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Headingley artisan makes furniture from Portage Cottonwoods –

Robert Sargsyan owns and operates ArtsYan in Headingley, and is currently making live edge furniture. Live edge workmanship is the design style of the craftsman using the natural edge of the wood as part of the design. 

Recently, Sargsyan obtained trees from Portage la Prairie’s Saskatchewan Avenue West during the cutting for the rejuvenation project. This means you can get some furniture made from trees from our community!

The artisan noted that the name of his company, ArtsYan, utilizes the name “Yan” to indicate that he creates Armenian work. All Armenian names end with “Yan.”

“I am technically third generation in the wood business,” says Sargsyan. “I wouldn’t say ‘business’ in this wood art world because I have never seen it as making art of this business or making money out of the tree. It’s all about making people happy, and to make our name available to everybody to know how much we love trees.”

Robert SargsyanRobert Sargsyan

He explains cottonwoods are the largest trees that grow in the prairie region, and his connections with most tree cutters in the area allowed him to learn of the opportunity in Portage to acquire them.

“They contact me if I’m interested and, of course, I’m always interested, especially those big trees. They are legends,” says Sargsyan. “They are hundreds of years old and I would love to know anybody who knows who planted those trees in Portage la Prairie. Maybe they’re still alive; someone who put those trees in the ground. We want to make out of those same big trees a big gift for them for their generations.”

Sargsyan says he makes coffee tables, dining tables, headboards, and shelves. 

“No lumber (is used). Only furniture type of art; very good looking fashion-furniture,” continues Sargsyan. “Our products are like gold and silver. You can pass from generation to generation, especially our throne town chair. There is no one in Canada that builds our throne chair.”

Mayor Sharilyn Knox visited his shop after she heard about the work Sargsyan is doing, and informed PortageOnline that it’s great to know the trees did not go into a wood chipper as they usually do during construction projects such as that on the Avenue.

“We save all the trees,” says Sargsyan. “We want to give the tree a second life — longer life than if they would have stayed in the ground. This way, they can go for hundreds of years. Imagine 300 years later, one of your great grandchildren’s going to say, ‘This is from 2023 from my greatgrandmother.’ They’re going to say, ‘We know who planted those trees in the ground.’ Those trees are going to end up maybe in the US, or maybe in BC. They’re going to say, ‘It’s coming from Portage la Prairie.’ That would be nice.”

He explains that one tree has a six-foot bottom diameter and is 10 to 15 feet high and then becomes 12 feet in diameter.

“We got seven big branches,” says Sargsyan. “Each branch is three feet in diameter, and we want to carve out of those seven branches the First Nations 7 Teachings. It will be most likely the first one in Canada with that size of the tree and that type of carving. That’s going to go directly to a First Nation reserve. We take from nature, we give back to nature. We take and give to make it all about making people happy and remembering our name, and our company name. One day, they’re going to say there was an Armenian pioneer who came over and used to do all this stuff. My son is fourth generation. He’s nine years old now; Raffi Givavi Sargsyan. He is already in all of that. He loves it. He doesn’t want to stop working all day long.” 

CottonwoodMore of his works for wine bottles

Sargsyan notes Armenia was the first Christian country on the globe, and says Noah’s ark landed on Mount Ararat which is in their backyard, 50 kilometres away – as far away as Portage is from Headingley.  Though Sargsyan isn’t making a wooden ark, he takes pride in working with wood, and explains their 2,850-year-old capital city is named after Noah’s exclamation, “I see land.” He says North Americans have called his homeland ‘The Open Museum Under the Sky.’ 

Sargsyan adds if those trees could talk, they’d tell us so much rich history, including how many bison ran by them on the current location of the Avenue. 

If you know who planted some of the Cottonwood trees along Saskatchewan Avenue in Portage la Prairie, or if you were there and saw them being planted, Sargsyan says he’d like to hear from you. 

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