Nairi Safaryan was born in 1958 in the town of Shushi located in the Karabagh region of Armenia. Nairi’s childhood is filled with memories of carving wooden toys, drawing and creating chalk sculptures.
In 1996, Safaryan was invited to participate in two exhibitions at the Yerevan’s Folk Art Museum and honored with the title of Folk Master. This honor was bestowed on him not only because he had reached the level of Master Woodcarver, but because Safaryan’s work has a special charm that displays his deep devotion to his roots and a great understanding of his national heritage.
Today, as a world-class artist working in wood, Nairi Safaryan’s carvings can be found in many museums and private collections around the world.
How long have you been woodworking? Why did you start?
Knife was my best toy when I was a kid. I used to carve different designs on branches of trees. While I was carving my friends were patiently waiting for me to finish carving so they can play with it. My geometry teacher liked the work on the thin branch so much that he started using it as a pointer stick. When at school I also used to draw and make sculptures from chalk.
The first serious work I carved was when I graduated from the university. It was a sculpture of a grandfather. When my grandmother saw the sculpture she cried and said that she saw her husband in the sculpture, who had passed away.
Would you call it a passion, hobby, job, or a mixture of all three? Please explain.
At first carving was my passion and hobby. I started carving professionally in 1991 and since then it has become my passion and job. Throughout the years when woodcarving was still my hobby I developed my style. My works differ from works of other artist as I never attended art classes, and I learned from my experience. I preserve my style and express my interpretation of life in my works.
I love all your work. Your goblets are fascinating, your tableware is unique, and that rose hair pin is just exquisite. I’ve already begun to save my money for one of my own! But I just have to ask about the Vase 2001 Boxwood. How long does it take to make one? How many have you made? What tools do you use the most when making it? What inspired it? It’s a special piece indeed.
I worked on the Vase for more than a year. But during that time I made other pieces as well. If I worked only on the vase it would take me about eight months (working 12 hours a day) to finish it. My working day starts early in the morning and end late at night.
I made two vases in this style. But even these two are different. These works are one of a kind. It is not interesting for me to repeat the same deign. I don’t look at the previous works when working on a new one.
I use power tools and hand chisels. But 90% of work I do with hand tools. There are tools that I have made myself or ordered for specific projects.
People’s reaction to my works inspire me to work and create.
What would your advice be to a newbie planning to undertake a similar project?
I don’t want to make a comparison with great composer Mozart. However I want to tell a story to answer your question. A young man approaches Mozart and tell him that he wants to write a symphony but does not know from where to start. Mozart advises him to start from small pieces, and not a symphony.
Young man, “But you were 5 years old when you wrote your first symphony”.
Mozart smiles, “But I did not ask how to write it”.
I would also advise beginners to start with small projects and develop their skills gradually.
Can you define woodworking for me…in your own words? If you had to summarize what woodworking meant to you…what would you say?
Every creative person chooses a way to express himself. Different artists choose different medium, e.g. clay, glass, stone, I chose wood or maybe it chose me. It is difficult to tell what woodworking means to me. I enjoy working in wood, every work has its challenges. The more you work the more you understand that there is still a lot to create and a lot to learn. Even when I am not working, I am still thinking about the future works that I am going to create.
Thanks so much for taking the time to not only share your woodworking experiences but also your beautiful craft Mr. Safaryan. I appreciate your participation in this virtual interview for the Wood Goddess blog.
Thank you, Vanaye and good luck in your work.
If you’d like to learn more about Mr. Safaryan, view and/or acquire some of his pieces please visit his website directly at http://www.WoodSymphony.com/