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High Country: Bklyn Clay gets glazed for new ‘Bong/Vase Project’

The artist edition series is ​part of the preeminent pottery studio's debut ceramic goods line

Katie Shapiro
High Country

One of the world’s most preeminent ceramics studios is taking the post-legalization era’s high-design bong trend to the next level.

Bklyn Clay, located in Prospect Heights, has unveiled a series of limited-edition, artist-designed bong vases as part of its new ceramic goods line, Bklyn Clay Made. Officially titled the “Bong/Vase Project,” the lineup features one-of-a-kind signed pieces made by locally based artists: Sarah Allwine, Soleil Carlos, Anders Hamilton, Gustav Hamilton, Michelle Im, Christian Moses, Adams Puryear and Dean Roper.

The project was inspired from a pipe- and bong-making workshop Bklyn Clay hosted in 2020 with Dean Roper, a ceramic artist who creates objects “for the betterment of daily life” using iconic imagery and logos from pop culture, memes, sports, fashion and fast food, while drawing on the influences of his childhood in the Midwest.



“That got people working and thinking about clay in ways other than the traditional objects one starts with,” shared Bklyn Clay owner and creative director Jennifer Waverek. “I love the humor and irreverence that Dean brings to his work and the idea of destigmatizing and recontextualizing this classic object in clay does a lot for both clay and bongs. I like that we’re making a multipurpose, functional piece of artwork that you can and should totally use as a vase.”

Waverek curated eight participants from Bklyn Clay’s list of longtime members and current artists in-residence to each create a piece (some artists created two) — all available to buy online for $300. Gustav Hamilton, Bklyn Clay’s co-studio manager, slip cast the classic bong shape, which provided a blank canvas for a variety of surface decoration techniques.



BEHIND THE DESIGN


Christian Moses

“Bongs are a particularly interesting household item. Oftentimes, you get whatever you can get your hands on, they’re strictly functional and mostly unassuming. They are, however, commonly the centerpiece of long-awaited moments of leisure. It was an exciting challenge to think of a bong as both a canvas to create a scene that reflects my own vision of leisure, and a moment to play around with function and beauty. I was inspired by everyday life in Brooklyn. I wanted to create fun caricatures of a scene I grew up seeing in the city. Humor and weed are best friends, so my goal was to create something that is engaging and encourages laughter.”

“Imagining all the ways artists could decorate the bong was the starting point,” added Waverek. “Artists that use various iconography and other interesting techniques that might be disruptive to the object also made some clear choices. I happen to love ceramic decals — you can easily apply images and we have a decal printer in the studio. Anders Hamilton, our other co-studio manager, had the idea to simply add the Kohler logo via decal to the bong. This is dually brilliant because the blank bong sort of looks like a plumbing pipe when blank, and Kohler has a terrific ceramic residency, so it’s a bit of a nod to that.”

With adult-use cannabis dispensaries slated to start opening in New York City in the next year, Waverek says she plans to make the “Bong/Vase Project” an ongoing initiative.

“Legalization has certainly shifted the former underground, stoner narrative,” Waverek reflected. “Cannabis almost falls under the holistic health category today. It will be interesting to see how it is depicted in everything from film to fine art going forward. Now that you can buy cannabis and paraphernalia in stores with striking interior design as opposed to a head shop that look like Spencer’s Gifts, it is no longer taboo. Cannabis is being rebranded for everyone.”


Michelle Im

“The bong [I created] reminds me of this German glass bong that I used to have. The design of it is classic and I liked the idea of a group of artists each adding their own twist to it. [Every piece] is so unique and it was just a lot fun to decorate. The great thing about a ceramic bong, too, is you don’t see the resin build up through the chamber so all the decorations remain vibrant and unchanged over time. I just love animals. They are magical creatures! Giraffes are so bizarre looking and I wanted to pair it with fruit to create a dynamic and colorful pattern. I also thought the long neck of the giraffe would play well in the decoration for a long neck bong. Basically, I imagined a bong that could make you feel like a kid again.”


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