When Edik Ehtibaryan, director of the Youth and Women’s Center of Spitak (YWCS), showed United States Peace Corps Volunteer Kathleen Barnes a Spitak bag they instantly agreed that it was a great product, made by skilled artisans. Ehtibaryan introduced Barnes to the YWCS women’s group. These women were creating beautiful handmade bags and cases, but their production was often disrupted or stopped due to a lack of funding. The YWCS was not able to supply continual materials and support to the women making the items. At the time, the women and the YWCS had no outlets for selling or experience in how to market their items.
Ehtibaryan and Barnes showed the bags to Timothy Straight of Homeland Handicrafts and the product line quickly evolved. The bags each featured an accent piece of traditional Armenian woven carpet, sewn into a practical shoulder bag or computer case. The traditional woven style was beautifully combined with a functional design.
Using the bag design that the women originated, and consulting with the producers, together they tweaked the sizing and chose a color scheme, which turned into the bags that you see today.
These bags are not just a way to share a classic Armenian handicraft, but also a way to create jobs for unemployed women. Many citizens in Spitak, and throughout Armenia, are unemployed or severely under-employed and are struggling to support their families. Through the creation and the selling of these bags, the women producers are able to earn money, learn about having a small business, and share their beautiful bags with the world. The success of Spitak Bags also helps to sustain the Youth and Women’s Center of Spitak, so that the organization can continue serving more people, training and employing more women and providing additional projects and activities for the people of Spitak. The YWCS is proud to have Spitak Bags as one of its main projects.