A strange profession for this craftsman apart. And yet, he’s so well in his place. An inspired artist, rooted in the centuries-old memory of these metal tamers, Jonathan Soulié unleashes his creativity in his Gaillacois studio to make unique pieces come about, touching with grace, sublime with rightness and truth, which reflect the beauty of nature. This light also comes from within, which it captures at every moment, firmly established in its history and that of those craftsmen who made the rise of the metalwork. Life mission? Torrent of energy? In turn, he allows himself to be shaped to express a new art, the one that inhabits him in the clarity and simplicity of his path of abundance.
Jonathan Soulié was born in the department of Tarn, where he lived all his childhood in great freedom and carelessness, close to nature. “Rural life has shaped my character.” In his village, there were 11 children who went to school in the middle of nature, and he soon developed an observant temperament where melancholy and wonder mingle, in search of silence and withdrawal from the world to be in symbiosis with the elements. The fauna and flora, the rhythm of the seasons up to the rigors of the winters, at the foot of the mountains of the Massif Central… and an ancestral land with a topology made of hills and rivers, up to the foothills of the Causses. Passionate about history, he will remain very attached to this region, former land of the Templars and rich of an industrial past – “in leather in Graulhet, coal with the coal basin of Carmaux, and metals in Durfort, city cradle of copperware.” Besides, he would grow up just 1 km from a Fluorine Spar mine where he would work at summer holidays. “I always had on me chalcopyrite stones which are the derivative of native copper”… as if Providence already announced in these crystals of a thousand colors, his future vocation.
He had to find his way despite social pressure. “I wanted to work with my own hands, but not with technical industrial tasks. So I persevered to start my studies in a classic curriculum.” A graduate of IFAG, he entered a design firm to manage thermal projects. But everything changed when he decided to restore his house, an old metairie dating from 1720, using traditional techniques. “I wanted to remove the concrete and rebuild a Roman wall and recover the materials of yesteryear,” which will lead him to Jean-Jacques Bonnafous, the last boilermaker in operation in Durfort. And this was an eye opener! The smell of copper captures him from the first sight, then the possibilities of the technique realized with a simple hammer that could have been used centuries ago. “For my technical Cartesian mind, it was something exceptional. I had seen large press machines on industrial sites; but there i found myself with the man’s hand and a hammer who were able to do crazy things together and I was overwhelmed by it !”
He will take his first steps in this ancestral profession that no one practices anymore. “And very quickly, I wanted to save this expertise, by bringing it into a modern metalwork art.” Jonathan resigned his position to devote himself fully to it and get a training with Olivier Courtot, Companion of Duty and Best Worker of France. “I had buried in my inner world a pure creativity, that was literally exploding. And I worked day and night, with no loss of energy, to ingest these authentic gestures, and these painstaking techniques where the concentration of every moment is pushed to its climax.” Chance or Providence, he will also find a batch of 1950s metalwork tools from a collector in Orthez. Everything is now ready for him to launch his activity.
In 2018, Jonathan Soulié began to transform copper, brass, aluminum or tin plates into works of art. From the outset, he worked on several registers: luminaires, sculptures, furniture, objects or interior fittings, for a pinpointed clientele, but especially for professionals (art galleries, interior designers…). Very quickly, he will push his art into a new dimension, giving it the finesse of contemporary decorative arts, and the grace of high-end works. “I always start with a drawing and everything happens to me afterwards. The shape of a curve, a word that resonates, a reality of nature that I express…” And this is intertwined with the technique of the metalwork, and he is one of the last artisans to continue to completely close a shape on itself without welding, using several dozen different piles, hammers and mallets. “I want it out of fidelity for those who have given it to me and because I, too, am a link in this chain of transmission.” He then leaves the metal bare or dresses in gold sheets, or a new color by combining raw materials, lacquers and patinas to create new shades of light.
Thus, in his workshop where the old tools of the craftsmen of yesteryear look after him, Jonathan Soulié perpetuates the traditional gestures of this craft by getting rid of it, to create all possible. “Over time, I’ve learned to be tricky to get what I want out of matter. A successful association.” Guided by an unlimited intuition and receptivity, the artist, promoted by the prestigious Michelangelo Foundation, expresses the quintessence of his art in a hammering full of energy, delicacy and roundness. “Being rooted in these technical gestures while traveling in my creativity, gives me a balance where I become an instrument in my turn, fully free.” And his works, charged with energy by this consciousness deployed in them, take us in an ode to the world and to renewal, in forms like the egg or the vortex for example, both subtle and poetic…
Jonathan Soulié will continue to create in these five areas of choice. “As I navigate from one to the other, I progress enormously: humanly and technically. And this job is so complex, that I’m happy to have new challenges constantly.” Now he’s carving a piece where he’s done oxidation. a unique technique that allowed him to win the Ateliers d’Art de France prize for the Occitanie region… In these projects, there is also a move planned in 2022 with a new workshop where his art will certainly go from strength to strength. “I have finally accepted the light that has been directed at me, but I really prefer to be in a retreat. The same is true about my works. I prefer to show them in a few places, but with professionals who will highlight my work and are capable to explain it.” This is very important to me! He now has the confidence of a gallerist who helps him evolve in his high-end positioning with the requirement, not only in his profession, but also in the dynamic triangulation of artist, work and spectator; with details that will allow him to obtain a kind of communion with the potential acquirer. “It is true that it allows me to find different paths that bring me stability in my activity.” And then this project that he cares about: to meet children in primary schools, to explain his rare and ancestral profession; then how he learned the traditional techniques to get rid of them and turn them into tools to reveal his deep nature. “It is so important to remember the child we were!” In front of the marvelous eyes of these cherubim who discover the metalwork with the Statue of Liberty or the Gaulish helmets, he himself revisits his life journey, witnessing the profound transformation that led him to what he has become today.
