An unlikely stretch of Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood, just south of the 101 Freeway, is L.A.'s newest destination for handmade design, thanks to a pair of new studio-stores opening this weekend.
Jeweler Sonia Boyajian has created a space that's one part boutique, one part fantasy land, with 10 years' worth of her whimsical, kinetic-looking jewelry hanging on walls, spilling out from drawers, and coming together on her work table where she makes it all by hand, setting stones and twisting wire.
Boyajian, who started her collection in 2001 and previously designed it out of her home, works primarily with wire, ceramics, and semiprecious and precious stones. She creates necklaces, cocktail rings and headpieces that are lovably loopy constructions of bird- and fish-shaped pendants, candy-colored crystals, mismatched beads and pearls, priced from $165 to $5,000. Some pieces are one-of-a-kind, others are small runs, all feel unique and special.
Outside of L.A., her work is sold at such avant-garde fashion spots as Ikram in Chicago and Maryam Nassir Zadeh in New York. Over the years, she's collaborated with retail chain Anthropologie, and made jewelry for Belgian designer Bernard Wilhelm's collection. In October, she loaned her archive pieces to Nina Ricci for the spring runway show. And on Thursday she will open a pop-up shop of her designs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A.
But it's really the personal contact with clients that drives her, which is why Boyajian decided to open the space on Cahuenga next door to Eliza Kenan's Hopewell Workshop, a textile studio and now store.
"You can work as a designer for fame, or you can do it to live with what you're making and the people you're making it for," Boyajian says. "I opened my shop so people can have something that I made uniquely for them. They can come in and say, 'I have all this jewelry that was my grandmother's, and I don't know what to do with it. Can you put it together into a piece for me?' The answer is 'yes.' I will make anything. That's what I want to do."
Boyajian and Hopewell co-founder Eliza Kenan are neighbors at work and at home. (They both live a short walk away in Hollywood and have young children in school together.) They also share a love of the handmade.
A former architect and art director for film, Kenan started Hopewell Workshop with the fine artist Claire Oswalt. The idea was to start a business where the two women could feel creatively fulfilled, and have enough time to raise their children. So Kenan brought her love of quilting (although she comes from a family of quilters, with Quaker roots, she taught herself 13 years ago), and Oswalt brought art world inspiration from modernism, minimalism and color theory. They started Hopewell in 2012 with 12 baby quilts stitched in their homes and sold at their e-store.
"We thought they would just be for kids, but it turned out more than 50% of our buyers were buying the quilts for themselves, putting them on the walls, using them on headboards, or as centerpieces for their living room," Kenan says. "So we started to shift a little. We've been figuring it out as we go along."
A year ago, they rented a workspace on Cahuenga, where many of the 13 steps of production on quilts are still completed. And now they have a large enough range of products for the studio to also function as a store, selling hand-stitched natural cotton baby blankets and floor pillows, linen quilt square coasters and striped tea towels, denim aprons and hand-painted tote bags, all with a homespun Americana-meets-midcentury craft charm. Products range from $25 to $425.
On Saturday and Sunday, Sonia Boyajian and Hopewell Workshop will celebrate their new retail spaces with holiday open houses from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. In addition to their own products, the shopping event will feature clothing, accessories and gifts by friends and artists, including Jesse Kamm, Clare Crespo and Eatable of Many Orders.
Hopewell Workshop, 1947 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Suite 103, Los Angeles, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sonia Boyajian, 1947 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Suite 102, Los Angeles, (310) 985-5501.