Berkaber: In a World of Handmade Toys
Gifting toys is a time-honored Armenian habit. Armenians believed that toys protect children, bringing peace and calm sleep. For me, a toy is a wonderful thing, and making handmade toys is just pure magic! Knitting needles, colored threads, smooth hand movements, and the result is a piece of happiness.
For these women in the of Berkaber, daily life is a little different from that of the others. During the winter, in one corner of the house, and in the summer, they gather in the yard, pour colorful threads on the table, talk about this and that, and also create embroidery. Before talking to me about the initiative, Armine Yeganyan greeted me with compote made of Berkaber fruit. She sat comfortably and gazed at the window as if she was looking for something far away. It didn’t take much time for her to remember how embroidered handmade toys began three years ago.
“Three years ago, in a village that was engaged in many crafts, we set up a team and then went to the town of Berd, where there was a group of women who also created handmade toys. We were trained at the Berd Women’s Resource Center Foundation and learned the art of making toys,” says Armine.
Today, Berkaber’s puppet-makers have their own market and toys, but they continue to collaborate with Berd City Foundation.
“You know, at first, our team only had three people, today we are six,” Armine proudly notes and during our conversation, she skillfully knitted little toy got heads. “It’s an order. We must get it done on time.”
Colorful giraffes, bears, dogs, cars, yes, a real world of toys that would make your head spin. I looked at the long-eared rabbit, and if in the next second I would have to jump after it like Alice, I would do so without giving it a second thought. What miracle would pull me out of the rabbit hole, who knows, but it was Armine’s husband’s words that brought me back to reality as he opened the door and walked in.
Armine continued the story, reminiscing about her first toy, which she keeps even today, as a symbol of new beginnings. Made in Berd, it was a small bear head. At that time she couldn’t even imagine that the first big order of toys would be teddy bears.
“I was preparing a teddy bear for my little girl and a guest walked in. They saw the bear, liked it, and ordered 100 of them!”
During the conversation, it became clear that one toy requires more than a day to make. Armine is scrupulous, and in the event of an imperfection, the toy is disassembled and remade. The toys are made of ecologically clean filaments, as she says, and are seasoned with positive emotions as they imagine the happiness of the future toy owner.
“You must believe and go after your dreams. I never thought that one day we would be making toys in the border village that would be exported to the United States.”
The magician Armine works every day to make new toys, loves the color green, and hid toys that are not yet finished.
Only at the end of the conversation did I realize that this little goat head was my gift.
I said goodbye so I wouldn’t get in the way of their work and I realized that the many toys that were created in Berkaber would not be indifferent to the most demanding person. Why, because here toys are made with great love!
The article was prepared with the support of Berkaber NGO
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Translator Alice Ananian