In the first episode of Conversations with Strong Women, we chat with Sequoyah Johnson, ceramic goddess (more on that later), Austin resident, and creator of the Coy Collection.
It doesn't take long for the colorfulness of her studio to become even brighter with the addition of her joyous laughter. Both her smiley creations and workspace share an untold depth for Johnson. The space was born out of The Coy Collection being thrust into the public eye in 2020. "I had no orders then I had 300…there was no smooth transition", shares the Oakland native highlighting the unseen demand. The conversation reveals her artistic beginnings, the intersection of her artistry and Blackness, and how her creativity is an ode to her younger self. In short, the gem dropping was on point, and this post could easily have been on many topics. However, Johnson's clarity around her joys and the source of her creativity, much like her work, is the encouragement piece our adulthood is missing.
Here are the takeaways:
1. If you disagree, don't go along. Create your own path.
Sequoyah admits the professional world is something she has no desire to fit into. She enjoys doing things her own way. Including blue font to email and being referred to as a ceramics goddess because "ceramicist" just doesn't fit. During the conversation, she drags the last syllable almost to emphasize the abrasiveness of the word on her spirit. Her self-description as an "unprofessional professional" makes a lot of sense as the video progresses. Still, it doesn't end with her personal preferences. Sequoyah acknowledges former professors would likely want to smash her current creations and obviously goes against the grain by leaning into her otherness. I'm sure we speak for everyone when saying we're grateful she stayed encouraged.
2. Lean into the meaningful.
Sequoyah is proof that talent is inherent but must be nurtured. The artist went to college to study her craft and admits to not pursuing art formally before that. She shares, "[ceramics is] less about expression and more about the clay as a medium…but as everyone may see, I do have a lot of personality…". To say her work is uniquely expressive would be an understatement. Another signature of hers, the cry baby, may seem odd at first, but the bust takes Johnson back to when she made what felt like an assembly line of them. It becomes easy to understand why the Coy Collection has such good energy - Johnson transmits joyful vibes throughout the creative process. Each creation is handmade, each creation as meaningful as the last and the one to come. Her solution when doubt creeps in from the back of her mind? She affirms, "this is what feels best for me," and moves on. An absolute queen!
3. Allow your evolution
While Sequoyah's smiley face mugs drew her into the spotlight, she's allowed space for her creativity to evolve as life does the same. While in school, she primarily played by the rules of her craft to meet the grade. Upon graduation, she looked for ways to develop her voice, including painting her creations as clay hues such as terracotta were not cutting it. Undeterred, she continued experimenting and creating authentically. The quality of rolling with the punches allowed her to weather the influx of orders received during summer 2020. As someone who thrives under pressure, Sequoyah credits her resilience in keeping her business afloat during that time. While Johnson's style will invariably evolve, you can rest assured that the Coy Collection will always be an outlet for joy. Sequoyah deeply believes "giving yourself permission to do the things that you want to do is the key to being happy ." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
4. See yourself in your community.
While introducing herself, Sequoyah shares that The Coy Collection creates ceramics to inspire people to feel good and spark joy in everyday routines. Her focus on inspiring others becomes even more palpable when you notice the heart-shaped lenses across her nose. That love-centered lens is mirrored as Johnson draws a line between her experiences as an art educator dealing with a troubled student and the everyday encounter with a rude adult. Where she sees an absence of positivity in communication, Sequoyah uses her art as a bridge. The same encouragement that fuels her spirit "stickering up for the say ahead" gets translated into her creations. The different colors, shapes, and sizes of smileys represent our variance in love, interest, and joys. While what brings us joy may be different, we are all looking for the same thing: acceptance while being ourselves.
Let's hope the Coy Collection continues to celebrate the things that bring us together as humanity for years to come. Look out for more installments from our Conversations with Strong Women series and learn more about other women entrepreneurs here.