Can you tell us a little bit about the moment you realized you were an artist?
I can’t say there was a specific moment when I realized I was an artist. I’ve
always felt creative and I have parents who’ve always supported my creative ideas. If I were to call them today and say I’m quitting my job to become a potter, they’d believe I could (and I’ve never made anything from clay).
How did you learn your necessary skills?
Everything I know about skin care, I’ve learned through reading and
experimenting. The meaning of “good” skin care is always changing, so there’s so much to learn. The business part of everything is definitely a still work in progress. That part I learn mostly through mistakes.
Are there specific opportunities or challenges that focused your career?
My “real” career is all over the place, but Ziya Soul came to be when I
experienced hair breakage from a hairstyle I was wearing. I planned to create a remedy for hair breakage, and skin care sort of fell in my lap from there. The hair part of my business never really “stuck,” but I’m okay with how things are turning out.
Who do you consider as your most influential mentor?
Dr. Ekong, one of my college professors, has been very influential. When I
transferred schools during undergrad, from a historically black college to a
predominately white one, she was a highly educated black woman who I saw being unapologetically true to herself, and her culture, in a white space. Women like her are always inspirational because they’re the reminders we need when we feel like we might not deserve what we’ve worked for, or that we shouldn’t be taking up space in certain environments.
Artists are extremely resourceful and often create multiple streams of income. How do you generate income to support yourself and artistic practice?
Right now, I still support myself with a full-time job. I teach 5th grade, and I work part-time at an autism center. Everything I do creatively happens outside of me working those jobs. I’d love to get to a place where I can support myself solely through my creative ideas. It’s coming!
How do you measure success in your work?
For Ziya Soul, I decided one of my first markers of success would be when
someone who doesn’t know I own Ziya Soul genuinely recommends one of my products to me. That happened about a year ago. My next measure of success is for me to work for myself and have more control over how my days are spent.
What artist inspires you the most?
Although, Christina Martinez, is a completely different kind of creative, watching her grow as a business has been extremely inspiring. I don’t know her, but she seems to be someone who’s reached what I would consider success. Justina Blakeney is another artist who’s inspiring. I love how she’s created a brand that has projects in so many different spaces.
Do you have a creative hour, or a time/ place/ or activity that inspires your
I don’t! I’m hoping that when I get to a place where I can work for myself, that I can spend more time growing and nurturing ideas. Background sound is mandatory for creating – music or movies.
Do you have a ritual or do you set specific assignments for yourself?
I don’t have any rituals, but I do like to create projects for myself that keep me creative. I photograph my own products and content, so I try to use those opportunities to push my brand creatively. My next project is using my brand as a platform for social awareness.
Do you keep a journal of ideas?
I don’t keep a journal of ideas, but I do jot ideas all day. I usually use my phone’s notepad and I was just introduced to Google Keep and I love it! I do keep a gratitude journal where I list three pieces of my day that I’m thankful for.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Horror movies are my guilty pleasure. I like working with movies playing in the background and horror movies are my favorite. I recently bought a projector and I’m obsessed with it.
As a kid what did you see yourself doing as a career?
I was all over the place when I was imagining my adult self. I thought I would be a pediatrician, an astronaut, or an engineer.
What told you ‘this is the life for me’? (and when)
I think I told myself this is the life for me when I realized how much I long for say over my own time. I love teaching, but I don’t love the rigidity of a regular job. I think what draws me to a creative life most is the chance that it might give me a little more time to enjoy the things I love on time that belongs to me. The idea became real about a year ago when spontaneous orders started to come in.
What compromises have you had to make in order to succeed (ie: location of studio, driving a lot, not doing something you really want to do, working
seasonally etc) Has it been worth all of your effort?
I think the mental space owning your own business takes up is the heaviest
compromise. I’m always thinking about how I can create something, and share it with others. Since I started Ziya Soul, there hasn’t been a day where I can completely avoid thinking about growing my business – whether it’s orders to fill, stores I want as stockists, or new product ideas. It can be a little exhausting, but it’s definitely worth it.
Shop Ziya Soul through her website ziyasoul.com or stop in to Arrow's concept shop on Broad Avenue to shop in person or curbside pickup!