An Interview with Ariel Zimman of Stonedware Pipes

A hand holding a lighter to a white and gold cannabis pipe

The Stonedware ethos promises “Never sacrifice beauty for function. This philosophy is built into every piece we make”. Discover how Ariel Zimman is redefining the “weed pipe” for a new breed of consumers, and the thought and physical processes that result in these gorgeous sculptures for smoking with.

Ariel Zimman of Stonedware makes some of the most beautiful, classy, appealing ceramic pipes you’ll ever see. Diverging completely from the traditional shapes of cannabis (and tobacco) pipes, at first glance they could be small sculptures. Pick them up and they sit comfortably and satisfyingly in your hand. Fill the bowls with cannabis, and you’ll discover that the quality of function matches that of the form.

The exhibition ‘We Are Mary Jane: Women of Cannabis’ at the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum features women from many backgrounds and time periods, from ancient to modern. Exhibition curator Simone Badoux found Ariel’s work a natural choice to feature in the exhibition, and both women were delighted to be able to collaborate across the Atlantic.

Four different cannabis pipes, a gold lighter, and a jar of cannabis displayed on a counter
Ariel Zimman’s GeoPipes on display in the Hemp Gallery, Amsterdam

Ariel is an unashamed cannabis enthusiast. One day, after smoking, she realised that she always put the standard rainbow glass spoon pipe that she used back in a drawer every time she wasn’t actually using it. Not because she wanted to conceal her enjoyment of cannabis, but because she didn’t like the aesthetics of her pipe. The seed of Stonedware was planted when Ariel, who had already founded successful ceramics studio Relm, realised that she was her own solution to that problem.

Not only her handmade porcelain pipes, but Ariel herself came to the Hemp Gallery recently. We obviously couldn’t miss the opportunity to meet up with her. We also obviously couldn’t miss the opportunity to request an interview for our ongoing series of articles about women in the cannabis industry. Despite having a busy schedule (and her parents along for the ride!) Ariel kindly made time to sit down with Scarlet Palmer and talk about the cannabis industry, ceramics, feminism, and “throwing away weed”!

Scarlet: Hi Ariel! It’s great to have you here in person, as well as your pipes. They’re really special, can you tell us about how you came up with the design?

Ariel: I started making pipes in 2015, because I had this experience with my little rainbow glass pipe where I was using it and then putting it in a drawer, and I realised I could make them. I started making the typical pipe shape, and then had that “ah-ha!” moment when I realised I can make them any shape I want.

Ariel Zimman with a large gold and white GeoPipe
Ariel Zimman with a large gold and white GeoPipe

With the geopipes, I wanted to make something that I’d never seen before. I wanted them to look awesome, feel great, and smoke perfectly. I had never seen a geometric pipe, period, and I wondered, why can’t there be?  There can be! I knew immediately that I wanted to make three different sizes, and that I wanted them to stack. I made the originals out of wood to make the moulds so that I could make really sharp facets, and with ergonomics in mind, where your fingers curve; I wanted a chance to hold them. A ton of intention went into them, it wasn’t just like ‘oh I made a pipe’. As someone who uses a pipe on a regular basis, I also like the fact that when you put them on a table, they’re never going to roll off.

S: In Portland, cannabis is fully legal; are you a part of ‘the cannabis scene’, or more like the ‘token stoner’?

Ariel: Well, now I’ve found my community, I’ve found those other women, I know they’re out there. But still within my smaller friend group that I hang out with on a more regular basis, I still am ‘the stoner friend’, and I don’t even smoke that much weed anymore. I’m in the industry and now it’s very much my identity, but it’s definitely the token stoner friend; like if anyone has any questions, sometimes I’ll have a gal friend that doesn’t smoke at all but she’s like “I think I want to try edibles”. We’re at the point now where we have so much of the CBD, and the tinctures, the cakes and the edibles and the oils…

I got really into the topicals. I hurt my arm from doing ceramics, I got repetitive stress disorder – I have what they call tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow simultaneously because of repetitive cutting and sponging and using my body as my tool, so I went for physical therapy and acupuncture, but I was also using THC and CBD topicals to relax my muscles and take down inflammation.

S: For the Women of Cannabis series, I’ve been asking a lot of women this question: Who are the women who inspire you?

Ariel: All the women in Portland who are paving the way for everyone in the industry. Everyone working to lift each other up. We all work together because we have like the same cause, before big pharma or whoever else can come in and dictate how the industry’s going to be. We’re the ones who are shaping what the industry is going to be right now.

There’s an all-women networking group called Tokeativity that I work with. They have events and parties and things like that just for women and woman-identifying individuals; safe space situations and just having the conversation. They’re trying to spread the organisation nationwide which is awesome.

There are some girls –and I call them girls only because they’re younger than me (and it’s so awesome to see all these women who are like 25, 27, and they’re killing it!) – called Ladies of Paradise. Their game is Instagram; they’re huge content creators, and they’re changing the aesthetic of cannabis, bringing a young, modern edginess to it. They’re kind of like brand ambassadors, but they have parties also, and they just opened a retail store, just one thing after another. They carry my pieces too, and I’m getting ready to do a collaboration with them. They just got written up in Forbes for a collaboration piece that I did with them. I’m not just inspired by people who sell my pieces, but this is how I get to know them!

