from this reverence and it’s safe to say that potheads have even doubled as industrial designers refining and tweaking the most efficient ways to inhale.

Wander into any headshop and the options are endless from trippy, hand-blown Alice in Wonderland glass pieces that will surely send you down the rabbit hole, to the multi-chambered wizard staff that will land you in Mordor. Enter Liam Kaczmar, founder of Summerland Ceramics who, after seeing all this, invented a more sophisticated way to smoke.

“I lived on Haight street here in SF, which is lined with headshops. When I broke my first bong, I went looking for a new one—a wild search that wasn’t satisfied until Summerland,” he remembers when asked what inspired his coveted designs.

Each of Summerland’s finely sanded pieces could easily double as a vase perched on a mid-century walnut wall unit. Kaczmar walks us through his intricate slip-cast process, which starts by pouring viscous clay into plaster molds that helps it harden from the outside in after sucking up all the moisture. After each mold is pulled apart the bong is set aside to dry. A hole is drilled later for the downstem and then it heads to a sanding wheel. “From there, each piece is hand-sanded on a wheel to round out the edges and create a pleasing tactile finish to the raw clay. Now it’s finally time for the kiln, first fired to bisque, and then glazed, cleaned, and fired again to cure the glaze. Now it’s cooling and soon will be ready for quality control and packaging,” adds Kaczmar.

The result is true objet d’art that is seemingly indestructible due largely in part to the materials and craftsmanship that is carefully managed from start to finish. The sifted minerals come straight from the source, Mother Earth, and unlike other mass produced bongs, Kaczmar assures a deeper connection to the ritualistic practice of smoking only enjoyed through a Summerland piece. “Sounds like hippy shit, but for real, smoke one of our bongs and you’ll get what I’m talking about,” he jokes.

This limited edition special collaborative piece with Old Pal marries a similar Summerland aesthetic with a thicker sage green clay body that is unique to this organic relationship. A hand embossed special Old Pal stamp sits just above the carb tying together the nuanced look and feel of both brands.

So the next time you’re thumbing through the Whole Earth catalog or find yourself ogling alternative peace pipes behind the glass case at your local smoke shop, consider this collaboration.

“Today’s cannabis consumers exist across so many different lifestyles. The design of our bongs is so minimal that they can be appreciated by so many different types of people who are all into very different things beyond weed. These bongs are a blank form that doesn’t necessarily force any type of style or outlook and can complement any interior,” adds Kaczmar. We couldn’t agree more.

It’s easy to be obsessed with stoner aesthetics. From the ol’ timey marijuana tax stamps in the 1930s to the rich romanticism depicted in photos of people puffing and passing a joint in the 1960s, it seems like no other plant has been immortalized in such an artistic way. Smoking devices like rolling papers, pipes and ]]>