I have known exactly the type of pieces that I wanted to make since high school. The idea of making ceramic bongs didn’t come from a desire to use them, it came for a place of intrigue after browsing Instagram for new ideas on what to make. After stumbling onto ceramist Daniel Nelson’s page and seeing his pieces, my heart was set on making some of my own. Due to the fact that making bongs is generally frowned upon by most high schools, I was unable to even try to make one until college. Once I was given the go ahead, I dove into production head on. These three earlier pieces show the generous amount of thought that I was putting into surface design at this time. This can be seen in the various types of surface techniques employed in these pieces and also in the varying degree of focus put into aesthetic design and/or representational design.
What these pieces do not show, however, is the amount of work and experimentation I was putting into interior components. For those that are not familiar with the mechanics of a bong, the general idea is that you are using water to cool the smoke of whatever herb you are inhaling. This is done by pulling the smoke through a down-stem (essentially a straw that goes into the interior of the piece), into water, before finally traveling through the mouthpiece and into your lungs. Another component of this system is a removable bowl piece that sits in the down-stem. This piece acts as both a holder for the herb and a carburetor to change air flow and allow for a hit to be taken.
Since I was making these pieces with no prior experience, my biggest hurdle was making these components not only work but work well. These pieces all feature hand thrown down-stems and bowls; I have since stopped throwing these components as they have proven to be both a hindrance to piece production and overall functionality. The down-stems tended to crack and generally not be up to par function-wise, and the bowl pieces were nearly impossible to size and lacked the “standardized sizing” that glass pieces have. Testing and re-testing these components using different styles and techniques is what shaped how I make pieces now; all in the pursuit of creating pieces with top-quality functionality.