Toros Tngrian, along with his parents and siblings left the USSR and arrived in California in 1980. (Their homeland, the modern Republic of Armenia did not become independent of Russia until 1991). As soon as the Tngrian family arrived, most of the family members looked for work. Toros did as well, while also enrolling at Rio Hondo College and then Fullerton. He had begun as a painter and received a Fine Arts degree in Yerevan, the capital of present-day Armenia. Though he initially continued his studies in painting, when he took one ceramic class “that was it—I was hooked,” he tells us.
Pottery is a craft, Toros says. It’s a craft that can turn into art. He earns his living by making bowls, mugs, and cups, but once he’s paid the monthly bills, he allows himself to play. If he doesn’t have any ideas, he creates “functional stuff” and in time, he says, something in a work will inspire something in another piece, and on he travels, experimenting, going to wherever his creativity leads him.
So Toros had been a potter on and off for over thirty years, earning a living doing “this and that” before he opened his shop on Eagle Rock Boulevard in the new millennium. The space is open, with natural light coming in the front window. Toros’ work is hanging, standing, stacked, huddled, and eclectic. One ceramic skeleton of a fish takes up the majority of one wall, looking in part like something that should hang in the natural history museum if not for the big smile on the fish’s face. Toros says that he’d been thinking about and been wanting to create that fish since he was a little boy. Another fish, this one swishing down the wall (pictured above), over cracks and filled hook holes, is reminiscent of a Chinese New Year dragon, while a much smaller piece looks like a fish found in fossilized form.
Toros has made a series of “Armenians,” which we believe may be used as tea light oil warmers or candle holders…
…decorative wall mosaics…
…and even drums….
Toros receives commissions, offers pottery classes, and his shop is open six days a week. “So, you basically live here,” we joked. Toros smiled, and nodded.
For adults, classes are held on Monday mornings, then three times during the week in the evenings, 6:30-9:30 p.m. On Tuesday afternoon, kids age 7 to 15 may take an hour and a half of instruction and hands-on work. On Saturdays, a child and parent class is offered, so buddy up; time to bond with your kid over clay.
Toros Pottery, 4962 Eagle Rock Blvd., L.A. 90041. 323.344.8330. Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Tuesday & Thursday, 4-9:30 p.m.; closed Sunday. TorosPottery.com.