S: Do you think women in the cannabis industry are being underestimated?

I think maybe by men, but not by other women. I don’t underestimate any of the women I know, I look up to them. My passion is ignited by other women and what they’re doing; I’m honoured to be in the presence of other women that are doing awesome stuff, it’s inspiring in so many ways. Maybe it’s the company I choose to keep so it’s not an issue. There are so many opportunities for women’s things in the Portland cannabis community that I seek those out, I’m hungry for them, and so are all these other women.

My work is apart from male and female. I do target women, but a lot of men love the geometric weed pipes too. They don’t want the typical pipe-shape either. I didn’t identify as a feminist until my 20s; imagine what it’s like to have that internally from a young age.

It’s a super-fun industry to be in and to be able to shape and help – I don’t want to say ‘control’, but to help steer the conversation and to give particularly women an option, a voice, and also the realisation – regardless of buying my products – even if it’s just something where they have their ‘ah-ha’ moment, this is something that I don’t need to be ashamed of and this is a product that exemplifies that. That’s an honour to me, to be able to give that to somebody else.

Four silver trays lined up on a counter. On them are different designs of GeoPipes
GeoPipes in production at Ariel’s studio in Portland, Oregon

S: Your pipes aren’t just unique from a smoking point of view, they are very distinctive from a ceramics point of view. What’s the physical process behind making them?

Ariel: My process uses slip-casting. Slip is liquid clay. It’s a sixteen-step process – there’s a video on YouTube if you want to watch it.

I make plaster moulds, they’re hollow, and I pour the liquid clay into them. The plaster absorbs the water from the slip so it becomes just clay, where it’s touching the mould, and then I pour out the middle and that’s how the pipes become hollow. Then I open the mould and take out that hollow form, and that’s when they get refined. I punch the mouth hole and the carb in them. The mouth hole is where the slip comes in and out of the mould.

So that’s why it’s a little bit different on each one, the thickness is a little bit different depending on the consistency of the slip and how long it sits in the mould for. Then they get trimmed, then there’s sponging, and the Stonedware stamp gets pushed in, they dry out, they get fired in the kiln, they come back out, they get glazed – everything is lined with glaze. Then they get finished, glazed again, they come back out, they all get hand-sanded so they’re nice and smooth. Then if there’s any gold, or that mermaid coat that I do, that’s another application and another firing, so that makes it to about a twenty step process. And the gold is all 22 carat. It’s a lot of work; each piece is touched at least thirty times. I do batch work as opposed to making one at a time; I do one process a day, so it takes about two weeks from start to finish to get a finished batch.

S: You’ve been kind enough to give me one of your latest models, thank you so much! Tell me about this new design.

Ariel: This was a really fun process! I worked with a 3D digital designer who did the whole design in CAD or whatever the program is [CAD is Computer Aided Design software – Ed]. Then I had it 3D printed so I had these hard plastic ones, and then I made moulds of those, and then I finally did the ceramic process. These are not for sale online yet, I’ve just had them at one trade show.

Scarlet: I like the length, it’s making me want to smoke it like a chillum.

Ariel: You can! I made them specifically pretty long so that the flame isn’t too close to your face. It’s a little bit like a steamroller because you have the whole chamber, and you have a really deep bowl so you don’t drop your weed out… it’s more like a seven-hitter than a one-hitter!

Scarlet: Thank you again for the pipe and for the interview! Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?

Ariel: I really love what I’m doing, I love working with clay, I love the community that I get to be a part of. I can’t imagine not having it now. I’m really excited to see where it goes. It’s also really weird being in Portland where it is so legal and you can walk into the dispensaries and buy whatever you want. I have weed and I’m like oh, it’s old, let me throw it away – literally, like can you imagine?

Ariel sat on a wooden chair lighting a GeoPipe full of cannabis
Ariel relaxing with a GeoPipe full of cannabis

In college, every little piece was so important, and now it’s like I’ll open a container and think meeeh, I don’t want it. It’s crazy because I remember buying a gram in college and making it last for a week, and now you can buy a pre-rolled gram for eight dollars. Or I get them as gifts at events. People are like, take it, and I don’t even smoke that much anymore so I can’t even smoke all the weed that I get given.

I did a show in Chicago, so it’s the middle of the country, and it’s decriminalised, it’s medical but not recreational. So that means if you get caught with it you will not go to jail, but you will get a fine, it’s on your record. So having a booth at a street fair, people are like ‘whaaaat?’ totally… I see the minds being blown, and that’s the fun part… and I feel like it’s not stopping. It’s not stopping.

Scarlet: Ariel, thank you so much. We hope to see you again next time you’re in Amsterdam.

Ariel’s geopipes are on display at the Hemp Gallery in Amsterdam as part of the We Are Mary Jane: Women of Cannabis exhibition, which has been extended until February. The exhibition, pipes included, will then travel to the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum Barcelona, where the exhibition will officially open in March 2019. You can also follow Ariel on Instagram, Pinterest, and even Spotify!


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    Scarlet Palmer

    Scarlet Palmer (they/them) is a non-binary writer, editor, and consultant specialising in cannabis counterculture. Based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Scarlet has three decades of experience centred around this maligned, multifaceted, and marvellous plant. Curating stories about its facts and fables makes them happy.
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