Maral Mikirditsian, director of TUMO Studios, tells about a new collection of products designed through the institutional partnership with Norwich University of the Arts.
“If I need a single image, I’ll go through dozens before narrowing down to a final choice. The first image is never the final one and the best results can’t be rushed,” said Maral Mikirditsian, director of TUMO Studios, a Yerevan-based educational programme for young adults with a passion for craftsmanship and design. Originally from Lebanon, Maral has lived in Armenia for three years, where she is building the programme from the ground up.
“Creativity is a gradual process which takes a tremendous amount of diligence and patience,” she explained, gesturing towards a collection of products designed by TUMO Studios students.
The collection – comprised of tablecloths, pillowcases, towels and placemats – is the result of a collaboration between TUMO Studios and Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) in the United Kingdom. Over the course of six months, students worked with lecturers in Yerevan and the UK to create textile designs inspired by their daily lives and Armenian motifs. The designs were then printed onto textiles and used to create a collection of homeware.
The collaboration between TUMO Studios and NUA was sponsored by our Creative Spark programme, which supports and develops creative enterprise education.
The workshop was organised in phases. During phase one, three lecturers from NUA traveled to Armenia. Over the course of ten days they joined six students in exploring Armenia’s rich artisanal heritage – ornaments, carpets, architecture and national crafts – through museum visits and research.
“Here in Armenia, we have a rich cultural heritage that’s not always given the attention it deserves,” said Maral. “The group used local motifs to give them a second breath and showcase them in a contemporary light in order to extend their appeal beyond Armenia.”
Made in Armenia
During the second phase of the workshop, students went off on their own – building out ideas as sketches on paper, then illustrations with software. Eventually, students travelled to NUA for two weeks where they printed their designs onto fabric and worked on developing products that have market appeal and can be made in Armenia.
Since TUMO Studios is a nonprofit organization, the proceeds from such sales would go towards running and expanding its program. The objective of the experience was not to make a profit, but to learn how to approach product development with customer appeal and financial sustainability in mind.
Ambitions for entrepreneurship in Armenia
TUMO Studios’ workshop with NUA was as much about entrepreneurship as it was about product development and textile design.
“We wanted the students to understand that as entrepreneurs they need to produce something they can sell,” asserted Maral. “That means researching what customers want and determining how to produce, market and sell that product at a profit.”
In this way, the real-world, project-based learning that takes place at TUMO Studios is an important complement to the theory taught at universities. In addition to gaining craft and design skills, students tackle the prospect of making a living through creative industries head on.
“Of course, there’s nothing wrong with ending up with a product that doesn’t pay off,” said Maral, sympathetically. “There are many lessons to be learned from failure and they eventually lead to success.”
Don’t rush. Don’t despair
Students can be impatient with the creative process. “They want to achieve success with a snap of a finger,” said Maral. “But things don’t work that way. The road to success is quite long and requires a lot of hard work.” At TUMO Studios, there’s emphasis on letting go of that mindset and taking the time to flesh out and develop ideas so that they are as clear and concise as possible. Maral’s message to students and aspiring artisans: “Never despair and never rush.”