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.