James Tufenkian: the man with various faces; the philanthropist (part 2/2)

James Tufenkian: the man with various faces; the philanthropist (part 2/2)

Avan Villa in YerevanBy Sylvia Bourdjian-Matta for Azad-Hye


Online interview with James Tufenkian owner of TUFENKIAN FOUNDATION  (read part one of the article here)


How well known is the Armenian carpet in the world compared to the Persian carpet?

Old Armenian carpets from Karabagh and villages like Khndzoresk Chelaberd Lori Pambak and others are very well known and prized by collectors.


Who are mainly interested in buying Armenian carpets? Armenians from Diaspora or non Armenians?

Both. Armenian carpets through Tufenkian?s efforts have been thoroughly ensconced in the luxury carpet market in the US. Our Armenian carpets are a wonderful alternative to other ?traditional? carpets such as Persian or Turkish that are denser in pattern. Many Armenian carpets have a lighter more open feel to their design.


To what level your company has helped in keeping old traditions?

TUFENKIAN has virtually single-handedly revitalized the Armenian carpet market through our success in marketing them as luxury items in the US. They are produced using time honored traditions developed over the centuries. We have also opened three Heritage Hotels in Armenia which showcase Armenia?s cultural heritage from rug-making to native food and are working to promote these to the rest of the world. The ?Our Process? page of the web-site http://www.tufenkiancarpets.com/index.php?mode=about&object_id=16 should further help define how these traditional methods of carpet making have been sustained and built up by TUFENKIAN.


Is there a need to have a carpet museum in Armenia? Or is TUFENKIAN planning to make a carpet museum in Armenia?

We plan to have a small one in our Dilijan Old Town (Sharambayan Street) restoration.


– Which famous prominent own Armenian carpets from TUFENKIAN?

Many celebrities such as Demi Moore Robert DeNiro Glenn Close Sharon Stone Mike Tyson and Andre Agassi among other have purchased TUFENKIAN rugs. Who exactly has purchased ARMENIAN rugs is uncertain.



In 1993 after the fall of communism Tufenkian worked to revive the ancient art of carpet weaving in Armenia by establishing a business there. In 1999 the Tufenkian Foundation was established to create sustainable projects that enrich the beneficiaries physically as well as spiritually.  While the majority of current Foundation projects focus on Armenia Nepal also benefits from the Foundation?s work. The Foundation currently supports the following activities in Armenia:


Restaurant in Yerevan by Tufenkian? Clothes for Gavar orphanage

? Christmas gifts for children

? Aid distribution to victims of flooding in Karmir village

? Mattresses and blanket production and distribution

? Carpet distribution

? ?Armenian Knitting Ladies?

? “Our city is our home”

? “Clean Yerevan

? ?When September comes?

? Consumer rights protection

? Design and reconstruction of Vanadzor orphanage.

? ?Back to nature? Summer camp

? Senior citizen center

? NK arts festival in Shushi

? Handmade sweater production

? Vem radio

? Preparatory classes for the children of fallen soldiers

? Spitak Children Fund?s decorative art school

? “Herane” TV journalists award contest

? Psychological and educational support to the disabled

? Center for at-risk children in Vanadzor

? Armenian volunteer corps

? ?Manana? creative art center

? ?Youth of Jrvezh? enhancement program

? Artsakh Diocese mineral water project

? ?Sheep Farms?


The ?Armenian Knitting Ladies? program pays them to knit blankets sweaters and other woven goods which are either given to other charitable causes or sold with proceeds going back to the Foundation.


The ?Sheep Farms? program is designed to repopulate the abandoned villages in the countryside and border regions and create local economies outside the capital and metropolitan cities. Families in the ?Sheep Farms? programs are given 500 sheep and assistance to build living quarters in a small village. The families have a guaranteed buyer for their sheep wool in TUFENKIAN Carpets and after five years the family must return 500 sheep to the Foundation – offspring of the original flock – making it a self-perpetuating program.


The above activities are supervised by the Foundation's main office in Yerevan Armenia. In addition the Foundation has launched the following programs to expand its reach into other realms:


“Armenian Forests” NGO: Founded in 2002 to thwart the heavy destruction of Armenia?s forests. It is working to improve forest policy and how it is enforced and has undertaken several successful reforestation efforts. Most recently local residents of the Odzun village where hired to plant and care for 125 000 trees on 100 hectares  creating what will become the first community forest of modern Armenia.


Recently the Foundation has extended its activities into the mountainous Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabagh. Here the main focus has been on post-war resettlement: providing housing for needy or displaced families building infrastructure and roads establishing healthcare facilities in border zones where the local population is especially vulnerable.


Mahabad RubyIn 2001 the Foundation started the project ?Our Duty to Live? for large isolated and struggling families many of which had one or no parents. The project offered financial and psychological help distributed used clothes and also tried to find jobs for at least one member of the beneficiary family. The effectiveness of the program which has assisted over 140 families became evident from the very first days. Many who found jobs became self-reliant and others around them started to look for jobs themselves. Children became more engaged in school and were given help to catch up on their studies. Currently around 95 children are attending the education centres of this project.


Some of the Foundation?s future plans include expansion of carpet production into Nagorno-Karabagh and the introduction of four new hotels including the restoration of historic Sharambeyan Street in the Alpine resort town of Dilijan.  The program includes the renovation of old town streets bringing in craftsmen food shops with local character art galleries and shops selling the best of products made in Armenia.  TUFENKIAN Heritage Hotels is also planning a new hotel designed in the style of historic buildings in the region.


The TUFENKIAN Foundation will be running a program in Spring of 2007 where Diaspora Armenians and others will be able to volunteer to take part in workshops in Armenia to help build Cob housing for the poor. Cob is a very old method of building shelter using mostly clay straw and sand. Examples of Cob housing are Devonshire cottages that have been in existence since medieval times. The homes are ecologically sound and are cool in summer warm in winter and are built with their very own hands.


For further information about TUFENKIAN please check:  www.tufenkiancarpets.com/index.php?mode=home


To keep updated with TUFENKIAN Foundation?s activities please log on to:  http://www.tufenkianfoundation.com/  


Photo of James Tufenkian: http://www.azad-hye.net/media/p1/james-tufenkian.jpg



1- Avan Villa in Yerevan  

2- Restaurant in one of the Tufenkian Hotels.

3- Mahabad ruby



Children care center by Tufenkian in Armenia