“You're not just gonna talk about my family, are you?”

From his last words, I got the feeling that Michael Saiger's family casts a long shadow. It’s not the Saiger name he feared, but Bambu — the rolling papers company he is heir to. I don’t blame him. Going through the experimental years, biologically linked to a company that’s partially responsible for your friends daily high can give a guy a certain type of complex. All of those annoying questions you’d expect people to ask, “Are your parents big hippies?” “Do you get to test the products yourself?” “Can you get me some Double Wides?” get asked often. And, yeah, I too am guilty of naively digging for such answers.

Surprisingly, Michael doesn’t smoke pot. Mom owns an antique shop and dad’s a lawyer. They don’t smoke either. Controversy comes in the form of Michael’s 80-something-year-old grandmother who still runs the rolling papers empire that her late husband purchased some time in the '60s. Apart from the occasional glaucoma issue, I’m guessing she’s clean, too, but the idea that this elderly, Southern Belle is running a company that profits from Cheech and Chong sponsorships is just genius.

Michael may not have realized it at the time, but the family business played a big role in what was to become Miansai — his sick collection of handmade, utilitarian jewelry.

Like all good ideas, this one began with personal experience and direct inspiration. Baring witness to his grandfather’s ambition and eventual success at transforming the Spanish rolling paper company into the global pothead phenom it is today, hit hard. But it wasn’t until one of his sisters commissioned his first piece — a sterling silver roach clip necklace — that he found a use for the vintage treasures he’d collected from his mom’s store over the years. This box of cool antiquities, some dating to the 1600’s, eventually found their way into his unique collection of necklaces, bracelets, rings, pins, cufflinks, and tie bars. Some pieces — an always useful spoon and vial bullet, this kickass 14k gold razor blade or the sterling silver roach clip necklace that started it all — are more modern in design, but the old-school sensibility remains.

Like a proud father would gush about his newborn, Michael explained that Miansai, just under a year old, has already outgrown its first studio. Orders are pouring in from stores like Kitson and What Goes Around Comes Around, and he’s the one filling them. I was impressed to learn that each piece of jewelry passes through Michael’s own hands and he takes intense pride in the creation from concept inception to realization.

By the end of our conversation, I got the feeling that despite Michael’s case for autonomy, he still relies heavily on his family for emotional and inspirational support. To be fair, they didn’t front him any money and except for the occasional WWII bullet from mom, he pretty much built his very own jewelry empire from his college dorm room. So while I could talk shit about how Michael is the High Times equivalent to Paris Hilton, none of that matters because the guy’s got talent. He’s ambitious. And, you bet, he loves his family.

(This article originally appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of ANTENNA.)

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