Tetra's first in-house product, the Balance Pipe—just released in the shop and at Opening Ceremony in New York and L.A.—stemmed from our desire to reinvent the glass smoking device through good design. To make this concept a reality, we enlisted product designer Jamie Wolfond, who has been doing the same for everything from bowls to bookends through his Brooklyn-based housewares company Good Thing. And as it turned out, the young RISD grad also shared our lack of enthusiasm for the existing glass pipe scene. "I've been eyeing the glassware in bodegas and smoke shops for years," he says. "Pretty much everything you can find is trying much to hard to be impressive, featuring several intertwined glass tubes, tacky decals, and all-around poor decision-making." The idea behind the Balance Pipe, he says, "was simply to remove all the extra crap and make it possible to appreciate the inherent beauty in this very special material and technique."
Wolfond has been fascinated by objects for "as long as I can remember," he says. In high school, he started making his own wood furniture in his parents' garage without any outside instruction, a process that influenced how he works today. "Knowing very little about how these kinds of things are conventionally made—a craft with thousands of years of tradition behind it—I was able to figure out some pretty interesting objects through experimentation alone," he explains. I got used to designing empirically, without preconceptions about what would or would not work. This way of thinking has influenced my work a good deal. Even after studying furniture design at RISD, I've always resisted these pedantic conventions."
That much is clear from a look around the light-flooded Good Thing studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where Wolfond and his team bring striking simplicity and a subtle whimsy to even the most mundane functional objects. Here, we talk with the designer about process, products, and his preferred way to puff.
How did you get started as a designer?
What's your approach all about?
What would you like to get your hands on next?
What's inspiring you lately?
We've been working with borosilicate glass more and more. It has been exciting to realize how much of the world's mass-product glassware made by hand — it is still very much a skill-intensive craft. So, we've been thinking a lot about how to bring that into our products — how to make a glass object that better tells the story of its creation.
As for general inspiration, I've been really appreciating cheap things lately. You can find some pretty amazing stuff on Amazon, and Uline if you really dig for it. It's exciting to come across an object that was designed with nothing but utility in mind, and still has an expressive or communicative character. We can't help but put ourselves into the things we make.
What's a typical day in the studio like?
What are you listening to right now?
The latest Parquet Courts Album, Human Performance, is blowing my mind. Other studio faves are Yo La Tengo, Pavement, and Kurt Vile.
Any late-summer travel plans?
My girlfriend Sam and I are going on a nine-day canoe trip in Algonquin Park, Ontario. I grew up camping there every summer and and believe it to be one of the most beautiful places there is. Algonquin Park covered three thousand square miles of land stretching from Ontario to Quebec, and comprised of entirely untouched lakes and forests.
What's your smoking ritual?