He is definitely made of another metal! Metalworker, art craftsman, designer and artist, Jonathan Soulié constantly questions nature and receives its signs. His art is a kind of response, and like Brancusi, he reveals its beauty through the mother forms of the living. He now has his technique mastered, enough to express what he wants to express, enough to let himself go, in an act of humble attention, in the silence of the beats. And his audience is moved by everything that comes out of his works: Love and consciousness, the power of life, in a balance that returns to the infinitely intelligent, loving Source, which probes the mysteries of the human heart.
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on the 21th of January 2022
Link to Jonathan Soulié’s website
“ When searching for the root of the word luxury: “luxus,” we find the word light, and so our ancestors wanted to make a parallel between the brightness of light and what’s beautiful, respectable and true. I think that in all of us, this light shines and radiates for different reasons: goodness in one, love in the other… Then there is matter which also has a luxurious side, even if it is not perfection which is sought. So I work with light both physically and spiritually, trying to convey the sincerity of matter. I’m going to express it with forms but also with spirit. An example with the artwork called “Consciousness”: it has an ovoid sculpture with a sort of vortex but it doesn’t really have a perfect shape. I meant it like nature is not perfect too : a rock, a stone, there are deformations on their faces and that’s what makes the beauty of nature. It is what it is, quite simply. So I try to bring this sincerity that I constantly detect around me. I had also made a light called “Cassiopeia,” and to represent this constellation of stars, I had seen an animal and I had been touched by this curve on the top of its abdomen. So I integrated it into the creation with an amalgam of the Fibonacci series. Thus, the process of creation is true and authentic, as it expresses most sincerely nature and this moment of life.
Now, who are we? Only flesh and blood people or is there a notion of consciousness and spirit in human beings ? All these points were always at the center of my thoughts and when I made the decision to change my life for this job, everything became clear. I had visualized the technique with the boilermaker and then the master coppersmith, but when I confronted this hammering process, I experienced totally different moments and I say it in a positive way. With a helmet on my ears when I hammer, I needed extreme attention and concentration on an impact point of a few millimeters, and this gait was almost autistic! That is to say, this concentration on a given point was absolutely essential for my work balance, and at the same time it occured in a muffled noise that makes the world around me no longer exist. So the metalwork made me progress on myself technically, but also personally.
It made me realize that all my life I had worked hard to achieve my goals, forcing things if necessary, and then I understood that in my hammering balance I could still function in the same way. So very quickly, I learned to change and accompany matter, without any more fighting against it, since it can be in a fight with copper by wanting to crumple it, fold it, one can even break it if one does not go in its direction…; and over time, I’ve managed to be in osmosis with matter and really feel the energy of metal, and transmit mine to it as well and never force my gesture again, but work gently and justly.
Of course, it also changed my perception of life. A more refined, simpler world awaits us, but rich in meaning and vibrant with energy and information. This is for me the true luxury. Find this balance in our lives and get to the point by detaching ourselves from the appearance and consumerism. Staging oneself, recreation like crutches has never made our lives fuller, and does not reflect the reality of our deep needs. In fact, when I embraced this profession, something vibrated inside me and I said to myself, “I am in my place.” From then on, all I had to do was go on and make the decisions that supported this move. And we’re all looking for that balance, except that because of the codes we were taught at a younger age, because of our life and the difficulties we had, we got lost. We need to regain that sincerity to ourselves. I often use this image: “make the child you were proud of the adult you became,” because if you remember who you were as a child, then you will make the right decisions. So this moment in our life is sacred. In fact, we often talk about authenticity with children, as they have this sincerity and an unfailing connection with nature, which they express with such accuracy in words, that is disconcerting. So yes, this is the way of truth; a road of surrender where we let ourselves be shaped to serve in our turn, in a greater inner unity that is finally found.”
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on the 21th of January 2022
Link to Jonathan Soulié’s website