Hagop Vanesian: On the path of earlier generations of silversmiths

Hagop Vanesian: On the path of earlier generations of silversmiths


LOGOSilversmithing is a very much known handicraft in the circles of the Armenians in Aleppo, Syria, but unfortunately the traditions of the earlier generations of Armenian silversmiths in this city are not carried on smoothly to the next generations.


Hagop Vanesian has followed his late grandfather's Kevork Eleydjian's steps and decided to learn and master this profession with the hope to pass it on one day to his children. Sylvia Bourdjian-Matta met him in his gallery in Aleppo and had this cozy chat with him.


Hagop VanesianCould you tell me about yourself and how did you found yourself involved in this business?
I am a graduate of Karen Jeppe (Yeppe) Armenian High school. I was fond of arts since I was a young boy; I drew and painted extensively. During summer holidays I used to visit my grandfather's workshop, but never thought seriously about learning the trade from him, because I was fascinated with the idea of becoming a pilot. I was accepted in a major university in Boston, Massachusetts and was getting ready for my studies. Then I thought; if I leave I will be away from my family, I'll miss them. If I stay, I can't work with my dad although he encouraged me to join him. One day my grandfather asked me to work with him and that step led me to what I am today. Once I got involved with that kind of work I realized its greatness and beauty. We produce pieces of art from a simple metal; it is melted, molded and transformed in to a beautiful substance. I creat something! It took me about 5 years to learn the profession. In fact, I had a great teacher.


The art of handmade silversmith art is becoming less and less available by the passage of time. In the Middle East, there's almost nobody doing it, neither in Lebanon nor in Jordan. In Syria, there are several people working in this trade and they have all learnt it from my grandfather Kevork Eleydjian.


So we can say that you are greatly influenced by your grandfather?
Yes, my grandfather was an extraordinary man. He was there always for me. He taught me how to work, shared with me the secrets of the trade and conveyed his own experiences. He was a mild-tempered, modern-looking and hard-working person. He passed away in 1999.


Did you feel that your grandfather was happy and proud of you when you opened your own shop?
When I decided to leave him and start on my own he was sad. Deep inside him he could realize that day was going to come sooner or later. He was sure that something good is going to come out of me; he felt it. Many other pupils learnt the profession from him, but he enormously believed in my potentials. He knew I had imagination and would go on making unique things that will make him feel proud. I started working in our old garage for twoyears; got myself a table and tools and began working in very modest conditions. During those days I did not have customers, other silversmiths provided me work, but they offered to pay less for the work I did for them and that was painful. I decided to depend on myself, improve my skills and build my own clientele. I started receiving customers at home and work in the garage. My parents were supporting me very much; each one in his own way. My mom helped with the customers and my father made possible the opening of the shop for me in 1994. Without their help I would not have been able to succeed.


What type of customers do you have?
I have different customers, mostly non-Armenians (unfortunately). I find it interesting when those customers want to buy stuff with engraved Armenian designs. Once a customer told me that he wants his collection to carry an Armenian design so that after 100 years when his grandson owns it he says that “this was made once by an Armenian”. This argument made me feel good and encouraged me to do the best in order not to disappoint my customer.


I have also customers from the U.S., France and Lebanon. I receive their orders by phone, prepare them till they come to Aleppo or send the items to Beirut or other places directly to them.


Do you feel sorry that your Armenian customers are few?
Yes of course, I do care for that. I don't want to sell my products as pieces of silver but instead I want to sell handmade art, handcraft. I want to be remembered in the future through my work, because by then this handcraft will be vanished.


Do you intend to refine the taste of people through your work?Hagop Vanesian
Yes I do. Every now and then I introduce a new line of design in my collection and with it I offer novelty to my customers. I have classical, traditional, modern, oriental and Armenian designs to satisfy everybody's taste. For instance, if I want to give an Armenian flavour I add a pomegranate or some grapes in my designs.


