Narine Poladian at work

By Mihran Aroian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

GYUMRI, Armenia — The people in Gyumri may not know her name, but they recognize Narine Poladian as the self-proclaimed dusty girl – the local artisan, covered in dust, who turns Armenian tuff stone into beautiful khachkars (stone crosses) and decorative art. Cross carvings, dating as far back as the fourth century, continue to be a vibrant and iconic part of Armenia’s cultural heritage, and intricate one-of-a-kind khachkar designs can be found in nearly every corner of Armenia. And as Armenia’s first female khachkar master, Narine takes them a step further.

Narine Poladian at work

From Beirut to the Birthright Armenia program, Narine began teaching architecture in 2018 at the Gyumri TUMO Center for Creative Technologies. She then began working for a Yerevan architectural studio when she met Hambik Hambardzumyan, a master stone cutter. She worked with him for the better part of a year, learning the craft of stone cutting and understanding the long history of khachkars.

What started as a hobby soon became an obsession as she took classes to learn about the original Armenian patterns that she now majestically brings forth from inside each stone. In 2019, she married her husband Kevork and moved to Gyumri, where she set up a workshop to continue exploring her love of carving.

Narine Poladian’s workshop in Gyumri

Narine has since turned plenty of tuff into works of art. During the 2020 44-day war in Artsakh, for example, she made it her mission to preserve the intricate Artsakh khachkar patterns that Azeris were destroying so that a unique part of the Christian world’s earliest heritage would live on.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

As a skilled stonecutter, Poladian has the ability to look at a fresh slab and sense what the stone should become. Whether she creates the symbol of infinity or a gathering of flowers, she adds her own unique artistic touch to each creation.

Recently, she has been commissioned to carve wedding stones, a relatively new tradition to commemorate the nuptials of young couples.

Each year Narine offers classes in Gyumri for adults, children, and travelers to learn the art of stone cutting at her studio. She recently held a masterclass in Romania where some 60 people learned the basic skills of this ancient art.  She hopes to one day bring her masterclasses to the Boston area, where her sister lives.

Narine is in the midst of planning an ambitious project to create a khachkar that 1,000 people will have a hand in carving. When guests visit her workshop, she will have them work on a small area of the khachkar that will one day be a reminder of how Armenians from around the world came together to create art.

To learn more about Narine Poladian, Gyumri’s dusty girl, follow her Instagram at narineepoladian or contact her via email at

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: