Introducing: Soull Ogun - Artist/Jeweler/Magi & Native New Yorker. Part 1.
Soull is, together with her twin sister Dynasty, the Co-founders of Brooklyn based lifestyle brand L’Enchanteur. She has created bespoke jewelry for artists like Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and recently, custom pieces for Beyoncé, featured in her newly released Black Is King.
by Herb Essntls
A year ago
Meet Soull Ogun, Artist/Jeweler/Magi. Soull is a New York native who creates unique wearable pieces of art - that are all handmade.
Herb Essntls is excited and proud to present a true artist as collaborator in our Cannabis Infused Hand Cream launch. We sat down with Soull to talk about her work and experiences growing up in our home town of NYC. Here is Part 1.
Soull is, together with her twin sister Dynasty, the Co-founders of Brooklyn based lifestyle brand L’Enchanteur. She has created bespoke jewelry for artists like Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and recently, custom pieces for Beyoncé, featured in her newly released “Black Is King”.
This interview is the 1st part of 3 - On Art, Mythology, Inspiration and Creative process
Your father is Yoruba, from Nigeria, and there are some fascinating connections between your life and work and Yoruba mythology.
Soull: Yes our father is Yoruba, and growing up me and my twin sister learned about the Orisha (Editors note: Orisha is a Yoruba Deity) called Ibeji, which is the Orisha of twins. Looking back, our father always talked to me and Dynasty about the Ibeji God. He even called us by the traditional names of the Ibjei. That's my Pop. He used to call us by Nigerian twin Orisha names, which is Kendi and Taiwo. Or Taiwo and Kendi. Taiwo is the older one, Kendi is the younger one.
But in Yuroba tradition Kendi, who comes out after is actually the older one. The older soul who sends the younger soul out to judge if the world is fit to enter. Like a messenger. Symbolizing the first errand the older sibling sends the younger one on.
So this is what my dad was fixated on, and me and Dynasty did a lot of research about twins and the Ibeji Orisha.
But then we have the other Orisha that we found out about... So our full last name is Ogunmoyin. But Ogun is what we go by. And Ogun is also an Orisha, the God of iron & war - the God of metals.
So did your interest in metal start before or after you realized this?
Soull: Simultaneously! So our father is a very honorable and correct man, and he’s Christian. So because of his Christianity we didn't grow up knowing about Ogun and it's reference to being a God of anything. It was just that was our family name that we made fun of.
But the year that I started getting into jewelry making, Dynasty and I both simultaneously got into Ogun and realized the connection. We had been into some Egyptian mythology and in connection with that we realized there was this Yoruba God called Ogun and we're like, “Oh what the fuck?!” Like, that's crazy that this is God called Ogun and we're Ogun, and simultaneously I’m now working in metal at that point… Like a Scandinavian had been called Thor or a Greek being called Zeus you know.
So while I'm doing this I go to my Pops and I'm like, “You didn't tell us anything about this Ogun God, who's the god of metal.” My father was like “Well now you know.” And it makes sense.
How did you start practically making metal art pieces and jewelry from scratch?
Soull: When I first started thinking of making jewelry, I was sketching a lot of shit. Like; “I want to make this, I want to make that, and this is how it’s gonna be made”. I had no idea even what I was doing.
So I remember when meeting the dude that I would actually become my mentor at the time, I’d bring some sketches to him. He wasn’t a jeweler at all, he was actually more of a metalsmith, making his own artwork using metal - but with a big ass torch. It was an extremely unconventional way to make jewelry, but that’s how I was learning it.
It made me connect with the original, ancient even, way of working metal. Learning those skills as opposed to more modern skills like 3D printing or whatever.
When bringing him sketches he would ask me “So, how are you going to do this?”, and I was like “I have no idea”. I had read a series of books on Metal-smithing and jewelry making so I had the terminology down but I didn’t have the practical knowledge. He helped me start just to do things, just be it. In the beginning I just played around until I all of a sudden had made something.
Then I would get a little more specific. Started cutting shapes and putting them together. I had a ton of knowledge in the back of my head from studying, but at the same time it was learning through action. Almost like I had to teach myself from all the books I had read. So I really got into self teaching and I feel like it helped me learn it even deeper because I had to act the theory out myself over and over again.
That’s how it started. Everything I had sketched, I never made it. Even with the skills that I have now. I've never made anything that I sketched. So from there on I never sketch anything.
How do you come up with the ideas for your pieces?
Soull: It's very channeling. First of all, I have the craziest dream life. I feel like I go into my dreams and get a lot of shit and bring it here to be honest.
I’ve always had these dreams since I can remember. I have one dream that I remember that I had when I was like six or seven. I had it over and over and over. I've always had vivid enough dreams and lucid enough dreams. I remember them and I can recall them.
Do you see the shapes in your dreams?
Soull: Not even the shapes. It’s more the experience that almost incites something. Something that connects me with something that I can then go research.
So last night I had this wild dream about a guy riding a small horse on the rooftop outside my window. And he is working on the roof from the horse, laying gravel and it’s hot outside while I’m sitting inside here with AC on. He falls off the horse and somehow I understand that’s because he is dehydrated. So I go on and splash water on him, and at this point he is really, really small. Then he wakes up and says: “Oh, I feel alive. That revived me!” and then he climbs down a ladder into my space and he's like 7 feet tall. He's huge.
So I wake up and I’m like “What. The. Fuck. Is. That. About?” But in it, I felt happy and connected to somebody or something. So there is definitely goodness in it. So now I'm going to go research what Gods or myths that ride a horse like that.
So research is a big part of your process?
Soull: Absolutely, Dynasty and I research all day every day. We get that from our father, who is like a chemist. He studied chemistry and he studied engineering. He used to build computers and shit and that's what he does. He's the left-brain. Mathematics and so on. Our mother says “He's just the one that’s more together.” More calm. My mom’s spicier. She's really the creative. Our father is Nigerian and our mother is Caribbean, like real fiery.
But yeah, this dream is going to lead to a research element. Dynasty and I talked about dreams all the time. When I was younger, I was studying the dream world and dream symbolism because I think that they also connect to archetypes and what we see as archetypes in things that we've lost the ability to see recently. I started really researching the fourth dimension because that is where it's at. That's where we are.
And the ideas get shaped from there?
Soull: The ideas get shaped from there. So me and Dynasty have researched a lot of what was like in ancient Mayan, Ancient Yoruba, Ancient Asia, India, Ancient China. We were going to Russia and Poland and all that stuff. The myths trickle in everywhere.
You know, I'm saying because there's also a lot of Blackness in it that has been lost. So then we'll study things I might think I feel separated and disconnected from as “I don't see myself there.”
But if you go far back enough, if you research deep enough, you'll find that some black Russian prominent warrior or whatever that existed you like, “Oh, that's interesting. What's that about? What's the symbolism that is on his armor?” etc. And inside that comes the ideas while I’m just studying it.
It actually just comes, simultaneously with me thinking about it.
What is the next step in your artistry?
Soull: I’ve started working in Stonemasonry. Traditional jewelry is so much more than metal. So even if they were making it out of, like, tortoise shells, it represents the different tribes in different ways. So that was a really interesting aspect in me learning how to teach myself something new right now and lapidary was this whole other beast. But I’m like... I’m about to go get a machine and get some stones and cut some shit.
It’s not like I’m going from metal to stone, more integrating it. Marrying the two. Especially as it’s one person doing both. So I’ve started with sculptures. For example my latest lapidary sculpture I didn't cut it - but I designed it. So it's kind of the opposite from how I learned metal smithing. It's because I can design, now. This is how I want to design it. Which is different when I’m now working with somebody that's tuned in on the craft, because a lot of people who do the craft skill do not know how to design.
Why this urge to change and evolve? You’re a successful artist and designer in metal. Why expand?
Soull: I think it goes hand in hand with being, let’s say, spiritual, because this thing about ‘a long game,’ right?
Which is something I started really hearing recently. I always really liked the sound of that cuz that means you're here for the long bit and I think that you're here for this soul journey, which is a long journey because it’s separated from, you know: ‘You have to have it now! You only have one life!’ and whatnot.
