Working with acclaimed fashion designer Whitney Manney is a bucket list collaboration, shared Wandering Bud founder Riley Brain.
The handmade ceramic smokeware maker has teamed up with the KC-based fashion label WHITNEYMANNEY to create a limited edition collection of cannabis accessories and stash bags.
“I’ve always just really admired Whitney’s work and aesthetic,” Brain said. “I just really wanted to see her aesthetic on our ceramic pieces and I thought that our customers would love it as well. So when we decided we wanted to explore collaborations again … Whitney was at the top of my list to ask.”
For Manney, whose pieces have been featured on the TV show “Bel Air,” the “dream collaboration” — which launched March 24 — was an easy yes. When Brain contacted her, Manney said she’d already planned to reach out to the Wandering Bud founder for her perspective on delegating and scaling in the creative space; talents for which she admires Brain. Manney also felt like the Wandering Bud audience would be into the collection; seeing the connection between fashion pieces and ceramic accessories as functional pieces of art.
“My intention is always to build a world of WHITNEYMANNEY,” she explained. “I just feel like my work is so fly. It’s so bright and different, and it’s so hands-on that I just feel like it cannot be replicated. I understand the power of my storytelling, as well. And I think that my aesthetic — as easily as it can be applied to the body — can be applied to so many other forms.”
The five-piece collaboration collection — handmade by the artists at Wandering Bud — includes the Ex Oh nebula pipe and the Doodle tray that were hand-painted by Manney, who mentioned she probably hasn’t been in a ceramics studio since she had braces; the Flower Blossom bubbler; Cityscape triangle sprout pipe; and Drip City jay holder that feature digital decals designed by Manney. A stash bag and pouch designed and constructed from scratch by Manney also are featured.
Click here to shop the WM x Wandering Bud collection.
“The pieces are really beautiful,” Brain said. “The whole team is pleased with how they look.”
The artwork sparked from a doodle flower she brought into one of the planning sessions, Manney shared, which ended up being the artwork featured on the bubbler.
“I really want to create patterns that feature trademark WM motifs, so that years from now, someone can tie the accessories back to my work,” she explained. “They are a mix and match of digital and hand methods. The artwork for the stash bag and jay holder is a digital collage of paint strokes I did in my sketchbook. You can see the texture of the brush and opacity changes — little details.”
The Cityscape triangle sprout pipe was especially fun to design, she added.
“I knew I wanted to create three different sides since Wandering Buds sprouts in the past have been a repeat design on all sides,” she explained. “I again collated city buildings out of dyed fabric swatches, brush strokes, etc. While a customer is using their piece, it looks like clouds or fog over the city.”
This isn’t Manney’s first off-the-runway collaboration — she crafted chicken footstools with City Girl Farm in 2021 — but this is the first one that she said she is learning to navigate the fine lines of cleverly promoting cannabis accessories on social media and not getting shut down.
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“You have to play it so cute and calm,” she noted. “I don’t have to do that with clothing. The only thing is that nobody can be naked.”
For Brain — who started Wandering Bud in 2016 — such a tightrope act isn’t anything new.
“We do — in the cannabis space — have a really tiny needle to thread with getting our point across, being educational, being entertaining, and not violating Terms of Service,” she explained. “We’ve been kicked off of a dozen different tech platforms and we are not plant touching. We just make ceramics.”
Brain was inspired to start Wandering Bud after continuously stashing away their smokeware when her parents came to visit.
“I was so tired of hiding our giant, beaker-style glass bong behind the TV,” continued Brain, who at the time was a music teacher, “because that was the only place it would fit that it would be concealed.”
So after the legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon, she traveled to Portland hoping to find more aesthetically pleasing pieces.
“I went out to Oregon thinking, of course they’re going to have a beautiful bong or water pipe that I can leave out on my coffee table,” she said. “I was surprised to see that there really was nothing different from what we haven’t had at head shops here in Kansas City.”
She took this nugget of information back home with her. Later, feeling stifled within the world of education, Brain ultimately decided to make her own accessories as a creative — and practical — outlet.
“I just found myself searching for kilns on Craigslist that fall because community studios will not typically allow you to fire smokeware, so if you want to get into it, you really have to have your own kiln,” she explained. “So I found one on Craigslist. I snatched it up for a good price and set it up in my basement and started — after school and on weekends — making pipes out of clay by hand. I didn’t really have any experience, so I just stumbled my way through it.”
Brain eventually took a mold-making glass at Belger Arts and learned slip casting, which she said has been a game changer for the business.
“Slip casting is easy to teach to other creatives,” she added. “So it makes this handmade model more easily scalable.”
Three years later — in 2019 — Brain hired her first employee, and at the beginning of 2020, Wandering Bud moved out of her basement and into a studio space at 4446 Troost Ave. The business has now grown to seven full-time employees, recently expanded into the space next door, and is shipping all over the world — becoming especially popular lately in Australia, thanks to a TikTok video.
“Six years ago, I was sitting in a classroom, teaching kids how to play the recorder,” Brain said. “That’s rewarding in a different way. But this is on a totally different level. Six years ago, I did not see myself here.”
The legalization of recreational marijuana in Missouri hasn’t had much of a noticeable impact on business at Wandering Bud, Brain noted.
“We have been shipping everywhere since Day 1,” she explained. “Local laws don’t really have any bearing on how well our pipes do.”
But one thing Missouri legalization has ignited, she noted, is access to new “420” cannabis events; April 20 already is a big day at the shop since Wandering Bud typically drops limited edition collections that morning.
Wandering Bud is expected to be one of 10 makers at the Smokey River Entertainment District’s 420 Fest that will feature Wiz Khalifa. It also is providing table centerpieces that will be available to purchase at the 420 Feast presented by Wana, a three-course infused dinner event at Clay and Fire.
“They’re both consumption events so the legal status — in that case — does make an impact,” she added.