We had the good fortune of connecting with Valentine Viannay and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Valentine, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
At first I didn’t think much about where I was going. I never was much of a strategist but more of an opportunist. Now it is still true that if I see a door, something new and different, I will jump for it and my enthusiasm will figure it out when I get there. I know I am pretty ok at what I do and therefore the work will take me from A to Z. I have been in San Diego since 2001, I arrived one month after 911. Obviously that was not in the plans. Before that I was leaving in London doing very traditional murals and faux finishes. A friend of a friend hired me to paint their home in San Diego. It was in my mind my brush skills that brought me here. I also happen to have a golden ticket, a green card that never expired from 1989 when I first lived in New York as a student at Parsons. Very quickly I decided to stay, the positive and kindness of the city won me over. I worked as a faux finisher mostly in Rancho Santa Fe on these large monstrous houses. Aging walls and adding a European feel. But then 2008 came and work started to fizzle out, until Jan 2010 everything fell apart. I had to rethink a career to survive. I had by then started making custom fabrics for interior designers. Designers had completely vanished into the eather and I came up, quite accidentally, with the idea of making dish towels with funny quotes. The idea was a cheap unique hand made product that would give you a smile in these bleak times and it worked. I did a sale on Fab.com in the summer of 2010. It was a fresh new idea at the time to bring unique hand made products at a special price to mass consumers online. I was on Catalina Island at the time, working for the Wrigley family on one of their hotels. I was painting an oil based wood finish, I quite high on the fumes and the heat was unbearable. I get a call within 3 hours of the sale, apparently Fab had sold 1000 towels already. They asked me if I could deliver….Here I am trapped on this island..I knew I probably had 30 towels in my shop at that time and I said ‘Of course! And in the same breath ‘but please can you stop the sale so I can make sure delivery is in two weeks’. Called the supplier, he probably had 300 max in this warehouse. The supplier was kind enough to have 1000 towels delivered from India to me directly. The good news the towels would probably arrive within no less than a week, which gave me time to finish the faux wood and get off this damn island! I managed to make all the towels, but the whole process took 1 month. I worked on towels and new products for another 6 years from home. I started doing trade fairs by then I had also other products. NYNOW in 2014 was huge my prints went national. It was time to get out of the house and find a shop but it took two years to find the right location. It was time to be more public, teach a little maybe. Originally it was going to be just my workshop/shop. And slowly I brought in other friends that are artists to help them out and showcase their work and I fell in love with the idea. I fell in love with selling and supporting others. Turns out I have a knack to sell, Aha! I also have a different eye, and esthetics, not your typical San Diego vibe. Growing up among artists in Paris, cultivating galleries and museums at a young age paid off. I am not interested in pretty, I go for more intellectual pieces. It’s important to me that whatever object is sold here has the right energy and story. That is what makes a piece unique. I found the shop in June 2016. Met with the landlord, as soon as I walked in I had a huge adrenaline rush, head spinning, weak knees. Mrs L. she saw my face, looked at me in the eye and gave me the keys before signing the paper work, she said ‘it’s yours I can feel it.’ It was a door…I jumped! It is actually my 4th year this month opening. Called it L’Atelier, which mean simply workshop.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started working at the age of 16 in theatre, behind the scenes. I quickly worked as a set designer before entering college. Originally it was to learn English. I moved from Paris when I was 15 and my English was not good. I painted the sets and fell in love with painting large scale. In New York, while attending Parsons School of Design at 20, I painted backdrops for photographers in lower Manhattan. I went back to London to study set design at Central Saint Martins and then worked in the theatre and movie industry during my last year of college until I left in 2001. I did work on big feature films with set design team but eventually burned out from the inequality and long hours. I started transitioning in faux finishes and murals instead with interior designers by the time I left. The big lesson I learned along the way is I got lost in the entertainment business. I stopped painting and once I got back into it I had a huge shift and realized my passion was painting and my true path. My brushes brought me here and now to this studio. Once you find your true path it’s easy, everything flows. Honestly I have had mostly joy doing what I do now. Mistakes are good to have, they are there for you to get better at your craft and relationships too.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I fell in love with San Diego first because of D street in Encinitas. You go down this long staircase and take a dip in the ocean daily. When you come from the big city and you find this expense of space and simplicity of sea and skyline I immediately relaxed and the sense of freedom. I will start there, and a walk up and down the beach too. Visit the Self realization gardens because I love gardens. Have breakfast at Coffee Coffee (I love revolution roasters coffee) with any of their menu. I like to go down South Cedros and gift shop at SoLo, go down the 805 to Marukai to get anything Japanese. Lunch at taco joint Oscars in Hillcrest. A Beer at Hamiltons, buy a dog treat at South Bark, shop, Artelexia in north park at Badmadge on Fern. Clothes shopping at Chateau Belage on West Lewis. Have an afternoon tea across the street at Kettle & Stone. Go down to Maison en Provence for a French soaps and my childhood cookies. A stroll in Balboa Park and you have to go through the rose garden for a sniff. For dinner I really like Cusp in the La Jolla hotel, they also have a gorgeous bar and cocktail menu and the sunset are sensational if you get there before sundown. Go and grab dessert late at Twiggs on Park Blvd in University Heights for slice of their passion fruit cake and evening tea.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I must Thank Therese Cipiti-Herron for introducing me to you. Some of the artist here that I represent have also been a great support like Therese, Kay Kaplan, Kevin Inman, Gigi Woodward, Sissy Alsabrook, Barbara Trzcinski, Richard Messenger (who helped me move in!) and all the potters first Nan coffin, Richard Burkett and Irene de Watteville who then introduced me to the others. This store has become a sweet spot to meet other artists. I have also made loyal clients and through the pandemic have been coming in on purpose to make sure I survive. I’d like to mention Katie and Jeremy Turner, the Dove street crew: Terry, Mary, Ed and Todd, Brenda Goodell, Jo Schwartz, Rebecca and Kevin Joelson, Katie Stokes. It’s been an honor and also the space, the building ‘L’Atelier’ for some reason has a presences of its own and people are drawn to it. It has become a melting pot for people to meet and be inspired. Sometimes collaborations have started here between artist, job created and funny weird coincidences. People tell me I make the space what it is, maybe….but there is something mythical about this building for me. We are close to three major neighborhoods, Hillcrest, Missions Hills, Little Italy but somehow we are tucked in the bottom of the hill. When people find us, they are in wonder, how does this place exist?

Website: www.lateliersd.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lateliersd/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lateliersd
Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/l-atelier-san-diego?osq=l%27atelier
Youtube: vviannay

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