We chat with the California artist and designer about what (and who) inspires him, his very first smoking experience, life-altering moments, and that ‘Summerland’ feeling.
We connected with Liam Kaczmar, designer and creator of Summerland Ceramics – a minimalist and aesthetically-driven line of ceramic bongs and pipes that has the cannabis community buzzing. Finally, a bong that you don’t have to hide behind a fake plant in your mom’s basement. Read on to discover the charming juxtaposition between laid-back and hard-working that Kaczmar seems to balance so perfectly.
MJ Renshaw: Okay, let’s get right into it – what’s your personal smoking ritual?
Liam Kaczmar: A few quick rips and then a skate down the hill to the yoga studio – if you aren’t into yoga I highly recommend trying it (more than once) stoned with a CBD-rich strain – as of late I’ve only been smoking for yoga. It helps you tune into your body and mind so much more.
I do find that my cannabis use comes in waves – I’m either smoking very often or attempting to mindfully give myself a break from the substance when I recognize that it is hindering me more than it is serving me. Currently I’ve been sober from THC for about a month now, detoxing my system after noticing I’m feeling more discomfort than pleasure from use.
MJ: Do you remember the first time you smoked weed?
Kaczmar: I was actually a very late bloomer – I didn’t get a first taste until I was 21. I spent most of my teen years as a good little Straight Edge boy. Even though I missed out on some nostalgic stoned troublemaking, I’m actually super glad that I spent my formative years clean as a whistle. There have been a few extensive studies about marijuana negatively affecting teenagers’ developing brains and I’d like to think that I am a lot sharper because I abstained.
Anyways, the first time I smoked was a hash spliff in Lille, France. I was hanging out with these graffiti artists, and we were stuffed into a Renault hatchback. We were driving around, getting into trouble, doing things one does with French graffiti artists. I was in the middle seat in the back. One of them mumbled a question that I didn’t fully understand and I responded with a quick “YES.” Turns out he was asking if we should smoke. At that point, I was contemplating the substance anyways, so it was a good mistake as I was down to get that first session out of the way. Needless to say, it was a great evening after that, but I couldn’t figure out if I enjoyed this new feeling or not – I’m sure the tobacco had a lot to do with that. All I really remember now is saying goodbye to them and getting super lost and paranoid trying to navigate my way back to my scuzzy hotel room in the middle of the night on deserted European streets.
MJ: How would you describe weed to someone who’s never smoked before?
Kaczmar: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a cat? All warm and covered in fur with no responsibilities… it’s probably something a lot like that.
MJ: What about the difference between smoking out of a ceramic or terra cotta bong and a glass or gatorade bottle bong?
Kaczmar: It’s so smooooth, and the piece feels amazing in your hands – it’s a really tactile experience that gets you extra caught up in the moment.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a cat? All warm and covered in fur with no responsibilities… smoking is probably best described as something a lot like that.
MJ: Summerland’s ‘About Me’ states: Here you’ll find the waves are always tasty, the sun forever melts on the horizon, and the nipple is eternally, irrevocably freed. Firstly, whoever wrote that needs an award. Secondly, this sounds like paradise, but has starting your own business and dealing with the stigma around cannabis been difficult or not-so nipple-freeing in any way?
Kaczmar: Haha thank you, that’s from the mind of our copywriter, Jason Crase. We came up with this upon discussion of my inspiration behind naming the brand ‘Summerland’ – some may recognize the name from the town near Santa Barbara (there’s also a Summerland, B.C.) but I imagined it as a utopian place beyond our physical dimension, that one is transported to through the use of our products.
As for starting a cannabis-based business – it has definitely been interesting navigating the terrian. First off, the industry is growing vastly right now, eyes have opened to the idea of cannabis being okay. People are way more cool with it, and Summerland is part of the normalization process – providing products that less heady types might be drawn to. We have, however, had issues on the business ends of things, specifically related to banking and money processing – since it’s still not cool on a federal level. We’ve gotten the boot from a number of credit processors. Even though at the end of the day, we really only sell art objects.
MJ: When was the last time you got the ‘Summerland’ feeling?
Kaczmar: Surfing these big slow outside roller waves at Ocean Beach, SF.
MJ: What advice would you give to someone starting their own company?
Kaczmar: Just go for it! “Hang up and thrive!” The hard work is nothing compared to the pure happiness of knowing you’re not wasting your time making money for some fat cat.
Aside from that – keep a low, low overhead (you don’t need a cool office/studio), do your dumb taxes quarterly, and enjoy the low and slow points because they may not exist next time.
MJ: Do you remember the moment that altered your life to end up on this trajectory?
Kaczmar: I always strived to be in charge of my own time and path – working freelance gigs instead of full time, and starving through creative business ventures for a lot of my 20s – but a huge moment was when I lost a best friend and creative counterpart to suicide. He was always so adamant about the DIY creative lifestyle and doing things beyond the norm. On the night he took his life, I had one of the most intense and tortuous nightmares where I was being so defeated by themes of being a sellout and not being true to my dreams. At this time I was 3 years deep in a soul-sucking advertising job. The following day was one of the worst days, I felt so empty and I couldn’t grasp why – I didn’t even get the news until that evening.
His death made me really re-evaluate the extremely unhappy rut that I was in and navigate a new path towards creative happiness that we often dreamt about together. I am by no means there, these bongs are just a step in the process, but it is all about trajectory, keeping an even keel, and staying patient and positive.
MJ: What designers or artists inspire you?
Kaczmar: Far too many to list! My good friend Maxwell Holyoke-Hirsch is always a great inspiration and I love ping-ponging thoughts with him. Barry McGee is a very successful artist I’ve always looked up to on multiple levels. Jonas Wood’s paintings have been blowing my mind lately in that I want to live inside of them. Damien Correll is an illustrative designer that just nails it every single time. I could go on and on…
MJ: Where do you see Summerland heading in the future?
Kaczmar: It would be wonderful to see it continue to grow beyond our limited staff and product offerings and really bloom into a full force. We’re still a very small business with a lot of kinks to iron out, but we’re working hard as legalization/normalization unfolds. It’s a really interesting time right now. For 2018 and beyond I really have my intentions set on growth – whether it’s investment based or just organic. I feel like we are currently in phase 3 of the brand with the relaunch that we did this fall. If all goes as planned, I would like to move further into creating even more bong and pipe designs and finishes, some interesting collaborations with lifestyle brands, maybe items for the home beyond smoking accessories, a larger line of hemp-based apparel, and possibly another branch of the brand that would offer yoga and wellness related products.
Really, I just want to keep evolving with the same intentions that I started with.
MJ: I know we’re not supposed to pick favourites but which of the bongs is your favourite?
Kaczmar: Since I am lucky enough to test drive them all, the favorite always varies with whichever one I’m using at the moment. The Pleasure Point feels so, so nice in your hand. The Chongo is a classically beautiful form and holds the perfect amount of smoke. And the Land Yacht is for those special days where you want to go really deep and lose yourself. I like to pull in the huge hit and then exhale while walking across the room, leaving ‘chemtrails’. I will say, however, that the Chongo in our new Terra Cotta color currently takes the cake in my eyes.
MJ: Okay, last one! Pick three things that define you. Could be anything.
Kaczmar: Water, solitude, and color.