How Stonedware’s Ariel Zimman took the pipe to new heights
After years of creating ceramics for the home, Ariel Zimman realized that there was one household item that didn’t fit in with her aesthetic – her pipe. An “a-ha” moment led her to launch Stonedware, a brand with a selection of sleek, contemporary smoking accessories that are as functional as they are beautiful.
Can you start off by telling me about how you got started with ceramics, and how you came to craft pipes?
I started working with clay when I was in the third grade. I started taking my first pottery lessons, and then I did some sort of pottery or ceramics from third grade through elementary, high school and then I went to college for sculpture and ceramics. For being 31-years-old, I have about two decades of experience working with clay.
My first business after a little while of working at a ceramic production studio here in Portland, I started my first business making ceramic home décor – it was called Relm Studios. I did that from 2013 – I still have the business, but around 2014/15 is when I had an a-ha moment. I was smoking and I used my little hippie rainbow pipe and I used it, and then I put it in a drawer and I had this moment of, ‘Why am I doing this? Who am I hiding it from?’ And then I was like, oh, I’m hiding it from myself because I don’t like the way this pipe looks. And it was like, ding ding ding – I need to make a cuter pipe.
So that sent me on a mission; first I went with the typical pipe shape. And that evolved into, ‘Wait a second – I can make any shape I want. There’s no reason why it has to be the typical phallic pipe.’ And so I really wanted to challenge myself and design pieces that were sculpturally beautiful, aesthetically pleasing as well as highly functional. I really wanted that duality of beautiful objects that were also functional, in addition to being really comfortable to hold in your hand. While designing them, there was a very concentrated effort to make them as ergonomic as possible as well. Even though they’re so angular, every single little curve and bend and angle is really made for where your fingers bend and fold.
They’re designed with a lot of intention. Hopefully people enjoy looking at them as much as they enjoy using them.
Can you speak to how your design sensibility is attracting people at an age where we’re more aware and open about cannabis use?
As a woman, and specifically a woman who’s been smoking cannabis for quite some time – you know, I’ve been more of a cannabis smoker than a drinker ever. I kind of kept that in the shadows for a while because of the stigma. Since moving to Portland – I’ve been here for almost 10 years now – obviously I’ve been on the train of legalization a lot earlier than they have back on the east coast.
But I feel like so much of it is just empowering women to say, “I like to smoke weed to! And I want to smoke it out of something beautiful.” Just because I want to smoke weed, doesn’t mean I have to do it out of an icky hippie pipe that doesn’t match anything else in my house. It just made so much sense to me that we all whomever – women, men, anybody that’s design conscious – why not have a beautiful piece to smoke out of, especially because so much of smoking is so much about ritual for some people, whether it’s a the end of the day or on the weekend – whenever or however you’re using it, that’s something that’s a fixture in your home and it shouldn’t have to be hidden anymore. And if it’s going to be out in your home, then it should be something you enjoy looking at and experiencing in your everyday life. That’s really what was driving me to design these pieces.
Did it ever occur to you that you would have a job in the cannabis space?
Oh no, never. I mean, I still say almost every day when I talk to people about my job and what I’m doing with my business, it’s constantly like, I never thought that this is what would become – even when I was self-employed and making objects out of clay – this was not in my sight at all.
This was not part of the plan, but as an artist I can’t really say that I ever had a distinct plan for what my life was going to be. I just decided at a certain point that after graduating college and moving out to Portland and trying different things – I worked at the Portland Art Museum and I had a bit of a career in floral design – I finally got back into clay and that’s when I was like, this is what I want to be doing and I don’t really know or care what exactly I’ll be doing, but I know that I need to be working with this material. And that’s how I still kind of live my life. Stonedware is doing really great right now and I’m going to continue working with the business and the brand and helping to elevate the aesthetic of smoking. But I also know that this might not be my forever job either, but I hope that as long as my body is capable, that I will always be working with clay.
Can you describe how you came to work with the kinds of shapes that you do and the aesthetic you’re working with?
It’s like another, who knows where ideas come from or what necessarily influenced it, but I didn’t want a phallic-shaped pipe anymore, and I just connected the dots in terms of “I have the ability to make any shape I want, within reason. Why can’t it be this angular, geometric shape?” And that’s really how I started going down this path; I just got on a tear and decided that’s what I’m going to do. Immediately I knew I wanted to make three different sizes, and I really liked the idea of them being able to stack on top of each other. I just thought it would look so cool to have them stacked up, even in a display case.
I’ve always been a fan of interactive art – you know when you can go into a gallery or a museum and you can either touch it or be a part of it or manipulate it, and somehow be involved so tactilely with art. I think that was a driving force, too – I wanted to these objects that people were able to set it on different sides or have it be different anywhere you put it.
Story by Odessa Paloma Parker
I asked Ariel to describe the process for making a GeoPipe but here’s something better – a video that takes you inside the Stonedware studio.
Why women makers are redefining the cannabis space
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Using their unique perspective when it comes to products that speak to discretion, ease of use and of course, style, the following empowering and inspiring creatives and innovators are filling voids, breaking barriers, taking risks and creating brands and products that are helping to lend a female vision to the industry.
Story by K. Astre