When you first meet Karen Khachaturyan, you’re struck by his sincerity, his eagerness to talk to you, to exchange ideas. It’s only later (probably not through any admission of his own) that you’d learn that Karen is an experienced woodcarver, one of the last ones left in Armenia, or that he has his work featured in wood and craft museums in 37 countries around the world. At age 56, Karen is a master in his field and he has no intention of slowing down.
Born in Shamkhor, Azerbaijan, Karen moved to Yerevan when he was 11 and only began working with wood ten years later. But from a young age, he already had a knack for drawing and working with his hands. It was while apprenticing for a k’anon maker that he was told he had the right kind of hands for the trade — his fingers were nimble and he was dexterous. Karen didn’t begin working with wood until a chance visit to Yerevan’s woodcraft museum. “I saw the pieces in the museum and was just amazed. I asked the museum’s director where I could learn and he said, ‘here.’ So I started and continued learning at the museum for almost three years.” For all that time, Karen practiced and worked on his craft. For seven hours a day, he’d work, often on the same piece, the same construction. “To be honest, I never set out thinking I was going to commit to this craft. I started off just loving it. Then it became my specialty. Then it became a way to provide for my family.”