After 13 years working as sales manager for the Yellow Pages in Louisiana, spending her free hours painting and vacationing in Destin, Velia Lala made both her residence on the Emerald Coast and her artwork full-time ventures in 2010.
A self-taught painter, Lala's only formal art training has come from seminars and classes taught by professionals around the nation, which she still attends every few months.
"I never, ever, ever want to stop learning," Lala told The Log during an interview at her in-home studio in Sandestin.
While painting was her first love in the world of art, it's what Lala does with woven flags that has garnered her a lot of attention lately. She takes flags — whether they're America's Stars and Stripes or a flag supporting a sports team like her hometown New Orleans Saints — and makes them into a unique piece of art by applying chemicals and an epoxy.
The result is a stiff flag with a glossy sheen that can hang alone on a wall. A steady stream of orders for the flags has flooded Lala's home studio for some time now, keeping her very busy. She pointed out, though, that she is never too busy for our nation's servicemen and women, who make up a large portion of her flag customer base.
Lala also teaches what she calls "art socials." At the parties, up to eight people enjoy heavy hors d'oeuvres and wine at Lala's Sandestin home. She provides the food, drinks and art supplies and helps her students create a painting all their own. She doesn't tell the students what to paint, that part is left to their creativity. She provides guidance and motivation. No one leaves her paint parties without a finished work of art.
"I don't take no for an answer," Lala said. "They're not leaving until they're done. If you say you want to do something, by God, you're going to do it."
Though she makes sure her students finish their projects, Lala said she likes to live by as few rules as she can.
"Life is too short to not enjoy every day, and just thank God you woke up that morning," Lala said.
Lala will be teaching a workshop on pulled dimensions in mixed-media art from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20. The class costs $25 per person.
February 7, 8 and 9, some of Lala's work will be on auction at the Wine, Women & Shoes fundraising event for Sinfonia Gulf Coast and its music education programs at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in the Magnolia Ballroom. For more information about the event, go to winewomenandshoes.com/sinfonia.
In-home art parties cost $135 per person, and include food, drinks and supplies. A portion of the money goes to a charity chosen by Lala and the customers. Gift certificates, as well as baskets stocked with gift certificates and art supplies are available through her website, veliasart.com. To schedule a dinner art social with Lala, call her at 985-507-9784.