Born in the Ukraine, at age 3 she learnt violin and was later accepted into a gifted program for young musicians. Then, on an elevator ride as a teenager she was discovered by the owner of Nathalie Models and moved to New York to be a high-fashion model.
In 2008 she launched her jewellery label Verameat. Since then she has opened three stores in LA, Brooklyn and Manhattan, and her sometimes playful often sinister adornments (think brains hanging on a gold chain or a ring that features a dinosaur eating fried chicken) have developed a cult following that includes such IT Girls as Chloe Sevigny, Alexa Chung and Miranda July.
When she tells me she’s also related to the Viking who founded Reykjavik’s Iceland, so ‘being bold is in my blood’, it comes as no surprise. Her origins are as darkly fantastic as her jewellery. Here she shares the beginnings of her jewellery label, why New York is her type of city and her favourite NY haunts.
What made you decide to start your own line of jewellery?
I’ve always like sculpture. I used to admire Rodin at the French Rodin museum when I was 14. I wanted a practical way to incorporate sculpture into my life, and one thing I could never find were rings that would fit my tiny fingers. So I wanted to show a narrative element through sculpture since I love storytelling.
I began sculpting own rings for fun such as the dinosaur eating fried chicken ring. My friend who is a stylist saw the jewellery on a shoot, asked who it was by and encouraged me to start a collection. My parents both had businesses while I was growing up and I always enjoyed the entrepreneurial lifestyle. I started out online and made jewellery for fun but being a New Yorker and a go-getter, I decided to take it many steps further.
Who does your jewellery appeal to? Is there an ideal image that you have in mind?
I really think my jewellery can be enjoyed by anyone. I previously had a customer who was an 80-year-old man; he bought the Indian charm necklace to improve the vibe of his backyard. Or the time a 4-year-old boy loved my squid necklace so his parents bought it for him. Sometimes my pieces are considered wearable art and I pride myself on trying to rise to that title, but they are also fun heirloom pieces that the customer would be excited to find year after year tucked away in their jewellery chest.
New York is the type of city that has been talked about endlessly, for good reason of course. How do you feel about this city?
It’s the best place in the world for young entrepreneurs like myself. It’s like being everywhere in the world at the same exact moment.
Do you think living here has shaped or influenced your work?
New York makes me feel stronger every day, by presenting my weaknesses on a silver platter, that sounds like a bad thing but it isn’t if you can be honest with who you are. It’s not an easy place to live or work because of the competition. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger defiantly applies to New York and I love that kind of vibe.
Give us the Verameat guide to NY! What are some of your favourite places?
One of my favourite galleries is Cinders Gallery (cindersgallery.com). They used to have a physical location that I worked near in Brooklyn, and I still work with some of their artists, like Allyson Mellberg who makes art for my stores. I’ve just started working with Anja Silbar on illustrations for a clothing line among other things. And Allyson is doing art and cards. It’s super fun to work with creative people so I’m excited. I worked my butt off to be able to choose who I spend most of my days with.
Other places I like in New York are Neue Gallery (neuegalerie.org) for the cafe and art. They have work by my favourite artist Egon Schiele. Then there’s Frank’s restaurant on 2nd Ave (frankrestaurant.com). Franks is great because the bar area is called Vera’s! That’s not exactly why I like it but it doesn’t hurt, they have a squid ink pasta to die for and so dear to my stomach. They also have simple dishes like salmon and arugula salad and steak/kale salad that I can eat all day every day.
Cha An café (chaanteahouse.com) is good for Kimono fun. I love how slow moving yet concentrated the staff is and how happy they look when describing different teas. I like that they serve not just sushi-style Japanese food, they have amazing curried shrimp that you normally don’t see. And their desserts are almost as good as my mother’s.
The Journal Gallery (www.thejournalinc.com) has fun shows. I love the crowd and how even when I walked in to see a show where there was nothing more than some sneaker stains on wall, everyone still looked so so serious about the “art”. I realized how we were all emperors with no clothes, which in turn I feel is very artistic.
Thanks for the NY questions, I’ve New Yorked you!
Text by Stephanie Ong