Hell bent for metal and leather, Cult Sisters is a line of haunting talismans hand crafted by Erin Terror. Her chokers, rings, and pendants have a backstory and purpose infused with intention, inspiring the wearer to create their own magic each time they get dressed. As admirers of the Cult Sisters aesthetic for years, we were moved to chat with Erin about wearable witchcraft and creating a community stitched together with her fellow female creatrixes.
How did Cult Sisters begin?
In many ways Cult Sisters is the culmination of my lifelong artistic inclinations and the cultural tastes and aesthetics I developed from adolescence and on. After college, my best friend and Barnard sister invited me to join group of inspiring witches – The Ravenous Craft Coven – who would gather once a month under the full moon for dinner and crafting. As a clinical psychology student, I had kind of lost touch with my creative side in college. The atmosphere and other women present at the coven meetings refreshed my creative spirit and left me feeling inspired in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time.
I started drawing again and experimenting with jewelry making, something I used to do when I was younger. One of my coven sisters, who had been working on her own jewelry line, invited me to share a table with her at a few flea markets. I took the offer as a personal challenge to see if I could make commercially viable pieces, and started working on some things, including a leather pouch necklace designed to carry totems and crystals. I was humbled and pleasantly surprised to find that people wanted to buy my stuff, and it all kind of took off from there.
Did you have to learn any new skills for the leather work?
Growing up in New York City’s punk and metal community meant you were bound to be studding a leather jacket at some point in your teenage years — DIY or DIE, ya know? – so my leather skills are certainly rooted in that. For my first leather pouch necklace I had to learn how to saddle stich, but I wanted to do more with it. At one of our craft coven nights, Marielle Rebecca of COZEN NYC hosted a “make your own leather bag night,” and I learned how to use rivets, which I applied to one of my first choker designs.
Where do you source your leather?
I found a great small scale leather supplier on Etsy who always pulls through for me when I need to make a bulk order. I like to buy my supplies from fellow small businesses. Funnily enough, though, my first leather supply was recycled from an old leather couch. I literally saved pounds of black Italian cowhide that would probably cost me a pretty penny now.
At the moment I’m experiencing a bit of demand for faux leather options, so I’m working on making that a possibility. It’s been a bit of a challenge hunting down vegan leather that fits my design needs and produces a finished product I find worthy of the Cult Sisters name, but I’m trying!
As far as aesthetic inspiration — you’re wearing a Judas Priest shirt right now — can we talk about your style icons?
Non-stop for the past month I’ve been listening to The Ultimate Sin, so the demonic babe on the cover of that Ozzy album has been a go-to style inspiration for me of late as I work on new pieces. In the same vein, I’m very much inspired by 80s metal maidens like Doro Pesch, she’s a self-professed witch queen. And, Stevie Nicks’ lacy, gypsy Victorian witch vibes also figure into my aesthetics. I always try to incorporate witchcraft, magic, fantasy, and the supernatural into my aesthetic along with leather and metal. For me, personally, if I’m not at my day job, I’m in black jeans, a vintage band t-shirt, and my leather jacket.
What do you listen to when you make your pieces?
I find a lot of inspiration and motivation in listening to female musicians in rock and metal, from Pat Benatar, Suzi Quattro, and Warlock, to contemporary bands like Electric Citizen, Windhand, and Tower. But I’m also constantly putting on Def Leppard’s Pyromania – that’s one of their best albums – Thin Lizzy’s Thunder and Lightning, Scorpions’ In Trance, and some high school favorites like A.F.I.’s Black Sails.
Let’s talk about witchcraft and the sacred elements that you bring to Cult Sisters. You work with crystals and source them for their energetic purposes, what’s your process?
There’s something extremely calming about keeping crystals close by, especially for me since I struggle with anxiety. I’m really drawn to smoky quartz and the psychic protection it seems to offer me, so I incorporated raw smoky quartz points into many of the early Cult Sisters pieces, hoping it might do the same for others.
Over the past year I have moved away from incorporating crystals into my designs so I can focus more on sculpting pieces by hand, like the Taurus ring and the Serpent’s Rise Talisman. Like a crystal, each piece I’ve sculpted is intended to act as a totemic object, not only inspiring the wearer in their daily life, but also acting as a link to other Cult Sisters in our community. That’s the whole vision behind the Cult Sisters name.
The cult is you and all your community that you share your art and your energy with.
Exactly, people are always saying, wait, it’s Cult Sisters, does that mean there’s more than one of you? At the moment it’s just me behind the scenes. But when someone acquires one of my pieces, they become a Cult Sister – that’s what the name signifies. And the community’s range goes well beyond the customer, it includes our collaborators, fellow makers, artists, and musicians as well. I love finding inspiring, creative women in different disciplines and using the brand as a means of building a community and network. Among the talented ladies I am fortunate enough to call Cult Sisters are Sarabeth Eve Linden, vocalist of New York’s own Tower (and former Slut of the Month); Kim Logan, Nashville’s badass swamp queen songstress; and one of our beloved photographers from deep in the heart of Texas, Ashley Highberger of Wyld Cosmia.
Can you reveal some of the stories behind the casted pieces?
I’m inspired by a lot of the people in my life and build pieces around them. Like this Taurus ring I’m wearing; it’s is inspired by Mallory Lance of Ravenous who is both a May baby and possesses many of the qualities associated with the astrological sign. Tauruses are naturally creative and display the sort of rugged persistence and ingenuity necessary to build things from the ground up; which is exactly what Mallory did with Ravenous and many of the other projects she has pursued over the years. Unsurprisingly, Tauruses also tend to be a bit headstrong. I wanted this piece to represent the combination of these elements, encouraging the wearer to persist in their pursuit of their visions, dreams, and goals.
What about the snake piece?
The snake head was actually the first piece I ever sculpted by hand and had cast in metal. I wanted it to look as realistic as possible so it could perform a totemic function and serve as an inanimate witch’s familiar. Snakes are associated with transformation and the pursuit of knowledge, and as my first venture into lost-wax casting, when I wear it, it reminds me to not shy away from trying new things for fear of the unknown. It also reminds me of my personal transformation into a jewelry designer. Because it is a solid, hefty piece of metal, it is also very grounding and reassuring to wear.
How has your work been impacted by working with other creative women in Ravenous Craft?
I hate using business-speak, but “synergy” is the best way to describe the effect of working with the other creative women, and building a community around our creativity and womanhood. In many respects, it provides similar benefits to a shared workspace, in that we toil away individually on our own projects outside, and in coming together we’re able to talk things out, and wind up inspiring each other to come up with new ideas, solutions, and even improvements to our own work. Seek the advice and counsel of the coven and you always come away with a new perspective or approach to working through a creative challenge given our unique backgrounds and experiences.
What’s next for Cult Sisters?
We’ve got some exciting collaborations in the works, and I’m currently working on a new collection entitled “After Dark.” I’m drawing from different sources of inspiration and branching out beyond the natural realm. I’m exploring darker aesthetics; conceptions of evil, the supernatural, superstition, and fantasy. Pulling a lot from my love for metal and horror as well. And of course, looking forward to watching the Cult Sisterhood grow!
Photo Credits: Ashley Highberger of Wyld Cosmia Photography