Longtime friend of Core, proud Staten Islander and current Director of Product Design at Parsons, Rama Chorpash has been on sabbatical in order to get back to his craft: product design. His recent design for a cleverly-manufactured potato masher was selected for the 11th edition of the MoMA Design Store's "Destination: Design" series, which celebrates geographic diversity in design through a collection of products from a certain region. After traveling far and wide—from Buenos Aires to Seoul to Istanbul and half a dozen other countries—the MoMA Store turns to its hometown for the latest (and largest ever) collection, which is set to launch in May on the occasion of the ICFF.
Here, Chorpash presents a brief history of the Spiraloop.
As a combined venture between my creative-practice and academic scholarship, I have been investigating how America's broken chain of once-networked facilities and factories, struggling to function as a whole, might employ overlooked and standalone industrial processes. Utopian Gardens is a series of project-based investigations that imagine a new future for production. Artifacts such as the Spiraloop are intended to seed conversation around innovative visions of more localized production and social use.
Why this local spring manufacturer? Over the last two years, I have been gathering what I call 'Stand Alone Manufacturers,' whom I could work with to create Utopian Gardens. When the MoMA Design Store's Destination: NYC (Made in the USA) open call went out, I saw it as a challenge to not only have product made in the US, but made hyper-locally. In my matrix of categories, I had a long list of spring bending facilities (along with many other industrial categories), but nothing local. It turns out that, my research assistant had met a young Australian spring engineer through a fellow student; he had come to New York and found employment at Lee Spring through the phone book. He has been great to work with—very knowledgeable. His father owns another spring maker in Australia, inherited from his grandfather...
I live on the north shore of Staten Island, so I wanted to find a producer within a short distance. The producer is a 10 minute drive across the Verrazano Bridge to the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Made in Brooklyn, New York, the product is manufactured with minimized energy output, labor, material waste, and shipping cost. While Lee is an international company (with plants also in five other locales with two additional distribution centers in the UK and China), they primarily produce mechanical springs, not consumer products. The proposal was demanding as I had to imagine what would catalyze the imagination of the MoMA Store curatorial team and their public while working within the core manufacturing constraints of the spring industry.
I chose the humble potato masher—since many New Yorkers don't cook, I thought an easily washable high quality implement might encourage them to do so. Mashing root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes or even winter greens like cauliflower and broccoli is easy, and the produce is readily available at our many famers markets. Just as locally grown food is available at these markets, so too can be locally designed and made products. This will not only create a more sustainable metropolis, but a more livable one.
On the Spiraloop hang-tag I wrote, "How we make, makes our world™." Left off of the pricetag is the notion that 'How we buy, makes the world.' My Utopian Gardens project is a small contribution, but it's going to take all of us to make a supply chain with greater accountability work.