Q+A With Hadiya Williams

Q+A With Hadiya Williams

 Meet Hadiya Williams, founder of Black Pepper Paperie and designer of our newest Limited Edition Collection. We’ve been admirers of Hadiya’s work for some time now and it has been an honor and a privilege to have her design these three incredible prints for us. Not only are the diapers just the COOLEST CLOTH DIAPERS WE’VE EVER SEEN but this is also the first (of what we hope will be many) artist prints on our Home products! And honestly, could you think of a better match? I mean, black pepper is a fixture in almost every kitchen and that now has a whole new meaning! (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).

If you’re not familiar with Hadiya or her work, keep scrolling cause you’re in for a treat!

Image of the entire Black Pepper Paperie x Esembly collection including the Sipper Set, bowl caps, Outer Cloth Diapers, Reusable Food Storage Bags in brightly colored geometric patterns

In short, Hadiya Williams brings art, design, traditions and stories together through surface design, wall art, and handmade ceramic objects that reflect cultural influences across the African diaspora.


Esembly: Which Esembly x Black Pepper Paperie Print is your fav? Which product from the collection are you most likely to use daily?

Hadiya: Of course I love them all. Circuit is probably my favorite. I love the classic black and white with that contrast of clay. It never fails. The pattern is so fun and I LOVE it on the diapers. I will definitely be carrying the Day Bag. The surprise pockets and the reversible flap are so fun and versatile. If I could manage it, I would try to wear the diaper too. The contrasting snaps and peeks of color are perfection. I love those kinds of details.

This was a fun collaboration. Each time I get to work with another small business, I learn something new about what’s possible as a small business owner and an artist/designer. 

 Woman in a blue dress holding baby in an Esembly Outer in Circuit (a black and white pattern with a half circle and organic circle pattern)


Esembly: Where does the name Black Pepper Paperie come from?

Hadiya: In the spirit of food and flavor, I came up with Black Pepper Paperie Co. because it had a nice tongue twister ring to it and it reflected Blackness in a way that incorporated cultural notes.


Esembly: Can you share a bit about your background and upbringing, and how it has influenced your art?

Hadiya: I was born and raised in Washington, DC during the end of the 70s into the 80s. It was a city full of all walks of Black life and that was essential to my life and my creative work. My mother was also a pioneering member of the National Assoc. of Black Social Workers so growing up, I was heavily influenced by visual art and print design of the Black Arts Movement and West African textiles and sculptures. I couldn’t really articulate this until recently because I am still learning about my work and art in general. I have always loved color, style, and the West African influence on certain cultures within Black American cultures. It’s why I tend to say that my work is influenced by the connective threads of the African Diaspora. I think that is part of the Black aesthetic that has been hard to verbalize or pinpoint. 

As a graphic designer, Black art and design around the world would have been excluded from the mainstream conversation and documentation which is unfortunate because so much of mainstream creative work is derived from these cultural influences. As I am learning more about art and design, I can see where my work fits in and what got me to this place.


a woman's hand with colorful ceramic rings and gold and colorful metal bangle bracelets


Esembly: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Hadiya: You can have a creative career path and don’t be afraid to start over. My first bachelor’s degree is in computer science. And because I’m a gen-xer (from DC) who was of the mindset that you get a job in the government or adjacent and stay for 30 years then retire, my family and I never considered anything else. I was always creative and I even stood out in the few art classes that I took for fun but I still never considered myself an artist or considered visual art as a viable career option. Not until I took a computer graphics class in my junior year at Bowie State University (1998), did I see the possibilities for a creative career that didn’t involve being a painter or illustrator. I never consider fashion design, graphic design, product design, interior design, etc. None of that was on my radar.


Ancestry AI image created by artist Hadiya Williams that has a Black woman in colorful clothing surrounded by striped vessels in front of a striped background


Esembly: Can you tell us more about your Ancestor Index? 

Hadiya: I started using Midjourney in January of 2023 and it has changed my life in the best way. It has become such a force within my creative practice. I use it for inspiration, to generate ideas, to create art, to inspire others. As a way to describe this process of generative art that includes my work “blended” with text-to-image work, I created the Ancestor Index (AI) as a visual record of my ancestral generations. This work represents the connection between my terrestrial and generative art. 


Colorful ceramic pieces (like mugs and bangles) in bold, colorful, geometric patterns 


Esembly: What does sustainability mean to you and how do you incorporate it into your personal and work life?

Hadiya: Sustainability means longevity, quality, reuse, consciousness, and conserving the environment. 

I do my best to recycle, of course but I am also an avid thrifter and secondhand buyer which I believe is helpful. 

I work with clay and paper so my art is made using terrestrial materials. I save my clay waste so I am working on a viable way to reuse that. The current goal for my business and studio would be to remove all plastics. I have managed to make my packing 95% recyclable so if we can figure out a way to protect art prints from the elements then we will be set. 

Not perfect but the effort is there. 


An arm filled with colorful ceramic bangles


Esembly: How can people check out your work? Anything new coming down the pipeline?

Hadiya: I have some huge and exciting projects coming up and I am not cleared to speak about any of them yet. Lol. Personally, I will have periodic releases on Studio BPPCo. which include Ancestor Index work and handmade ceramic work. My goal is to create a series of lamps but we’ll see if I can fit them into my schedule. 

The best place to see what’s happening now is to visit my IG @blackpepperpaperieco and my online studio www.studiobppco.com. I post on my personal IG @hadiyawilliams from time to time as well.