That people are saying that all the time is a fascinating thing to me because I think we have multiple lives even happening in your one life. I am somebody completely different living a whole different life that I was ten years ago. I am! I have a different life. Ten years before that, ten years before that - even as a child, like are you ever going to see yourself as a seven year old? That seven year old self is dead. Gone.
It's like discovering this new way of creating allows me to discover this other side of myself that needs to be awakened, because I'm really like: ‘This is a soul journey.’ So I'm thinking about it on a soul level and I happen to be using this physical platform to be manifesting it.
Even if it means starting over?
Soull: It doesn't need to mean starting over, because I started over so many times. Any time I go to speak at my high school - and is always fun because the seniors be really feeling themselves and they’re like 17 and be like “I'm so past being a freshman!” and I'm like, “You’re about to be a freshman again...”.
You've done it all and here you are about to be a freshman again, and then after you finish college, you're gonna be a freshman in the workforce. And then when you're doing that, if you become like an associate, you’ll be a freshman doing that. So it's like you're always starting over, we’re not taught that - change is constant. We’re not really taught those fundamental things. But when you grasp that, then it’s never starting over. Like, I'm starting something new, but I have years of design now, so it’s different.
But I'm standing in this new - what's the word - this new medium, you know what I'm saying?
I mean, I have a violin in the back. I got to see myself play at some point - I used to play violin back in the day. So I'm going to re-teach myself how to play the violin some day.
Now, this is what self-teaching in the beginning looks like because if I'm consistent enough and I wake up every morning and that's the thing, it's like hard work, but I'm not going to do something I don’t really enjoy.
It's a mindset. I have to click onto my mind: I want to learn something. I would love to get someone to teach me how to do it. But I also know I'm self-taught in terms of metal-smithing.
I've learned so much by self-teaching myself because it makes me tap into another form of almost confidence.
Confidence that starts with courage?
Soull: It’s about courage. Even in the Diamond District, I'm one of the few - and I see more and more of them now because we're out now, but - I'm one of the few black women running around the Diamond District. So there's that whole thing there. So you run up in a spot and it's just like this old Turkish dude. And we don’t have anything in common - is what you think. But then I start rapping with them and it's like, “oh, we’re like best friends.” Me and this dude, he’s like, “Oh you have come to my house,” and I tell all my sisters about this, we interact. Something happens.
In basically all mythology all being starts with chaos. The unknown. And interacting with it leads to creation and to order. It’s interesting that even the start of your artistic career was just you facing the unknown. Facing chaos with courage. And then it all started.
Soull: Yeah, I just felt ’I want to do this, I'm going to read some books about it and get going!’
And in the beginning It’s like reading a book that is written in a whole other language because of the terminology.
It's literally like “blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah fire blah blah blah blah metal blah blah blah blah blah blah melt” that's what it's looking like.
It’s complete chaos. But now I also have this connection “Oh I’m gonna make this, I’m gonna make that - if I only learn these words... I'll be able to make this”.
But really, I’ve never made anything that I was thinking that I would make once I learned the vocabulary. I started speaking my own language. That was also this other thing. We actually started working on language, Dynasty and I, because we think that it is like a very vibrational thing, we have words, and we put them in and scribe them into our work.
And that’s also what alchemy is. You take the dirty and gross and try to make something magical. Even when you're making jewelry - jewelry has to get really dirty before it gets really shiny and people don't know that process. Your hands are filthy when you're making jewelry and you're pulling up the grotesque, the dirt, the whatnot and that you make it dirty.
So then it's rough. You gotta pre-clean that, then you got to go do another step when you actually like pre-polish. Then you put it into boiling water and pull it out. Then you go back in and make it dirty some more and then put it back into the boiling water. Boiling water is fascinating because it's not just boiling water, it’s a solution; the concept of boiling water being so hot that it’s vibrating so fast, and that's the only thing that can take off the grime. You can't just wash it off under water. It has to be dipped in this boiling solution that it's vibrating and an insane level. Actually thinking about it - it’s dipping it into chaos.
Part 2 - On growing up in New York City and what makes the city special, on ambition can be found here.