Tony Kramer is an avid backpacker and sea kayaker, logging many miles on the trail and many nights under the stars over the past 30 years. He knows what it’s like to love camping outdoors, but having to endure sleeping on hard ground when your back aches and arthritic joints throb.
After just 10 years of backpacking the mountains of the southeast, he realized sleeping on the group was just too painful, so he started hammock camping. Though the first few hammocks he tried helped ease his pain, his back still ached. All he wanted was a good eight hours of sleep out on the trail. An artist, innovator and problem solver by nature, he took matters into his own hands— by making his own hammocks.
After three years of designing and engineering, he arrived at the perfect solution. Each detail on the hammocks he creates today have been tediously thought out, tested, re-worked and re-tested to create a comfy hammock bed that offers campers a full night’s deep and restful sleep.
What drew you to your chosen craft?
I am an artist by nature. I believe we all are. As humans, we are very creative. Some nurture that aspect of our human nature and some don’t.
But, to some extent, we all use it in our daily lives. As an artist, I work with many mediums – stone, wood, metal, and now, the fabric from which I make my camp hammocks. I got my respect of art from my father, who was a Civil Engineer. From him I learned how to appreciate “art” in everything created, whether a painting, sculpture, bridge, building, automobile, airplane, industrial machinery, even the everyday tools we use, art is everywhere.
As well, art is all around us in nature. As an engineer, he could see the forms and structure of the natural world and use that in his designs. I draw on that same aspect in the designs of my hammocks. But in my case, I used the human form, understanding weight distribution and flex, to engineer a hammock that will hold the body in a flatter plain and how to work with the fabric in order to do so.
What do you enjoy most about your craft?
When I hear back from my customers that after using my hammock on their adventure, they got the best night’s sleep they have ever had.
Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?
Because using your feet is just too hard!
In what ways are hand-made goods better than those that are mass produced?
This is difficult for me to answer since I hope to have my product mass-produced for the retail market. I have been waiting for the turn in our US manufacturing cost in order to keep my product Made in America. Beginning this year, 2017, will open up a whole new world for US Made goods!
What does the future hold for your type of work?
As more and more outdoor adventurers and enthusiasts find that sleeping in a camp hammock is more comfortable than sleeping on the hard ground, the hammock industry will become a major player in the sporting goods market. It already has a wonderful following. But many hammock manufacturers have overlooked the sole purpose behind this trend—getting a good night’s sleep. The years of R&D which led to the design of my hammocks was based on that one goal. So, the sky is the limit!