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Nairi Safaryan: Carving on Hard Woods (in Armenia and the U.S.)

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Nairi Safaryan has been interested in woodcarving since his childhood in Armenia, but didn’t immediately pursue it as a career. “When he was a child, he wanted to go to an art school, but his parents said it’s better if you choose engineering or a ‘real’ profession,” said Nairi’s daughter Larisa, acting as a translator.

So, he did. Graduating from Yerevan Polytechnic Institute in Yerevan, Armenia, Nairi worked as an engineer who did carving on the side until shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Armenia’s return to independent country status in 1991. “He chose what his heart wanted,” Larisa said of Nairi’s decision to become a full-time artist.

As a self-taught artist, Nairi started as a traditional carver, then began also making modern sculptures. Some pieces, he will first turn and then carve. “He’s a carver, turner and a sculptor, all at the same time,” Larisa said of her father. “All he does, he taught himself. That’s why his style, the way he works, is totally different from the other wood sculptors and carvers.”

One way in which this is reflected is Nairi’s choice of woods. Unlike many carvers, who choose softer woods, Nairi specifically chooses harder woods for his works. “The details that he does on his sculptures are very thin, very fragile, and that’s why he needs very hard wood,” Larisa said. “For example, the small details in the rose jewelry box, they are impossible to carve on softwoods.”

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