Each egg is carefully hand-felted in Armenia using local wool and embroidered in a decorative Marash style. Crafting these charming pieces take skill and persistence.
“Felting is not an easy technique to master. It requires extreme patience and diligence to give birth to a wonderful item like this Easter egg,” explains Maral, one of the master artisans working with HDIF, MADE51’s social enterprise partner in Armenia.
Maral and the other refugee women that create these eggs are of historically Armenian descent. Previous generations fled violence in their country of origin and settled in Syria, where they retained much of their cultural heritage. In recent years, the Syrian crisis has caused widespread displacement. In this context, nearly 22,000 Syrians with Armenian heritage have sought refuge in Armenia since 2011.
Maral and Lousin, her mother, were among them. In 2015 fighting had reached their doorstep and Lousin’s home was damaged by a missile. This caused them to leave, along with Maral’s husband and three sons, for the land of their ancestors.
Though Lousin was born in Syria, her life there was shaped by her Armenian heritage. She invested her career and free time into the Armenian community in Aleppo. She served as an educator in the Armenian primary school, eventually founding a school for those with special needs, all whilst doing volunteer work to support fellow members of the diaspora.
She learned from a generation before her that, as a parent, she needed to make sure her daughters understood their culture.
“We have learnt from our grandparents how important it is to preserve the Armenian handicraft, customs and traditions and pass them on to our grandchildren,” Lousin explained.
Maral, her daughter, has learned these lessons well. She is a master artisan specializing in Armenian embroidery, felting, knitting and sewing and, since arriving in Armenia, she has become an entrepreneur, renowned for her craftsmanship. In 2017, she was granted “The best woman entrepreneur” award by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia and received national master diploma by the Ministry of Culture.
For Maral, and other Syrian-Armenian refugees, the Marash embroidery they use to decorate the Easter Eggs is deeply meaningful. This complex style of stitching uses layers of lattice to create larger patterns. To Armenians, the tiny crosses that make up the lattice symbolize the ‘Tree of Life’, love, equality, solidarity, and harmony. The technique originated in an ancient city in Armenia and has been kept alive by women like Maral and Lousin, who pass it from generation to generation.
Beyond its significance, the act of embroidery, and crafting alongside one another, is powerful.
“Embroidery pacifies my soul and calms my mind,” says Lousin.
For another artisan, Salpi, it is about solidarity. “It’s so nice to work in a group. We learn from and encourage each other,” she explains.
She and her twin sister, Houri, were born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. They dedicated themselves to craftsmanship and were known as the ‘Queens of embroidery’. In 2015, when the Syrian crisis made life there untenable for them, the nickname followed them to their new home in Armenia. Side by side, as they always have been, they continue to pursue their passion.
“It’s pleasing to know that these cute Easter eggs will decorate homes of many good people in the world. We are proud to be part of MADE51 and promote traditional Armenian crafts made by Syrian-Armenians.”
* * *HDIF was founded in 2013 to create sustainable jobs in Armenia by producing and selling artisan goods. Their work throughout the region initiates, facilitates, and nurtures sustainable economic opportunities for Armenians and other vulnerable groups. They are committed to regional economic development, pay all artisans fair wages and ensure dignified working conditions. Through education and training programs, HDIF is working to encourage self-reliance and entrepreneurship. HDIF has been a social enterprise partner in MADE51 with UNHCR since 2020.