If the name Michael Aram rings a bell, you're not alone. Many people recognize the award-winning American homeware and fine jewelry designer’s name and eponymous brand. His pieces can be found in galleries and shops worldwide, including major department stores and specialty boutiques.
Aram studied and worked in fine art in New York until the late 1980's when he took a life-altering trip to India. It's here that he discovered metalworking. Inspired, he turned his passion and energies towards the craft starting his own brand of metal-themed home decor in 1989.
Today, he splits his time between New York City and New Delhi with his partner Aret Tikiryan and their two children.
In Houston for a personal appearance at Events Gifts in River Oaks, the warm and instantly disarming designer, who loves customer conversations, chatted with CultureMap about his business, his family and what he has in common with Cher and the Kardashians.
CultureMap: What’s inspiring you now?
Michael Aram: I would say a lot. I started the company when I was 25 years old and we’re now in our 26th year of business. I always say, jokingly, that every day feels like the first day. For me, making things and creating is in my blood. It fuels me and excites me to move forward. I’m really, truly as excited today as when I started the company. I feel like the longer you do something, the more in your groove you get, and the farther you can push it.
CM: How do you stay creative after all these years?
MA: It’s not hard to stay creative. One of the new things we’re doing is working in new materials. For example, we launched a fine jewelry collection in the fall. To go from working in bronze and stainless steel to now working in sterling silver, 18-karat gold and precious stones has been a huge shift even though, of course, it’s still metal.
In terms of categories, we’re expanding hugely into the lighting and furniture arenas. This allows me to work larger. One of the really amazing things for me, as an artist, has been to return to fine art. Last year for our 25th anniversary, I created 12 different large sculptural pieces. I did it as a way to pay tribute to my beginnings, before I started working in decorative art, but I was so pleased with how well it was received by our existing customers and by our collector base that sculptural objects are now part of our offerings.
CM: What’s the perfect gift?
MA: That’s a hard question. There are so many perfect gifts. We encourage symbolic gifting. I’m crazy about my Butterfly Ginkgo collection right now on a symbolic level as well as an artistic level. It’s a celebration of nature, which is my biggest muse. But it’s also a reference to a variety of the Ginkgo tree called the Ginkgo Biloba. I amplified the story to be symbolic of metamorphosis from flora to fauna. The butterfly is coming out of the cocoon and landing on the branch. There’s something very poetic about that. If we think about giving a gift to someone and being able to convey that this is a piece about change, about well-being and about resilience, it has such meaning.
I think jewelry is the ultimate gift. You know when you got a piece of jewelry. You know who bought it for you, or if you bought it for yourself and why. Quite often, you know who you’re going to leave it to. It’s such an incredibly treasured piece. You wear so close to your body and it becomes part of you. It's symbolic of who you are.
CM: What’s a good way someone can freshen up a room?
MA: With quick fixes. So much of what we design are pieces for entertaining. When you have guests over and pull them out, they take center stage. Freshen up with just a few pieces – a cheese board, nut dish, wine coasters. They’re things that are used, touched, considered and give pause as people use them.
CM: What’s something someone wouldn’t know about you?
MA: I think they wouldn’t know a lot about me. The fact that I’ve spent most of my adult life in India. That I’m an artist maker, not just a designer in an ivory tower. I’m actually very tied to the making process.
CM: You have four-year-old twins. How do you do it all?
MA: I’m very blessed. I have an incredible partner who is able to stay home with the kids and allows me to continue with my work. My office is quite close to where we live and their (the kids) school is halfway in between. The kids come and visit me in the design studio nearly every day. They inspire me and always give me ideas of what I should make. Thankfully, my life, my family and my work are all very integrated.
CM: I’ve heard that you and Kim Kardashian are the two most famous Armenians right now. What do you think of that?
MA: I have heard that before. I think Cher is on the list, too. I’ll share the stage with Cher.