Michael Aram is on the forefront of two of today’s top trends: eco-inspired design and outsourcing to India. For the last 18 years, he has been creating exquisite decorative objects like these bark vases and luna bowls made from recycled aluminum in India. He also happens to live there, so it’s not exactly outsourcing per se…
Nonetheless, with a flagship store opening in New York this October, we thought we would inquire if the location of his workshop helped or hindered the sustainable aspects of his business.
One often thinks that industries base their operations outside of the US because environmental laws are less strict. And often this is true. But according to Michael, the opposite can also be true. In his experience, “India is a country where everything is used and nothing is wasted, so the idea of recycling is very different. It is less of an activity and more of a way of life.”
His workshop is an example. The primary materials he and his craftsmen work in are our old recyclable buddies: aluminum and stainless steel. Pieces are designed so that excess material can be used in other items. Cut items are arranged on the sheet so that smaller cuttings are retained for fabrication into smaller peices. If there are scrap cast pieces, they are re-melted and cast again. And should impurities be introduced in the recasting, they are sold to to the local “kabari-walla,” or scrap dealer, who sells the material to another foundry with lower requirements for purity.
The hands-on skill of his craftsmen makes a lot of this possible. Michael is able to both work in organic forms and realize material efficiency because they are able to adjust and modify production layouts on the fly. For this and other reasons, Mr. Aram tries to buck the prevailing Indian prejudice: namely that white collar office and clerical workers have a better career outlook than craftspeople. It may be hard to argue with that, but in the creation of beautiful pieces, the sensibilities of the artisans are impossible to replace.
We’ll be checking back in with him to hear about progress with his upcoming retail spaces.