Surf Shacks 077

Liam Kaczmar
San Francisco, CA

When you think of traditional weed smoking devices, what comes to mind? Probably glass pipes and bubblers that that look like props out of a Lord of The Rings movie — you know, the ones that have trippy streaks inside that change color once you start using them? Or what about those little one-hitters that look like cigarettes? Or those tall shafted party bongs:  the fancy ones made of glass or the cheaper ones that are colored plastics? Breaking the shady, low brow stigma of cannabis products was a big challenge at the onset of legalization for most brands. Smoking accessories such as pipes and bongs were also suddenly an opportunity to break the mold and bring artistic product design into the arena. Enter Liam Kaczmar, the man behind the designer weed paraphernalia brand, Summerland Ceramics. Liam operates Summerland out of his home in the Outer Sunset district of San Francisco, where he is footsteps away from a chilly session at Ocean Beach whenever it’s on.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Liam Kaczmar, I am an artist living in San Francisco, California. At the moment, I run a brand called Summerland. We make ceramic bongs, pipes, and natural lifestyle accoutrements.

Where are you from? How long have you lived here in the Outer Sunset?

I was born and raised in Syracuse, NY. I moved to SF in ’07. I forget what year I actually moved to the Outer Sunset… probably 2010 or so?

How did you first start Summerland?

Summerland was one of those “in the back of the head” ideas that plagued me until it became a reality. I was always perplexed as to why there weren’t any “designed” bongs that represented a minimalistic aesthetic. I had a small clothing company and hired an assistant who was also a ceramicist. We developed this little ceramic apple pipe together with plans to eventually start making ceramic bongs, but I had to put down the phone and get a real job for a bit. Four years later, I quit that job and used my savings to launch Summerland for real. The timing was better with legalization starting to happen. The brand began with three bong designs and two pipes, one of them being a redesigned version of that original apple pipe.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone

Describe your first experience with cannabis.

I spent my formative years straight edge, and didn’t take my first toke til 21, somewhat accidentally… I was in France, hanging out with some graffiti writers, getting into trouble. We were packed into a tiny Renault hatchback, 4 of us in the back seat. The driver muttered something that I thought was something else and I exuberantly go “Yeah!.” Turns out he was asking if we should smoke a spliff. A few hours later I’m wandering this French town at 4 am trying to find my way home to my roach motel, feeling wonderful and paranoid.

How did you get into art direction and design in the first place?

I’ve always been artistic. I went to school for painting and was a stuck up art student that swore off commercial art — until I graduated and realized I’d definitely have to take that route to support myself in the modern world. The art I was making at the time was actually very design-influenced, a lot of typography. It wasn’t much of a transition to pull together a portfolio and try to get design work. I freelanced for a while and also took some photo work doing prop styling, which brought me into the photo/video world. I did Art Direction in advertising and have directed some commercials & films. Right now I focus primarily on Summerland and call myself the Creative Director. I do all of the design from product to supporting graphics.

Is it hard to stay focused on developing just one brand that you are the client for? Or is it liberating as a designer to have creative freedom and not have the added layers of approval, etc?

It’s liberating. Summerland comes from a place of pure personal interest, so I don’t really get burnt out on it much. If I do I just paint or go surfing and come back to work refreshed.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

What have been the biggest challenges of running your own business?

Keeping my attention focused when the to-do list is infinite and the weather is glorious is always a huge challenge. I’m a dreamer with a lot of ideas. Being someone that is more creative than practical can get weird while running a business. You have to wear a lot of hats, and sometimes you have to dig deep to find the fun in each problem that comes up. I’ve learned it’s best to just go at it one thing at a time and not expect to be constantly making huge strides. Turn the boat slowly and allow yourself space for perspective. Recognize your weaknesses and hire friends to help in those ares. 

On the flipside, what have been your greatest successes?

It’s really fun to think about how many Summerland pieces are out there being enjoyed; helping people step into an alternate reality for a bit.

What are your main sources of creative inspiration?