How can your work be recognized? What is your trademark?
I stamp my logo in Armenian on every piece, next to it I write down my name and the percentage of sterling silver.


Where we can see pieces made by you?
I have made a chalice for several churches such as Saint Hagop, 40 Martyrs and Virgin Mary Churches in Aleppo. They were all donations from individuals in the memory of their loved ones. There are also works produced by me in Antelias (Lebanon), Canada, France and in the Arab Gulf countries.


Are you planning to open a second shop in Aleppo?
Nowadays it is very important to have a presence in “Mogambo” shopping area. I want to have a shop there but not in the near future.


Have you ever thought of insuring your hand since they are the tools that create those beautiful artfacts?
To be honest, two weeks ago I was discussing this idea with a friend, suggesting to do so, because they are the means of my living. All the process of working with silver from A to Z is done with my hands.


You have a son and a daughter. Will you one day teach your daughter this profession if she shows interest? Or would you say it is a male dominant profession and ignore her request?
If she shows interest, I will be certainly glad to teach her. I will not deprive her from the joy of creating a piece of art. Besides, my customers are open to accept a woman in this domain.


Do you know if any prominent personality owns any of your products?
My works have been sold everywhere, but I don't know where they could be found specifically. I would be very happy and proud to know if they are for example owned by a famous art collector.


What other hobbies do you have?
I do photography and collect old photo cameras.


What is your highest aim now that your business is established and you are well-known?
I would like to have the chance to participate in international exhibitions. It is a wonderful opportunity to be known, but for that I need the right contacts. I am also preparing my own webpage to be more exposed to the outside world.


I am proud of what I am doing. My job satisfies my artistic ambitions. I am proud of my Armenian heritage and culture and with my work I want to tell to the world that there is an Armenian like me, somewhere in Syria, who is producing stuff that makes him and his nation proud.


For people interested to get in touch with Hagop Vanesian, he could be reached at [email protected]


Entry gate to the gallery

  1. Nice work.

  2. Haroutunian Family June 17, 2007, 1:15 am

    Hi Hagop, its was soooo beautiful interview and we are soooo proud of you. We wish your dreams come true…

    From all of us

    Medsmama, Arsho, Vartouk and Ani

  3. Great interview Hagop.

  4. Harma&Talar Jaghlasian June 21, 2007, 3:16 am

    It's a great Interview. We wish you success in your future plans. Go on. God with you. 

  5. Apraham Demirjian June 22, 2007, 3:41 pm

    Hi Hagop,

    You are the best, keep going.

  6. Hi Hagop

    I wish you the best in your job and your life.

    with best wishes

    Sako Buduzian

  7. Sona kaprielian Koushagjian August 14, 2010, 12:17 am

    Բարեւ Յակոբ: Ինչպէ՞ս ես: Ես քու դասընկերուհիդ եմ, բայց Ամերիկա կ՛ապրիմ: 1988 դասարանցիներուն կը նայէի երբ գործերդ տեսայ եւ շատ սիրեցի : Եթէ այս կայքէջը գտած ըլլայի աւելի առաջ, քեզի շատ մեծ պատուէր կը կատարէի, որովհետեւ հոս Նիու Ճերզի եկեղեցւոյ մը նուէր կ՛ուզէի տալ եկեղեցական զարդարանքով իր, բայց փնտռածս չգտայ: Եթէ կարելի է կրնա՞ս հետս կապ պահել եւ ձեւով մը ցոյց տալ գործի այլ նմոյշներ:

    Ելեկտրոնային հասցէդ կամ հեռաձայի թիւդ ունենալու պարագային հետդ կրնամ կապ պահել եւ համաձայնիլ գործարքին մասին:


    Սօնա Գաբրիէլեան Գուշակճեան (Email)

  8. Looks like great handicraft work.

    Next time I am in Aleppo, I shall make a point of stopping by, Inshallah.

    Best of luck.

    J Tumajian

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