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Usually, the Armenian jewelry designer Arman Sarkisyan is found creating fine jewelry in his Los Angeles studio. Working alongside his father—a master jewelry of over 53 yeras who fine-tuned his technique in Armenia and Russia—Sarkisyan handcrafts Byzantine-inspired pieces using 22 karat gold and oxidized silver. But today amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s at home instead—sketching new designs, cooking, and pursuing pottery projects with his family.
Whitewall spoke with Sarkisyan to hear what he’s working on at home, and how he’s continuing to be inspired by his wife, George Condo, and Rashid Johnson.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing?
ARMAN SARKISYAN: I’m trying to stay positive, despite these crazy times. It helps to focus on the good: my family and I have our health, and that’s what’s most important right now.
WW: What are you listening to, reading, watch?
AS: The music I listen to depends on my mood or what I’m doing. When I’m working, I love to blast heavy metal, but recently I’ve been listing to a lot of jazz, as I find it a bit more soothing. Kamazi Washington is a local L.A. talent, and a favorite of mine.
I’m a huge movie buff, and before quarantine, that’s all I would watch. Now that I have a bit more time, I’ve shifted to watching more TV. I’ve been binging Ozark, Homeland, and ZeroZeroZero.
WW: What are you cooking?
AS: We are a family of foodies, so cooking is a big activity in my house. My daughter has been making a lot of sushi for us, and my newfound specialty is Indian food. Lamb vindaloo is often on the menu.
WW: How are you staying connected?
AS: Mostly through video chat. I have friends and family all across the globe, so it’s a great way to keep in touch with everyone and check in on them and their situation. Instagram has also proven an amazing tool for our clients and retail partners.
WW: How are you staying creative? Are you able to make work at this time?
AS: Creativity is always flowing in my house. My wife Louiza Babouryan is a fashion designer, so we’re both always working on something new. I also consider her my muse. She inspires me to create, and as a fellow designer, she’s a great sounding board for ideas that I come up with for a piece.
I handcraft all of my own jewelry, so in that sense, production isn’t necessarily at a halt. That being said, I’m sketching new pieces more than I am making jewelry, since I haven’t been to my studio as much. I find it relaxing, especially in times like these. I spend a lot of time sketching in my backyard.
Aside from working on jewelry, I do a lot of sculpting as a meditative creative outlet. I mostly make small figures that, unlike my jewelry, are abstract and don’t always have a clear source of inspiration.
I think some of the greatest art is going to come out of quarantine. We’ve already caught some glimpses from amazing artists like George Condo and Rashid Johnson. I’m looking forward to seeing what else is created in this time.
WW: Where are you finding hope or inspiration?
AS: Spending time in nature energizes me and is an endless source of inspiration. Even before the quarantine, my family and I would often go on walks throughout our neighborhood, which is lush with trees. Now, I appreciate my time outside even more. It’s a great reminder that even though it seems like the entire world has stopped, birds are still flying, flowers are still blooming, stars are still shining. I find that all very encouraging.