We hope these gift suggestions from Armenia and the Diaspora will satisfy someone on your list this holiday season, right up through Armenian Christmas on January 6, 2019. This list has not been sponsored or solicited by the businesses or individuals mentioned. They represent the views of the Armenian Weekly staff members recommending them in earnest.
Mary Sahagian is a spirited and talented Los Angeles-based jewelry designer and a busy mother of two. During her second pregnancy in 2014, she was inspired to create Hope & Celebrate, a shop on Etsy that features minimal, delicate hand-stamped pieces. For the past four years, Sahagian has been preserving special dates and names on sterling silver and gold-filled bars and pendants for thousands of customers including our assistant editor Leeza Arakelian, who celebrated the birth of her son Alik in 2016 with Sahagian’s famously classic bar necklace. Sahagian’s collection now includes lucky eye necklaces, bracelets, earrings and birthstones. And she never misses an opportunity to express her creativity. Her packaging is simply darling (think washi tape) and ready for gifting to friends and loved ones in simple, stamped linen keepsake bags.
You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the Twitter feed of Kim Kierkegaardashian (@KimKierkegaard), an account which pairs the somber musings of Danish existential philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, with the pithy, superficial tweets of the world’s most controversial Armenian, Kim Kardashian. @KimKierkegaard enjoys cult-like following—nearly a quarter million strong—since the account was launched in 2012 by an anonymous author. The new book My Beautiful Despair: The Philosophy of Kim Kierkegardashian, published by Touchstone, takes this glorious persona to the next level—immortalizing it in print. My Beautiful Despair is a collection of some of @KimKierkegaard’s most superb tweets, each with an accompanying illustration. The result is a wonderfully modern satire, which bridges the profound with the profoundly trivial (though which is which is left up to the reader to decide). Our editor, Karine Vann, recommends this little book as the perfect stocking stuffer for any literary-minded friends and relatives (Armenian and non-Armenian alike) known for taking themselves a little too seriously—we’re talking those whose “look is never complete without indescribable suffering.”
Price: 25,000 AMD (~$50)
You can tell a lot about the developmental state of a nation by its art and craftsmanship. In the past five years, Yerevan has become a hub for young designers, musicians and artists to emerge, flourish and move beyond the borders of the republic. Their strength and success is in their meticulous attention to design and quality. 47 Jewellery is one of these leading fashion companies native to Yerevan. Its founder is designer Irene Isahakian, a former journalist and PR manager. “It was very difficult for a minimalistic brand to survive in Armenia. There was no demand,” said Isahakian about the origins of the brand. “Initially we were creating only what my friends or I would wear.” Years later, 47 Jewellery continues growing and gaining popularity. The Weekly’s design apprentice, Masha Keryan, recommends gifting one of Isahakian’s rings, which she says are “fabulous” and sure to attract many compliments.
Of course, this list would not be complete without a pinch of Armenian nepotism. Our editor discovered Nairian, Armenia’s first all-natural cosmetics brand, through her husband, whose parents, Ara and Anahit Markosian, started it from scratch back in 2012. The Weekly’s office has benefited from this fortuitous relationship—the heavenly fragrances of Armenian oordz (thyme) or pomegranates waft occasionally through our offices in the form of soaps and oils. Karine, by now a veteran patron of Nairian, strongly recommends their calendula-infused cleanser, which both cleanses and moisturizes skin. It contains sunflower seed oil for its restorative effects, citrus peel oil for its strong antibacterial properties, and of course, calendula extract harvested from flowers grown on Nairian’s farm in the village of Aragyugh. And the smell—oh the smell! It is natural and soothing, like the Armenian plants and herbs it is made of in small batches. But be warned: you’ll never be able to use a mass-produced cleanser again.
You may have encountered these Diasporan brothers Alec and Aric Avedissian on the popular reality television series Shark Tank, where they appeared in 2017, pitching their dream idea—repurposing old billboards into a trendy line of backpacks and surf bags—to a group of wealthy investors. While the show helped them build their brand, the Avedissian brothers had been pursuing this idea long before. Their business, Rareform, started in 2012 and has grown from a two-person operation in the attic above an old gym to six people, an office and a warehouse in Santa Monica, California. We were initially sold on their product because of its: A) environmental undertones—their business thrives on recycling materials which would otherwise take up space in a landfill; and B) Diasporan connections—like their product, our newspaper is also born out of the Armenian Diaspora in the U.S. But story aside, as a product, Rareform’s bags are as versatile as they are durable (albeit a bit on the pricier side). With their solid form and edgy designs, these bags are great for either a day trip into nature or a hard day’s work at the office.
And last but not least…
Price: $100 for the year (i.e. a steal)
A shameless promotional stab, perhaps, but an important one.
The digital era has transformed the way we consume news. In some senses, journalism has been invigorated by this shift. Major U.S. papers have expanded and intensified their coverage to meet the needs of a wider circuit of readers. But not everyone has benefited from the shift. Community newspapers have been valuable alternative news sources in this country, historically supplementing the coverage that larger papers provide. And today, they are disintegrating across the United States at an alarming rate. News that is truly local—authored by the members of the community itself—is rendered virtually obsolete. Yet as other community papers are closing their doors, our scrappy, little newspaper chugs onward. This is an incredible achievement—a phenomenon, really. And not only are we surviving, but we’re growing. In these last few months, we’ve introduced another editor, a new design apprentice, multiple columnists and an intern from Boston University. We want to continue improving our coverage of our community, bringing you more stories you love, like our feature on a local business making authentic Armenian madzoon; our local story about Watertown’s famous annual bazaar at St. Stephen’s Church; or more recently, our watchdog coverage of a Lexington library’s new Turkish collection, which explained the situation from multiple angles.
We are intent on reporting the news that matters most to you that you can’t get anywhere else. But journalism is a difficult and fiercely competitive industry and it’s also important to us, as a community newspaper, to ensure opportunities for aspiring, young, Armenian journalists, as having experience at a local level is crucial in the early stages of one’s career. For decades, this newspaper has functioned as a stepping stone for young Armenians to get their foot in the door. With a donation, you can help us continue to provide this community service. Legitimate coverage of the communities that shape us is critical to a healthy society. That there isn’t more of it is a cause for deep concern. So share the voice of the Armenian Diaspora this holiday season while supporting your community newspapers including the Hairenik, our Armenian-language counterpart by purchasing a print subscription or making a gift of donation to help keep the Armenian story in America alive and thriving.