Liam Kaczmar On Being “Bonglord” of Summerland + What A Cat Taught Him About Creative Energy

Liam Kaczmar is my favorite type of person. He saw a need for something and when he couldn’t find one that he loved, he decided to make it himself. As an artist and “Bonglord” (best job title ever?) of Summerland, his world is full of creativity and inspiration. I’m not going to lie, I’ve had the Summerland ceramic apple on my wish list for a couple of years now, but my husband has yet to take the hint. We need more people in the world like Liam. More people who see a problem and fix it with creativity and infuse the remedy with beauty. I got a chance to pick Liam’s brain about his business, creativity, favorite books and more. So let’s get into the interview.

People call me: Liam Kaczmar

Occupation: Artist & Bonglord of Summerland

Currently residing: San Francisco

IG handle: @summerland_ceramics @actingcasual

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Currently I am 35 years old and live near the beach in San Francisco. My hobbies include painting, surfing, gardening and yoga. I grew up with a lot of cats.

We’re big fans of your brand, Summerland. What made you decide to launch your business?

I left my ugly glass bong in the freezer for too long and it broke. I needed a new one but couldn’t land on anything that spoke to me aesthetically. This event sparked a whole mess of ideas that questioned the state of bong design—leaving me no choice but to create my own from scratch. Summerland was a result of this pursuit.

How is Summerland different from other cannabis accessory brands?

The material is a large differentiator; ceramic is not as common as glass. It performs similarly, but because it is a more natural material, it retains some added soul. Smoking from a ceramic piece is almost more grounding, and we try to maintain that quality across the brand. Summerland was one of the first ceramic accessory brands—a trend that is now exploding since we started in 2011.

We place a high value on sustainability and offering locally made goods at scale. All of our bongs and pipes are made from natural materials right here in Northern California, which has deep cannabis roots. Obviously, we are not the first company to offer bongs in California, but it’s an unfortunately dying practice. U.S.-made cannabis accessories are starting to be harder and harder to find—the market is flooded with cheap imports, even expensive design-driven brands you may be surprised to find sell products that are sourced from overseas.

What’s something you wish people who are anti-cannabis or maybe just unfamiliar with cannabis knew about it?

This plant brings a lot of joy and bliss and is not evil. The reputation of cannabis has been manipulated into a very dark place by strange forces only very recently in human history. It has been generally accepted much longer than it has been internationally rejected. Weed has a negative side for sure if it’s abused, but it seems to be mostly here to help us. It’s best to try to recognize a larger perspective.

Let’s talk art. Can you tell us about your creative passions?

Ever since I was very young, I knew I wanted to be an artist of some sort, and my creative trajectory has really bounced all over the place from there, gobbling up different creative hobbies that somehow add up well. As a teen, I was really into graffiti, film photography and printmaking. I went to art school and switched majors all over the place; eventually settling on a degree in painting. Painting school only required one class per semester, so I was able to take all these other art classes; photo, video, industrial design, sculpture, woodworking. On paper it looks like a lack of focus but I truly walked away with such a multifaceted understanding of making things.

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After college, I quickly pursued a career in graphic design, because it seemed like the best way to pay rent in a big city. I followed that path through the advertising industry until I was eventually directing commercials. But then I sort of took a left hand turn and started making these bongs, which allowed me to stop working for other people and take a step back from the rat race. All of the creative talents I picked up along the way all of a sudden added up to having a skillset that allowed me to build a pretty funky company from scratch. I handle all of the product design, branding and marketing. An interest in art is not a dead end like our society wants us to think. People that think artistically have wild abilities and can do so much.

How would you describe your personal artistic aesthetic?

I like to keep it funky.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have any rituals that help you feel inspired?

I’m all over the place, but have learned to not be hard on myself about it. Eventually good work happens from a random amalgamation of efforts, inspiration, completely fucking off (important) and hard research. I’ll often just go and make a bunch of stuff, and then after a while, I’ll sit back and edit it down to a few major good things that happened as they happened slowly over time.

What does creative energy mean to you? How does it play a role in your daily life?

All energy is creative. I’ve become much more mindful about how my energy is used. Many things come into our daily lives to distract us and drain us of our personal energy, and it’s a skill to recognize when that might be happening and to preserve your energy for other potential scenarios. A cat taught me that.

“An interest in art is not a dead end like our society wants us to think. People that think artistically have wild abilities and can do so much.”

Speaking of, what does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day would be waking up, taking the dog outside to do her business while I check in on the garden. Then I’ll do some meditative yoga, make breakfast of a hot beverage and oatmeal, which I’ll enjoy while I get into some emails. Then I’ll check in with staff on whatever might be going on at Summerland and get some work done. Around lunchtime, I’ll go to the beach if the surf is good and spend some time doing that, come home and quickly eat some food. I’ll do some more work for a few more hours and then work on some paintings in the sun room before cooking a healthy dinner for myself and my girlfriend, which we enjoy in front of the TV for the rest of the night like good modern Americans.

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Are you a morning person or a night owl?

To be honest, in my mid-30s, I’m neither. I’m a “daytimer.” Is that a thing? I tend to reserve my nights and mornings for taking it easy and allow myself to be a bit more flexible with expectations of the moment. I also place high value on a good night’s rest.

When you’re feeling burnt out how do you reinvigorate yourself?

I find the best thing to get away from burn out is to just turn off and do something else for a bit, preferably in nature. I love to surf, but sometimes a simple walk in the park to go sit on a log somewhere can help, too.

Do you like to read? What are some of your all-time favorite books?

I love to read non-fiction, specifically pertaining to metaphysics and esoteric wellness. I am currently reading The Archaic Revival, which is a compilation of lectures and interviews with Terence McKenna, who is one of my favorites; very heady but a true visionary vastly ahead of his time. His theories have helped me to maintain a wider perspective on reality and time, which has been helpful in the chaos of 2020. Tao Lin’s Trip is a great primer on McKenna. Another favorite of mine is the metaphysical classic Journeys Out of the Body by Robert Monroe. It’s a journal of the author’s experiences when he found himself able to Astral Project on command in the late 1950s.

 

Where are some of your favorite local spots in the Bay Area to visit for inspiration?

Ocean Beach to paddle out through the waves and watch the sunset change color in the reflection of the water. I also love to try to get lost in Golden Gate Park, but I think I know every path and hideaway now. I highly recommend filling up on natural spring water at Mickey’s Beach, just north of SF.

If you weren’t running Summerland, what job would you like to have?

I think about this often when I’m overwhelmed with the day-to-day of running a business. Sometimes I dream of having a simple job that I can clock out and forget about, no computers! Ultimately, I want to just be an artist, painting and building things in a barn somewhere not worrying too much.

Favorite quote?

“Variety is the spice of life” or “Keep it simple, stupid” -unknown

Thanks, Liam! Connect with Liam on IG at @actingcasual and @summerland_ceramics

 

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Author: Samantha Welker

Samantha Welker is the business manager at Glitter Guide. She has an Master's in Corporate Finance & Sustainability from Harvard Business School but prefers working in the creative industry. She also hosts a weekly business podcast for creative women called Pretty Okay Podcast. She loves spending time with her husband and her son, Rocky, in sunny San Diego. Follow along on Instagram