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Gibrahayer proudly presents this interview with Maral as an account of concrete action for Armenia and what one can do for our compatriots in Armenia.

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► Be part of the community of change makers that is bringing Armenia forward
► Creating in the homeland is the synthesis of ultimate national interest


Artzard was created in April 2017; take a look at with its own web shop, and their shop section on The lovely items on sale can be dispatched to most anywhere in the world; payments take place through a secure payment system.
Artzard’s founder is Ms Maral Assilian.
All the items displayed on the website and in both web shops are handmade in Armenia and we asked Maral to tell us more about the venture.

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Q: What is your background and why did you start Artzard?

MARAL: I was raised in Lebanon in an Armenian family that fled during the genocide and I have lived in Cyprus (my mother’s country of birth) since 2004.
Being of Western-Armenian origin in the Diaspora, I did not visit Armenia until May 2015, then finally I did with my Dutch husband. We toured Yerevan and parts of the country with a local driver. Seven days, morning till evening we saw places in Armenia; and we enjoyed it. We saw the very good and beautiful, and we became aware of how further you are removed from Yerevan centre, the more you see the level of the economy drop. This sparked my decision to revisit, this time alone, as a volunteer, trying to be both useful to our homeland.

In October 2016 I worked there for two weeks, through the Armenian Volunteer Corps, as close to my professional background in logistics & international business, as possible. I could have stayed in a hotel, but I wanted to live with a local family, sharing part of their daily life. So, I started to understand how people live there. Go to work early in the morning and in the evening, I came home with some shopping as I would do at home. The daughter of the family, is a young (soprano) singer who studied for her masters and the son a psychologist, but having difficulty in earning a good income in that profession.

The last evening, after dinner, I received a present as a token of friendship of the family; it was a lovely handmade silver pendant of the Armenian bird letter “M”.

I asked how the son created such pendant, and he said his father taught him the craft and this was a fine art that he enjoys doing. The letter was all handmade with the motifs taken from Armenian heritage and culture including the alphabet;

After I returned to Cyprus, friends and acquaintances kept asking about the ornament (Zard in Armenian), everybody found it very beautiful. This generated the idea: why not help developing such skill into business with micro financing, so that more of these handmade pendants can be produced and help make a living;

With a relatively small amount of money my host was able to begin producing these beautiful ornaments. My son prepared a website for us to exhibit and sell these products to anyone who appreciates fine and delicate artwork. My husband created videos for the website, the YouTube channel and Gibrahayer (Armenian e-magazine/newsletter dispatched from Cyprus)
So in quite a short time, a project was up and running.

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Q:What is the purpose of Artzard, where is it based, who ’owns’ it, how did it start?
MARAL: The purpose of Artzard is to create a platform, through which talented Armenians in the Republic of Armenia, can (learn) to develop, expand and sell their artistic skills to the world, including but not limited to the Armenians living in the Diaspora. At the same time, Artzard is a kind of volunteering for Armenia, because I am putting my expertise (in international business) and contributions from my personal income to make a small micro enterprise. The basis is Armenia, with financial and logistical support from Cyprus.

You can’t —well, I can’t—just sit on your hands and hope that foreign investors or large companies will come and set up new factories in Armenia to create jobs for the population. So, it seems to me there are two ways someone can help Armenia: You can donate the money for well-established projects or charity; and then you really do not have much of a say as to how the money is spent and how the project develops. Or you can provide some finance for an individual scale project, and a small-scale micro business/finance like this can be very useful for the positive and healthy growth of the economy of the country.

I’m no millionaire, I am working in full time regular job— so when I personally finance a small project then the risk of making it a success lies with me : if it fails fail , I lose my money. However, I do not pursue any profit or dividend for myself.
The actual success of artists presenting and selling their products through Artzard however, depends on their talent, their efforts and their commitment to deliver. In terms of modern business: you can choose not to show up at a market stall, but when you sell through the Internet, you have to deliver 24/7.

Further down the line, Artzard will continue to offer aspiring or unknown Armenian artists a chance to create income.

Q: How have things developed since the initial start-up?

MARAL: I went again to Armenia, in November 2017, and this time my vision for Artzard started to get clearer: Artzard must become a platform for unknown/unrecognized artists from Armenia , those who that produce on small scale, preferably handmade where no large machinery / serious capital investments are required for production, and to exhibit their work on an international market .

The artists need to produce unique and beautiful products to compete in the international market so it is a challenge for the artist and for Artzard. But consider what is achieved every time a piece is sold: An Armenian artist is encouraged to persevere in producing artistic work of fine quality and gains some a measure of financial support; and the purchaser acquires a unique and beautiful artefact from Armenia, and makes a personal contribution to the economic and artistic development of Armenia, of course for the individual artists firstly.

The sales to date have been small, yet satisfactory. The market for handmade products is huge, but as per Armenian character: we are not scared off easily.

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Q: The items on the website are very nice but can we look forward to seeing some further new ideas, new products, new items?

MARAL: I’m constantly looking for and am sometimes in discussion with artists and craftsmen and craftswomen in Armenia to develop different and new products. I try to let artists, who are working with Artzard to “scout” other talents who want to work hard for their success.

And - which is important for us - we also very much welcome ideas for new products or variations from our own customers, so if there is something someone would like and they don’t see it on our website, let them please mail us via with brief details/drawing (tailored to specific occasion). Maybe it justifies producing a certain quantity, which will boost the assortment and we will be able to produce the individual item or more of them in Armenia and deliver within a realistic time framework.

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Q: Artzard’s vision is what exactly? Where does Artzard want to be in, say, 5 years’ time?

MARAL:Artzard would like to be a Pilot Concept/project, where after an initial successful introduction of 5 to 10 unknown artists to the world and by marketing the products that can secure a yearly turnover that presents a good income in Armenia.
If the concept works well, it could be replicated by others in the Diaspora with artists in Armenia. There is no sense mentioning financial numbers, until success is proven.
We do believe that the idea allows anybody with an active attitude in the Diaspora to be participating in the positive growth of individuals in Armenia.
5 years is a random number: we want to move ahead faster and faster!

© 2007 Gibrahayer e-Magazine
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