By Dorothy Le —
[dropcaps]F[/dropcaps]or centuries, wars have torn millions of lives apart. While wars and divisions will continue on as they’ve always done, many are stepping up to not only inject more topics of peace into global conversations, but they are also taking what was once so destructive and transforming it into something extraordinary and sentimental.
From War to Peace is a unique jewelry line that recycles copper from disarmed nuclear weapons to create beautiful necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Various symbols of peace are engraved onto the jewelry pieces from the Tree of Life and Star of David, to the Hamsa and Ying Yang.
We spoke to Sam Ogren about the jewelry line, the organizations he works with, and also ways that global peace can happen.
[Lightly edited for clarity]
Religio Magazine: Where did the idea for this line come from?
Sam Ogren: It was through a family reunion we had about seven years ago. We were standing around the piano singing songs, and as a big family we tend to do that a lot. Even though we are not particularly religious, one of the songs we were singing was an old religious hymn about turning swords into plowshares. My father, Paul Ogren, who is the founder of this company, had his mind and heart just in the space at that moment. We were just singing and the lightbulb goes off in his head and he decides, “You know what, let’s do this!” And from that point on, we got started. It started off as just an idea more than anything else. None of us knew anything about jewelry or even metals, but we decided that this was something worth doing.
Our whole family are social activists of one sort or another. I was a union organizer until not too long ago and a lot of my family members were public defenders, public school teachers, teachers for prisoners, elected politicians, etc. We definitely believe in social services and giving back.
RM: This line includes several peace symbols originating from different religions. How did you go about selecting which to include, and which is the most meaningful to you?
SO: It’s actually only been a couple of years ago that we decided to branch out into religious symbols from Eastern origins. From the get-go, we only had crosses and Star of David’s. But we felt that if we really wanted to strike up a conversation about world peace, then it was important that we were inclusive in that. And as you know, with how politics in the world has been like in the last decade or so, there are a lot of divisions and lots of scary stuff going on. We wanted to show that peace transcends boundaries and limitations. So even though we started with a cross, we wanted to make sure that we represented the Muslims, Jews, and others.
And on a personal level, I would have the say the Tree of Life is my favorite, because of the particular genesis of that design. It actually came from an old Ogren brothers nursery rhyme that my dad and uncle ran when we were just little kids. Plus, there are a lot of gardeners in the family and they like to grow things. And in the more recent years, I got a tree as a tattoo and since then I was able to persuade several members of my family to get the same tattoo, including my 74-year-old aunt. So it really is a personal meaning for our tribe. And we took that actual design and transplanted it into a piece of jewelry.
Aside from that, if you look at a lot our designs, they have origins that transcend any kind of culture. For example, the Celtic knot is all about the power of the three. And if you look in ancient cultures, you see that this number keeps appearing at different times.
RM: What are you hoping to achieve when a customer buys a piece of your jewelry?
SO: The ultimate objective is see an end to war. We are the little company that could. Whether we will live to see that goal, I am not necessarily holding my breath for it. We want to aim high when someone buys a piece of our jewelry. We want to invite them into this discussion and help them feel like they are contributing in some way to a little bit more hope, to the idea of real transformation. And this is something that I am thinking about more and more over time. We are living in a world of finite resources. And think about where we even got the metal to make weapons of mass destruction in the first place. These were once pristine, beautiful mountain ranges that we had to strip mined, and 80 years later, we still can’t drink the water there. We can make these weapons that wipe out entire civilizations and it’s a sad story. But we are out on a mission to transform the social value behind this material and use it as a quest for good again. And when a customer buys a piece of From War to Peace jewelry, they participate in that journey with us.
We’ve partnered with plenty of organizations that are committed to making this a better world, such as the International Peace Bureau, Veterans for Peace, and one of my personal favorites, Homeboy Industries. They are all working hard day and night, to create a better world for our children and our children’s children. So the organizations, along with the consumers, will feel good knowing that we are all participating in this journey together, and that even purchasing just one item can help make this world a better place.
RM: How did you go about selecting which organizations to work with?
SO: We didn’t have a set of concrete criteria, we just looked towards our own hearts and values. We also do our own research to see within organizations, how much of the financial resources actually goes into doing the good works the organization is suppose to do. It was really important to us to partner with organizations who are all about healing the world first and are not interested in just getting rich. Of course, we are a business so we’d like to do well. But when we do well, we can do more good.
The National Peace Corps was really important to us because first we were just selling domestically and are now starting to sell abroad. With peace, it is not a topic just within our country, but it is an international conversation. The world is looking at us all the time, and to be honest, America isn’t looking so great right now with the whole election that just happened. But we are really proud of the Peace Corps, and think it is one of the best things that our country does. A few of my family members have spent much time working with the Peace Corps over the years and we’ve always just held that organization as an example of what we would want the world to see when they see America.
Even years before we started this company, I always felt vaguely resentful about the notion that patriotism is just a surface value. Nonetheless, our country has done some amazing and beautiful things and we want to make sure that those things are being represented.
In particular, with Veterans for Peace, these are people who have been to war, and they have seen things that you and I could only imagine. And with that, they have come back and have decided to work together to create a more peaceful world. And Homeboy Industries is a great organization. It was founded by a man by the name of Reverend Gregory Boyle, and it is an incredible community outreach that works to help impoverished youths who grew up without any kind of positive figures or influences. These kids have a chance to get off the streets and start working with each other, do something constructive and do something helpful and healing to the world. They are doing with souls what we are doing with materials.
RM: What is the purpose and significance of having your jewelry line created in America?
SO: It really goes back to what the world see when they see America. Our concern for a while is that all they see are a bunch of warmongers. And that doesn’t represent all of us and that certainly does not represent my family and our beliefs. So we wanted to remind the world that our country can create good things; that we are not just all about the latest iPhones, etc. We wanted to give America something good to talk about.
And with the materials themselves, these were American nuclear weapons. These were our stuff that were used to blow up entire cities. It is our responsibility to fix what happened and we like the idea of taking responsibility for it–taking something that was once so destructive and creating something beautiful out of it.
RM: There has been many attempts in the past to end war and bring peace but it is still such a challenge. In your opinion, what do we need to in order to achieve peace?
SO: It may be that the answer to that is beyond anyone’s ability to comprehend. But speaking as a former organizer, I think we really need to create a real peace movement together. I think that is something that the average American has lost sight of–the power of coming together and also the significance of each contribution that a person can make. We look at all the wars in the world and we think that it’s all so insurmountable so we say, “What’s the point?” But when it is looking scary, then that is the time that we really need to stand up, speak up, extend our hands, and try to pick people up with us. I don’t think there is a silver bullet but I think that if we are even going to have a chance, then that’s where it all starts. It starts with every individual who holds peace in their hearts, understanding the importance of their own contribution, and standing up with others who are doing the same.
To view or purchase from the line, visit www.fromwartopeace.com.