Edward the Coppersmith from Gyumri: Fashioning “Gurgle Cups” with Tools from Erzeroum
Film cameraman Levon Atoyants, sitting in front of his computer, waits for us in Yerevan.
I’m meeting him to depart for Gyumri, to track down the craftsman who fashioned a famous klklan (gurgle) cup.
When Atoyants was working on the 1971 ArmFilm movie The Fountain of Heghnar (Heghnar Aghbyur), he received the klklan from master craftsman Souren from Gyurmi.
That cup is now in France. Atoyants has since received a new one as a replacement. The metal cup, with a handle, is called a klklan because of the gurgling sound it makes when someone drinks from it.
Atoyants suggests that we try it to reproduce the sound. I pour water into the cup and drink. Lo and behold, the gurgling begins.
On the way to Gyumri, Atoyants is videoing left and right.
Upon arriving, we locate Edward Jamkochyan, Souren’s son.
Souren no longer has a workshop of his own. He’s transformed a small hallway on the house into a work space.
Atoyants starts videoing the encounter. I start asking questions.
Edward says he’s the last coppersmith in Armenia. He calls himself a bakhrchi – from the Turkish bakr – copper. There used to be many coppersmiths plying their trade near the Gyumri market. He recounts their names – Aghas, Martin…
Edward learnt the trade from his father Souren who, in turn, was taught by his father. The coppersmith says he even had to pass a test given to him by his grandfather. He had to make a copper water basin and dish used in the bath.
Edward’s paternal side hails from Erzeroum. His mother’s folks are from Kars. He uses tools brought from Erzeroum – eight hammers and two scissors.
“Hasn’t that guy tired from filming?” Edward asks, glancing at Atoyants. The man says he hasn’t and keeps on videoing.
Edward then asks us to guess his age. I start from 65. Atoyants immediately blurts out 85, just to get a rise from the coppersmith. Edward laughs. “Do I really look that old?” In fact, Edward is 72.
Patience is a necessary virtue for a coppersmith, Edward stresses. “Hammer away for eight hours. Your head swells. I’ll do the finishing touches later. In a day, I can fashion about ten of these items,” says Edward.
The coppersmith has orders for his klklan cups. He warns us about the many fakes out there – cups fashioned from pieces of tin. A real cup, Edward notes, must be fashioned from one piece of copper.
“Shall I show you a secret? Look there,” he says, pointing to a calendar affixed to the wall. All the tiny boxes of days are filled with telephone numbers. They’re his customers waiting for their orders.
The cooper Edward uses come from Iran. One kilogram fetches 5,800 AMD. The unused bits are sold to a recycling center which pays 1,000 AMD for a kilo.
The family of coppersmiths had a separate workshop until 1990. Edward’s voice takes on a tone of bitterness when speaking about it.
It seems that an uncle did something and the workshop was lost. Edward didn’t want to go into the specifics.
Edward’s family has since gotten used to his hammering inside the house.
His children and grandchildren have grown up with that noise in the background.
There’s hope that once Edward puts down his hammer, his son will continue the family tradition.
The son is getting impatient. There’s a birthday to attend.
I tell him to take his time; it’s not as if they’re going to a wedding.
Edward won’t hear of it. He must get ready.
“Eating, drinking, is also a good thing,” he says.
I agree to return and continue our conversation.
Photos: Hakob Poghosyan