Two times the past three weeks I have been up in Talin. It is a new region for Homeland Handicrafts, in Aragatsotn marz. Talin is the place you whiz past on your way up to Gyumri. Everybody has heard of it(Isn't that the capitol of Estonia?), but nobody goes there. In my going on 12 years in Armenia, I had never been in Talin, charging past it like everybody else. It is literally a two minute drive off that main Yerevan-Gyumri. It is in a flat, barren stony region of the country, almost desert-like.
Yet in this town are two amazing people. One of them is a piano-playing Peace Corps volunteer by the name of Brian Bokhart from Indianapolis, Indiana. The other is a young woman named Gayane Kachatryan who wants to make a difference in her community. Brian contacted me and suggested I come and take a look. I did during the second week of January this year.
Talin is in many ways typical of many Armenian towns and villages. High unemployment rates. High emigration rates. Not a lot of hope for the future. While waiting for Brian to meet me in the main square on my first visit, an older man started talking to me. I asked him about Talin and its future. He said 'It is not good. Two of my three children are in Russia. They send a little money, but it is difficult. During the Soviet times we had lots of apple orchards, but now the irrigation system is not working, so there is nothing. Not one single new government building has been built since the Soviet times'. A hard first message to receive in a town during the first five minutes, it was. Still, Talin is neater, tidier than many Armenian towns I have been in.
Now, I like challenges, so already we are planning on developing a series of hand crocheted dolls in traditional Armenian clothing. One for Isfahan, one for Artvin, one for Moush etc etc. Several wonderful women have already said they want to participate- Ani, Margarit, Sahakanoush(lovely name!), and two women from the village of Verin Sasunashen a few kilometers away. But I want it to be right. I have never liked those carpet dolls that are sold in the market in Yerevan. Too ratty, too rough if you ask me. I was up there yesterday again, and they had made eight samples. None were good enough, so I explained what changes need to be made, and am looking forward to the new samples to be finished in a few days. No pictures will be posted until it is just right!
Big thanks go to Gayane and Brian for inviting me along on another adventure with Homeland Handicrafts!
It's Talin time!