Artist Hadiya Williams’ Evocative Work Bridges Past and Present

Her quest for connectivity shines through in her multimedia creations.

December 15, 2022

Hadiya Williams stands in front of Trace wallpaper, from her new collection with Schumacher.

David Land

Hadiya Williams likes to describe her work as “remembrances.” “Sometimes, it feels like I’ve already seen something in my mind, and then I just intuitively create it,” says the Washington, D.C.–based artist and founder of Black Pepper Paperie Co. Like memory itself, her graphic, abstract pieces—primarily ceramics and jewelry, but also cut-paper collage, textiles, and apparel—are both deeply personal and more broadly reflective of the world around her, refracted through the lens of time and place. “A lot of my work starts with West African art—Kuba cloths and mudcloths, pottery, woodwork, architecture—but I’m also pulling from the iterations of that aesthetic in the 1920s with the Harlem Renaissance, the way it incorporated Bauhaus, how those motifs came back in the 1970s.”

Vintage Thonet chairs upholstered in Threshold Printed Linen by Hadiya Williams for Schumacher (fschumacher.com) surround a Circular Steel Dining Table by Gerald Bland.

David Land

Her latest venture, a collection of wallcoverings and fabrics with Schumacher, digs even deeper into her own ancestral experience through the concept of wayfinding: There are nods to the constellations that led formerly enslaved people to freedom, the pathways forged during the African diaspora and Great Migration, even a certain Yellow Brick Road that figures at the center of the 1974 Broadway-musical- turned-film The Wiz. (Its swirling Milton Glaser–designed poster hangs in Williams’s own dining room.)

“I’m constantly searching for this connection to who I am, trying to connect the dots,” says Williams. “But it always leads back to the idea of home.”

  • Williams’s Threshold wallcovering evokes the concept of returning home; fschumacher.com.

  • Black Pepper Paperie Co.’s No. 4 print is based on a cut-paper collage; from $185, westelm.com.

  • West African art inspires many of Williams’s ceramics; mug by Black Pepper Paperie Co., studiobppco.com.

  • The Den Appliqué pillow by Hadiya Williams for Schumacher nods to 1960s mod, fschumacher.com