Supporting and Sustaining Armenia’s Artisans

YEREVAN–On December 3, artisans from throughout Armenia showcased and sold their products at a Christmas bazaar organized by Homeland Handicrafts. The bazaar, held at the office of the Armenian Volunteer Corps, featured products made by Armenian artisans, some developed with the assistance of Homeland Handicrafts.

Homeland Handicrafts is an entirely voluntary organization that focuses on helping artisans develop and promote products, primarily creating jobs for women in rural communities. The nonprofit was established this year by Timothy Straight, the honorary consul of Finland and Norway in Armenia. Tim, who is also a product developer for a women’s cooperative in Sri Lanka, was struck with the idea that he could do the same work in Armenia, where artisans boast diverse talents such as embroidery, crocheting, knitting, scarf painting, woodworking and more.

Homeland Handicrafts helps Armenian artisans create marketable handicraft products by drawing elements from samples of the artisans’ work and providing feedback on colors, design, materials and construction. The products are promoted through Facebook, the Homeland Handicrafts’ website, outdoor festivals and fairs.

Homeland Handicrafts also holds seminars and workshops on various topics, such as calculating prices based on fair wages, creating successful products, customer service and display.

According to Straight, Homeland Handicrafts has been developing “organically” for the most part. Most of the artisans Homeland Handicrafts works with are found through connections with the Peace Corps and NGOs in distant regions of Armenia, where the organization has made an impact with its work.

Homeland Handicrafts has been progressing in part with the help of AVC volunteers Adrine Akopyan (USA) and Charis Tyrrel (Australia). Adrine, who is 23 years old, has been with Homeland Handicrafts since its inception earlier this year, and Charis, 55, joined the team a few months later.

“Usually the first time that we go out, we kind of get this little bit of skepticism, especially when we go to the really far-off regions,” said Adrine. “But the second and third and subsequent visits, just to see the enthusiasm is amazing.”

Volunteering with Homeland Handicrafts has been a positive experience for both the AVC volunteers.

Charis, who has a background in textiles, said that working at an organization like Homeland Handicrafts was exactly what she wanted to do. “It’s very organic…but I found that very challenging and also incredibly rewarding,” she said. With her art and craft experience, she has been able to utilize her skills by working with products and ensuring the quality of construction.

On the other hand, Adrine has had the opportunity to put knowledge into practical use. “It’s been a great experience personally, because my major in college was development, and it’s nice to see it actually happen and not just study it in theory,” she said.

More information about Homeland Handicrafts, the artisans and their products is available at  http://www.homelandhandicrafts.org.

AVC was founded in 2000 to serve Armenia through volunteerism. Since its inception, over 300 volunteers have served in 200 organizations throughout Armenia. For more information about AVC visitwww.armenianvolunteer.org.

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8 Comments

  1. Henry said:

    Sounds like a great organization! How can people in the diaspora help out the cause??

  2. Sharistan Melkonian said:

    There are lots of ways you can help. If you are interested in volunteering, sharing some of your talents and time here in Armenia, visit http://www.armenianvolunteer.org or email info@avc.am. There are myriad volunteer opportunities for individuals 21 years or older. If you are specifically interested in the Homeland Handicrafts project you can visit their website at http://www.homelandhandicrafts.org or email homelandhandicrafts@gmail.com. — Sharistan

  3. Tim Straight said:

    Hi Henry! We are focusing on making Homeland Handicrafts bigger and better: More artisans making more products, and making them more available to more people. Two U.S. Peace Corps volunteers arrive tomorrow to help us out for the next eight months, we get an Armenian Volunteer Corps volunteer soon, we have several product development workshops in new places planned for the next couple of months- Charentsavan, Berd, Idjevan. We want more products on the website, and we need to find the cheapest and best way to transport these to the U.S., France and elsewhere. For the time being, the best way to help is to support us, other than buying products, is to support our travel expenses out to the regions to meet and develop the artisans(I spent about USD 3000 of my own money doing that last year), or to support one of our artisan groups who needs capital to start a revolving fund for materials- yarn, fabric, thread, beads, etc. USD 1000 would be great to have in each group- so far Meghri, Kapan, Goris, Vayk, Yeghegnadzor, Sevan, Noyemberian. They would borrow from that money to buy what they need to make the product, sell the product, pay the money for the materials back to the fund and keep the money for their work. This would make each of the groups much more sustainable! Long answer to a short comment, but hey, if I don’t ask….. Thanks so much for your interest!

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