Studio Visit: Verameat

One look at VERAMEAT’s fantastical creations and the mind begins to drift. Vampires, monsters, mummies and strange animals…The cast of characters in the world of Ukraine-born and Utah-raised designer Vera Balyura is odd but enticing, and her strange, striking pieces are oh so covetable. We had a visit with Vera at her flagship store in New York’s East Village recently and found it hard to tear ourselves away. Luckily, her latest sale is right here.

What sorts of things influence your designs?

Filmmakers, comic writers, musicians, artists of all kinds. One of my sisters is a casting agent and the other is in law school, so their different interests inspire me. Last year I had the privilege of meeting Ronald Lauder at the Neue Gallery, which holds Egon Schiele’s work—that was really inspiring.   

What’s your very favorite part of making jewelry?

The stories my customers come up with for the items I create.

Tell us about the most vivid dream you can remember recently. 

In real life, I dreamt of a private backyard to host tea parties. Now I have it! As for dreams, a floating figure in the sky that revealed itself to be an aging, laughing man. He peeled back like an onion to reveal a young sexy tan woman, and she again peeled back to reveal a freckled Indian girl with no expression on her face. They all wore the same green coat—just the head changed. Ta da!  

Now the opposite. What’s your earliest childhood memory? 

Wrapped in a blanket in my crib, I followed the light from the ceiling to the window and realized the lightbulb was the reason for the change in apparent ceiling depth. Seriously. I’m one of those people who can remember the first sniff of hospital sheets. My mom did this dip-your-child-in-the-water-by-their-feet thing, which I think helped awaken my mind. 

Ooh, that sounds fascinating. What were you like as a kid? 

My mom would say I didn’t walk, I ran away from her. She is amazing, but I was excited to experience the world. Now I’m more interested in the people around me. I’d like everyone to write an autobiography every 25 years. Every life story is magical and important. I’d love for people to open up to each other more. Through my jewelry I get to see gifts being chosen and given, which is really fun for me.

Do you think there is an ideal VERAMEAT customer? 

Everyone who is unafraid to make their own trends is ideal. Anyone who can spot a classic heirloom to give to a loved one and get a high five in return. Or anyone who can find something for themselves.

Is there another job you’d like to try? 

A writer, director or singer. 

What’s your biggest weakness? 

Strange food. The stranger it is, the more I want to try it. Right away.  

Biggest inspiration? 

People with strong souls that can stand in front of a firing line, like my great grandfather did, and still plan an escape. Those who make a change in others’ lives. 

There is a little macabre magic in your pieces. Who is your favorite vampire? 

Lina Leandersson in Let The Right One In. The whole film is a perfect piece of art, in my opinion, and speaks not only of vampires but of friendship, the soul’s ability to adapt, the intelligence of children and our own duality. 

And your favorite hero? 

My puppy Fred. She loves me no matter what my hair is doing. Also Albert Einstein, David Helfgott, Sofia Coppola, Claire Denis, Isabelle Huppert, Karin Dreijer Andersson, William Eggleston, Patti Smith, Sally Mann…and all the people on the street that don’t avert their eyes. 

We can tell you love animals. What’s your favorite? 

I have so many! Tarsiers, slow lorises, flying fox bats, albino zebras, all dogs and people.  

Ice cream flavor?

Bubble gum.

Sad song? 

Anything by Nina Simone.

Okay, last but not least: what’s your go-to karaoke song?

I had the immense pleasure to meet Neil Young and his song “Hurricane” is the only karaoke song I’ve ever done. Before I sang it I thought karaoke was whatever, but singing that song was an epic battleship. Neil—and his daughter, too, she’s an amazing artist—is the kind of person I hope to be like one day.