Throughout my 13 + years in the jewelry industry, I’ve always been fascinated with seeing designers in their element. The first time I realized that all of this gorgeous jewelry was made by actual people (or several people in many cases) and was inspired by any number of sources, I was completely taken aback. When I see drops of rain on a window, it looks like, well, drops of rain. But put that same rain drenched window in front of a talented jewelry designer and it could turn into the inspiration for an entire collection! So I was excited last month to have the opportunity to take a trip to Los Angeles and visit my good friend and Couture designer, Victor Velyan, in his element.
My friend and colleague, Beth Anne Bonanno and I arrived at LAX late on a Thursday night (technically, Friday morning). Vic met us at the airport and took us to his house, where I was thrilled to discover that his wife, Annie, had laid out a fruit and cheese plate for us. The three of us took to the gazebo in his backyard, which is attached to an aviary filled with the brightest, most beautiful exotic birds (one of three aviaries, it turns out), and we sat and chatted, drinking wine in my case, scotch in Victor’s case, and snacking, chirping birds playfully showing off all around us, until 5 in the morning!
We woke a few hours later to an elaborate breakfast spread, which, over the course of my three days with the Velyan family, I came to expect at every turn; turns out Armenians take their food and a high level of hospitality seriously! Well fueled on coffee, we headed over to Victor’s studio in downtown LA. I was delighted to see wax molds hanging all over the walls of the “wax room,” artisans polishing pieces on benches and soon, piles of gemstones came out of the safe for us to play around with and ponder various color combinations. Probably the most exciting part of the day was discovering a picture of Victor circa 1985, in full on rock star regalia, on stage with his guitar!
That night, the three of us along with Victor’s lovely wife, went out for an evening at the legendary Rainbow Bar & Grill in West Hollywood. Since it opened in 1972, with a party for Elton John incidentally, this place became a well-known hangout for rock stars and their groupies! Victor named off an impressive list of rock stars he’d hung out with at The Rainbow over the years, which included Axl Rose and Slash among others. We spent the evening eating, laughing and swapping stories before making a pit stop at Vic’s favorite taco truck on the way home….I hadn’t, as Victor suggested, “saved room for tacos” but I still managed to try them out….worth the next day’s food coma!
On Saturday, Victor spent the morning and early afternoon out front tinkering with his custom built Harley (a Jesse James original) and his vintage Bronco, while Beth Anne and I took advantage of “Lounge Central,” aka, the Velyan backyard! With a fully stocked Koi pond, a pool, lush pomegranate trees, and several perfectly appointed hammocks, not to mention the beauty of all of those exotic birds, the place practically begs you to chill out! Later, after a successful but tiring photo shoot, Vic fired up the grill and treated us to a lavish BBQ where he easily proved himself to be a “Grill Master!”
Throughout my whirlwind trip, I continually made threats to move in with the Velyan family. As much fun as Victor is when we’re hanging out during Couture or when he visits us in New York City, there’s nothing like seeing him in family-mode. Victor’s entire persona when he’s out doing his thing screams genuine rock n’ roll, but the reality is, home and among family is where he gets the grounding and re-charge he needs in order to be as prolific as he is. Victor, Annie and their daughters are spectacular hosts, anticipating our needs and perpetually at the ready with snacks, drinks or anything else we needed, including a listening ear or a laugh. But the biggest highlight of the trip was the love that was palpable among the Velyan family, and the genuine feeling of love that embraced us the minute we walked in the door so that by the time we left, I truly did feel like part of the family.