Hadiya Williams is the creator and founder of Black Pepper Paperie Co., a stationery design and maker’s studio that creates goods & wares that inspire creativity, activate joy, and produce memorable experiences. Her goal is to transform & refine how your event or gift is presented to the most important people in your world. And thankfully, she’s taken the time to share a bit more about her work as a Black woman maker.
1. I’ve been stalking your Instagram feed for the longest time and waiting patiently (kind of lol) for your Etsy shop to open. And now it’s launched! Congratulations! Please tell us how Black Pepper Paperie Co. came to be.
I can’t express how much that means to me. That is just too much handle right now. Lol. My shop is pretty modest at the moment but I am still working out the kinks. I am so thankful it’s finally up. Black Pepper Paperie Co. was decided upon after I left The Blackest Wedding Ever (November 20, 2016.) I designed the wedding suite for Shantrelle P. Lewis and Tony Lawson of ShoppeBlack.Us. Everyone who was a part of their wedding left there changed. It was such a spiritual experience. When I got back home from New Orleans, I found it difficult to go back to my 9-5 and work on something that did not fully inspire me. And I loved my job. We’d just completed a huge 20th Anniversary event and that gave me a similar feeling as the wedding. Still, I knew that I needed to focus on doing work that moved me. That inspired others. Both Shantrelle and my employer said that me being a part of their projects enhanced the style, the energy, and grandiosity. My work was that tipping point. Within a week after the wedding, I’d come up with the name ‘Black Pepper Paperie Co.’ and started working on my exit plan and next steps for my stationery design shop. It caused me to shift my focus from solely doing service-based design work to building something around my work as an artist, a maker and a vessel for others to be creative and express themselves. And perhaps, something bigger. I’m still figuring that part out.
2. What are a few of your favorite pieces from this collection and the inspiration behind them?
Most of my pieces are based on something intuitive combined with my love for African-inspired aesthetics. Whether it is Mali, Senegal, Ghana, etc. There is a large spoon that I love. The colors I used are lavender, fluorescent orange and black. My inspiration behind that spoon was a combination of abstract art, African art, and African American culture. The wooden fork and spoon wall hanging was a staple in so many black homes when I was growing up. I wanted to create something along those lines that felt more contemporary but still classic and beautiful. I am working on the fork version.
3. One of my goals as a Black woman and minimalist is to support Black woman-owned businesses. Have you found the support you need in the creative world, specifically as it relates to you being a Black woman maker?
I would say so far, so good. If we count social media, specifically IG, I have received a great deal support from people all over the world. Through my wonderful network of friends and colleagues, I’ve had the pleasure of making connections with some amazing people, creatives, and patrons through social media and in person. And I’ve made some wonderful new friends in the process. We are in very special times. Technology really breaks down a lot of barriers. However, I am still pretty “local” in my head. Local meaning Washington, DC, where I’ve received support within the creative world on a smaller scale (which may be of my own doing.) I am just getting to the point where I am owning my talent as an artist and in-house graphic designer. In my previous life, anonymity was the name of the game. Your work was that of the company, nothing about it was really considered art. Design is supposed to be almost mathematical and strategic. My roots are AFRICAN so I have used my intuition most of my career. It makes more sense as a maker and artist than as a western-based designer.
4. I think it’s so amazing that you work with clay as a medium. I just don’t know many Black women clay makers. Can you tell us a bit about what goes into the process of say, making one of your beautiful plates or bowls?
I am right there with you. Of course, I know there are some Black women clay makers out there, but I would wager to say that they of a different generation. I have always loved ceramics and pottery. In the past few years, I started collecting at craft shows, thrift stores, markets, etc. Then I decided that I would take a class. I took a workshop on February 10, 2017 with a fellow design friend of mine. It was a wheel-based workshop. 2.5 hours. Not much time but just enough to let me know that maybe the wheel was not what I wanted (location, cost and cleanup time). Privilege comes into play for sure. DC is an expensive place to exist these days. To be able to learn for fun, you have to be able to pay for classes which are roughly around $300. At the time, I had to allocate those resources for living expenses so I started asking Google how I could use clay at home. I found out about air dry and polymer clay and decided to try them out. After playing around with both, I ended up preferring the end result and texture of polymer clay. It was a wrap. By February 20, 2017, I’d posted my first clay creation. I was hooked. At the time, I was going through a tough creative spot. I felt overwhelmed by working on other people’s projects while I was struggling to flush out the branding/vision for my stationery design business. This is why stepping away from our work, trying different mediums, and closing the laptop can be so essential for creatives. I rarely created for fun. The clay really opened up things for me creatively. Also, IG really helped by allowing me to share what I was doing and getting encouragement and feedback. It kept me going and helped me to apply my talent to something unrelated to the sometimes rigid, rule-based world of graphic design. I officially consider myself an artist/maker. So refreshing and exciting.
5. What we can expect in your Etsy shop in the coming months? Please say journals!
Yes. Good question. So the Etsy shop will be a place where you can get whatever I am creating and some staples. The plan is to sell clayware, gift wrap and gift giving items (tags, twine, labels, etc.), journals are absolutely on the list, art prints, and pre-designed downloadable designs for party decor and other needs.
6. Wonderful! Anything else you’d like to share?
Showing my work has been the most beneficial part about this whole shift. I am typically a shy person so initially sharing my work was tough. I joined a 100 Day Creative IG challenge which has essentially changed my life. I could see myself and my art evolve in rows of three. Such an amazing process. Show your work and create, create, create. Carmen Herrera is almost 102 years old and she is still creating every single day. Ira Glass (This American Life) has this great quote about taste that you can Google. It basically says that if you have a level of greatness that you want to achieve and if you have good taste… keep creating. Do a ton of work. You WILL get there in the process. I can say that this is truth. Not saying that I am already there but I’d like to think that I am on my way. Keep going!
Thank you so much, Hadiya!