By Milena Mkrtchyan
The story of the Mushurba craftsman and the story of the “gurgling” cup
Mushurba is a unique type of copper cup that not only keeps water cold, but also makes a gurgling sound when you drink from it. This is why the cup is sometimes referred to as the “gurgling” Mushurba. Mushurba is the “business card” of Gyumri. Only the craftsmen of Gyumri have been able to turn the cup into a “gurgling” cup, and the only craftsman who knows this craft is Eduard Zhamkochyan, who lives in Gyumri.
Could you tell me why you decided to follow in your ancestors’ footsteps and make the Mushurba? - I ask.
When you open your eyes and see this craft, and if you know what needs to be done, you can automatically learn this craft. When you feel that you can make a living with this craft, you will make Mushurba with great pleasure,” says the craftsman as he shares the story of Mushurba.
Craftsman Edik’s grandfather and his brother were the first to make Mushurba. Edik remembers very well how much his grandfather’s uncle was loved, respected and honored. Old man Vahan, the uncle of Edik’s father, was the first, genuine and skillful craftsman of Mushurba. His Mushurbas are currently showcased at Kumayri Geological Museum.
Edik always helped his father in the studio, but only when the workplace was closed and there was a problem with finding a job to take care of his wife and two children did he decide to work with his father and not only help for his own pleasure, but also work and make Mushurbas. This was when Edik’s father let him make the cup on his own for the very first time.
“He let me make it on my own. In the end, he said that I had done a good job. I have been making Mushurbas for the past 48 years. My mother was not like my father. My mother was a woman with character,” the craftsman recalls.
The most appropriate place to talk about Mushurba and Edik’s craft is at Edik’s home, a major part of which serves as his studio. Edik talks about Mushurba and his family and shows how they make the Mushurba of Gyumri. “We strike with the hammer like this so that this can grow long and so that this can be round. Did you understand, dear Milena?” Edik explains and presents the interesting and already traditional process of making Mushurba in detail.
“My ancestors migrated from Erzerum in 1895-96. They purchased a mule, mounted their tools on the mule and gold and came. They toured across Armenia for three to four years, and at the end, my grandfather decided that the best place is Alexandropol (modern-day Gyumri), and they came here. My father was born in Alexandropol, particularly in the home of Motchor. As I said, they had also brought their working tools from Erzerum. Some of
those tools can also be seen in my toolbox. There are tools that are now at a museum. They also brought them from Erzerum, but since I don’t use them on the job, I have granted them to the museum. Besides my family members, everyone can see those historic tools at the museum,” Edik Zhamkochyan says.
One Mushurba is prepared in 8 hours, and Edik makes one cup in one day.
“My father made this one. It’s 50 years old and was made in circa 1970. The gurgling sound comes from the holes. When you drink water from a Mushurba, the air comes out, and this is why you hear a gurgling sound. I write the first letters of my name and last name on every cup. The locals buy Mushurba more than others since these unique cups are interesting and traditional gifts for everyone.”
Edik is certain that his family members will pass on the craft of making Mushurba to the generations. He has shared the secrets of making Mushurba with his son, Vahan, who was named in honor of craftsman Vahan, Edik’s father’s uncle.
Despite his age, Edik makes Mushurba every day without getting tired. After all, he is the only one who has inherited the skill of making Mushurba from his ancestors. The Mushurbas made by the Zhamkochyans are the symbols of Gyumri and the major particles of the history of craftsmanship of the citizens of Gyumri, and it is no surprise that one can see a large and gold color Mushurba on a major street in Gyumri. Many people take photos of the Mushurba, which is considered the “business card” of Gyumri.