Intuition, feeling, and nostalgia. What am I naturally drawn to? What feels good in my hands? What do I want to put into the world or have in my home?  What gives me that warm and fuzzy excited feeling? What gets me stoked and excited for the future? I get really inspired watching documentaries on artists and alternative architecture. It’s fun to plug yourself into those scenarios and I hope to manifest a similar personal utopia.

Matt Titone

What are your favorite parts about SF and the Outer Sunset area in which you live?

I love that it’s like a small town out here in the Sunset. Rarely do I have to venture outside of the neighborhood. I joke that I never go east of Stanyan, which is mostly true. The health food store down the street has an amazing bulk section. It’s really great being walking distance from an amazing beach with world class waves and a huge park with world class gardens. It’s a good zone to work from home because there’s always a nice place to go and take a break.

How have you seen the neighborhood change over the years?

San Francisco is constantly changing. Right now, in the Sunset, it’s like the final frontier of SF; the last up and coming neighborhood. It used to have a bad rap as being foggy, cold, and “too far,” which kept it a relatively secret paradise. Since my girlfriend and I moved in to this apartment, its value has doubled. We’re holding on to our rent. If I had bought a house out here when I first moved to SF, I’d be so stoked. A lot of construction is going down right now. There’s about to be a lot of new restaurants.

What are your favorite parts of your home?

The “Atrium.” It’s this zone off of our kitchen that used to be an outdoor stairway down to the garage. When the owner converted part of the basement to an in-law unit, they took out the stairs, sealed it off with a floor, and put a greenhouse roof on top. Now it’s this narrow room with bright, even light and super fresh air. We have a lot of plants out there and I set up a painting zone with a drafting table. Its a great place to be when it’s raining.

Matt Titone

What’s it like being a surfer in SF? What are the pros and the cons?

The water is cold year round, which a lot of people will call a con, but I find it to be very refreshing. It probably keeps the beginner crowd down too. The scene is small and friendly. Con: The summer months are cold and onshore. We do, however, have a pretty wide variety of spots within a 2-hour window that if the wind or swell is doing one thing or another, there’s usually somewhere else to go that’s good enough.

What got you into surfing in the first place?

I grew up on Lake Ontario, which gets choppy wind-waves in stormy weather. Whenever a storm came through we would run to the beach and body surf all day in the wind and algae instead of hunkering down inside. We looked forward to those days more than the sunny ones. When I moved to California it was a no-brainer to try surfing. My youth on the Great Lakes made the ocean less intimidating.

Being in “the biz,” what are your favorite, top five cannabis products these days?

Being in “the biz,” my cabinets are full of free samples, so I get to try a lot of stuff. I’m quite sensitive to the nuances between different strain genetics, and a lot of the legal stuff white washes it to a simple “sativa,” “indica,” or even more generic “uplift,” “relax,” etc. I know what strains consistently give me a good or bad experience, and I’d like to know the genetic details of what I’m consuming. Who cares if the name is goofy, it’s weed, not Target vitamins! So, I’d rather be smoking something less-removed from the farmer. One brand that is dependable is Flow Kana. They provide processing and distribution to small family farms in Northern California and offer only sun-grown organic flower. You can really tell the difference, the vibes are way higher. Pure Beauty also has solid flower and their cigarette joints are fun. Rose Delights are the best edibles; They’re 5mg “Turkish Delight” style gummies made from single-strain rosin and real, fresh, local ingredients; super high standards in a space that often just squirts bullshit oil into sour patch kids. Mary Joe is a CBD brand you might recognize from the Barry Mcgee art on their packaging. They’re mostly known for their infused cold brew, but they have this water-soluble tincture that can be stirred into any beverage with no oily residue, and it hits really quick. It’s great in a bowl of soup, no joke.

Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom, or sage advice?

Hang up and thrive.

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Matt Titone

A goofy-footed graphic designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director. In 2006 he moved west to Venice, CA where he co-founded ITAL/C Studio, constantly seeks left hand point breaks, and tries very hard to avoid crowds & traffic.

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