Authored by Marlene Richey
Alishan Halebian moved to Los Angeles in 1970 from Armenia, and it was there he discovered and honed his artistic voice in metals and developed it to become one of the most outstanding jewelry designers and accomplished metalsmiths today. His elegant and sophisticated designs are a magical combination of two diverse cultures—East and West. By taking the best of both worlds and melding them together, Alishan has established his own iconic, individual look seen though his distinctive collections that are "bursting with creative expression.""
His business, which is simply called Alishan, is located in Tustin, California where Alishan and his wife, Lydia, have a studio. Together they form a powerful, cohesive team, with Alishan designing and Lydia running the business.
Here are their thoughts and history told in their own words.
Alishan: I have been making jewelry since 1970. I started as a diamond setter for a couple years and then I experimented with making jewelry on my own. I am completely self-taught. There were a lot of experiments and discoveries.
Alishan: Expressive. Creative. Musical.
Style and look is what you establish, and it becomes yours after years of work. It is not artificial. It is very internal. It is your voice, your artist voice. It comes with a body of work. The other part of style is that it is fluid. It is constantly changing. If it doesn't, I am very bored. So there are two parts of style and look: (1) It comes from many years of work and everything else I do in jewelry and art. That's my voice; (2) with continuous change in style and trends, my voice stays constant.
Alishan: Inspiration for me is very important. It doesn't come from other jewelry. It comes from architecture, nature, a song, or anything that is really beautiful. It just comes to me from everything and anything that I might see or experience.
Alishan: My smithing is not any different than any other metalsmith. It is just my thinking that is different. I never went to goldsmithing school, so I had no rules when I first started. There are many different right ways to make something and only one wrong way. I always have to have an image in my head of what I want, and then it goes onto paper. The design dictates the process. The design dictates me.
Alishan: I didn't have an interest in jewelry making when I came to Los Angeles. I started working as a stone setter. And then I discovered Swiss and German designers through the German magazine Gold and Silver from the 1960s, and that started my interest. The work was really beautiful. That was my first discovery of wonderful form and design that related to jewelry making. A sculptural and artistic approach to the art form really moved me. Simplicity and minimalism inspired me very much.
Lydia: There is a constant change in fashion and lifestyle throughout the world. One of the huge trends is people having a sensitivity to the nature all around us and figuring out how to save us from global warming. It is one of the most important issues of our time. Responsible mining and reclaimed precious metals have become very important in the jewelry industry. So many designers honor nature and animals in their work.
Lydia: Our trendsetting is what we create. We like to create our own journey and our influences come from a variety of places.
Alishan: I don't think it is my place to decide if I am an influencer. It is my colleagues, friends and the industry who decide if I am a trendsetter. I am not sure how much of a trendsetter I am. It all comes through in the history of my work. The work has to grow and mature; then the industry will notice you and take you seriously. It is not just jewelry, but all art forms. You have to show you are serious. That takes years and years.
Lydia: I admire many jewelry designers, not just one person. Every year we see new talent entering the jewelry design arena. There are several designers I admire and collect some of their pieces.
Alishan: There are many designers and colleagues I respect, and they have been an influence on me. I don't get my influences from jewelry but other sources. One of the reasons I really admire and respect their work is because it is so beautiful, just looking at it is inspiration in itself.
Lydia: I would say stay true to yourself and be expressive.
Alishan: Get inspired! That is the most important thing. Always be new and honest with your work.
Alishan: My studio is really a mess. I am always looking for something, and then I leave things everywhere. It is what it is!
Alishan: There are just so many amazing memories such as great customers and retail jewelry stores. We are fortunate to share very good memories with our customers. We really appreciate knowing them and have become friends. That goes for the entire jewelry industry: Great memories with colleagues and friends. It is inspiring to have so many creative people around us. It makes all this hard work easier. Relationships are important.
Alishan: I am looking to the future for my best work or my proudest moment. I have never compromised myself. We are still relevant in the industry and able to continue to work. The fire is still there. And I am sure it will go on for a long time. It is hard to make it in the art and craft markets and to turn your passion into a living.
Lydia: I am very proud of Alishan. His work is continuously maturing in creativity and design.
Alishan: The creative part. The making.
Alishan: My work. Being there.Read interviews with other influencers in jewelry design