Vasken Brudian:
REPATRIATION AND RETHINKING DIASPORA

Vasken Brudian:

“One country and a common purpose”

A center of arts and a showroom which will open soon on the crossroad of Abovyan Street and the Northern Avenue, at Abovyan 2/5. The center will bring fresh ideas to Armenian culture and art as well as will create new standards in the service industry. The showroom exhibits the brand Ardēan. We spoke to Vasken Brudian, the director of the brand, and tried to find out the origins of this creative salon as well as discussing the future of Armenia-Diaspora relations.

Interview : Karine Ghazaryan  /  Photo : Ardean Design Archive

 


Mr. Brudian, how was Ardēan born?

— The idea came to me during my design workshops at TUMO Center for Creative Technologies. Having limited engagement with youth from Armenia, I was amused by their intelligence and ambitions to create the new, the interesting and the innovative. My students were extremely talented, but any innate gift requires refinement and development. By studying and learning, these youngsters showed the potential to create works that could be competitive on the international market. Another encouraging factor is our rich culture which offers an endless source of inspiration: sculpture, architecture, miniatures, carpet weaving, etc. – all priceless treasures for contemporary artists. Being an architect myself, I have always been astonished by the fact that there is not a single identical cross-stone among fifty to sixty thousand artifacts. The same goes for hundreds of churches, as well as tens of thousands of manuscripts and miniatures preserved at Matenadaran.
This innate creativity why Ardēan was created, to harvest the talent for the international market. It was not meant to be just a design studio, but also to expand and become a manufacturing company which aims to develop the design industry in Armenia and create new employments.


What kind of production do you intend to produce?

— We work in several directions, but always keeping the Armenian culture and art as a starting point. Our intention is to create a new layer to our rich cultural heritage in the language of the 21st century. Though our scarves depict images taken from our cultural icons, however what we create are designs that hopefully appeal to non-Armenians as well: for example, prayers of Saint Gregory of Narek, letters from the Armenian alphabet and ornaments from ancient embroidery. We have recently started to produce porcelain and glassware items with Armenian motifs as well.

Your team has also worked on several exhibitions.

—Our first exhibition was dedicated to the Centennial of Armenian Genocide. Some of the works depicted prayers of Saint Gregory of Narek along with other cultural icons. The following exhibition was about healing the soul and the body. The works again depicted the prayers of Saint Gregory of Narek and the plants used by 12th-century physician and monk Mkhitar Heratsi. One attempted to heal the soul with his prayers, and the other, the body, with his plants. We tried to combine these two ideas and incorporate them in our artworks.


You said that one of the aims of starting production based on our heritage is competitiveness on the international market. But do you think images which are perceptible to Armenians can also be interesting to non-Armenians?

— We create art and other works which are competitive on the global market as well as visually appealing and interesting both to Armenian and to international audiences. There are, of course, Armenian ornaments, images that contain many Armenian details, like letters of the Armenian alphabet. Yet the overall design and decorations are created in a way that makes them quite appealing outside of Armenia. Our core activity is not handcrafting, but rather larger production. This is one of the most important conditions for creating a design industry, and we cannot limit ourselves just to consumers in Armenia and the Diaspora. Our products are desirable and accessible to everyone, and this is why Ardēan is represented in various other countries and markets.

And where can one find Ardēan products today?

— We now have an online shop at www.ardean.am and a showroom on the crossroads of Abovyan Street and the Northern Avenue. By expanding gradually, we will be able to achieve one of our main goals, which is to create new employments and develop the design sector in Armenia. Over the last three to five years, there has already been a serious increase in this field, yet problems still exist. For example, we do not produce the porcelain and glassware items in Armenia as the country doesn’t have the technology and the factories to do so. The design, computer graphics and prototyping are done here, but manufacturing is done abroad. A high-quality and reliable brand may create a market around itself over time, and a developed market may provide an opportunity to import the technology and to start manufacturing locally. This, in its turn, will provide more employments and even wider opportunities. A small success leads to a new and larger achievement, and in this very way, step-by-step, we will be able to turn the design itself into a brand of the country.


As someone who repatriated to Armenia and started an ambitious and successful business venture, how can Armenia attract more repatriates?

— As a developing country, Armenia provides opportunities that are noteworthy. As I have already mentioned, our youth has proved that Armenia can be very competitive in a variety of business sectors; the IT industry is a very good example. Over the past decade, Armenia has proved that when we have a clearly defined goal and a well-directed strategy, we can become competitive on the international market. The IT field is not the only one in this regard. There are different opportunities in Armenia. To discover this however, a repatriate should engage and assess all the possibilities. However, it is important for an individual to spend time and become involved in order to discover the possibilities.

What are the biggest challenges for a repatriate who moves to Armenia nowadays?

— Every country has its own challenges and Armenia is no exception. But as it is typically said in business, every challenge is an opportunity in waiting. As a nation, traditionally we have always been close to business and trading. Despite the fact that we have been out of the international market for decades, nevertheless, as a nation we continue to have all the resources and capabilities to be competitive in the international arena. I think we are at that tipping point where we are eagerly searching for areas where we can be intensely competitive. The wine industry is such an example. I think the design industry will become another sector where we can be immensely competitive.

What can Armenia and the Diaspora give to each other apart from what there already is? Are these relations going in the right direction?

— In my opinion, it is incorrect to try to separate Armenia and the Diaspora from one other; this sounds somehow stereotypical. Today we need to think in a more comprehensive and all-inclusive manner. To measure our true strength in the global arena we have to think of Armenia not just within its physical boarders. Because of our tragic past, the Diaspora was formed, but this didn’t separate Armenians. Having a Diaspora, we have created a powerful network for over a hundred years. Now we have one country and a common purpose, developing Armenia as a nation.