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On April 7, designer Hadiya Williams decided to give herself a birthday gift. It would be a lesson in delayed gratification: She was embarking on a 100 Day Project (an Instagram challenge started by Elle Luna back in 2015, wherein participants spend the period making 100 of any given thing) as a means of kick-starting her creativity. “I hadn’t been creating much in the couple of weeks prior, since the start of quarantine,” she explains. Spurred by a focus on handwashing and all things cleaning related, she chose soap dishes. “This gave me something tangible to focus on,” she notes.

After landing on the bathroom accessory—the ceramic saucer she’d been using as a placeholder was overdue for retirement—Williams tossed out the rule book. “I tend to create as one would put together a puzzle, taking cues from shapes and space and color to make an object,” explains the designer, who owns Black Pepper Paperie in Washington, D.C. “I like to take a clean slate and just start cutting and molding.” As long as the vessel was big enough to hold a standard bar of soap, it would work. 

She started simple, getting a feel for the basic silhouettes with her favorite U-shaped design, before moving onto more complex forms: terracotta crescent moon combs, abstract geometric motifs, and even a boom box. “It’s so symbolic for those of us born in the late ’70s and raised on ’80s hip-hop—it’s a little quirky, a little funky, and nostalgic,” says Williams.  

So far she’s made 25 pieces, extending her deadline to the end of the year. Not all of them are functional—there was an incident with a clear gloss glaze that made the soap slide right off the dish—but that’s okay. For Williams the fun of getting experimental overrides the need for perfection. “There’s definitely freedom in taking an everyday utilitarian item and turning it into a beautiful handcrafted object,” she says. In her case, the learning curve yields a pretty great final product. 

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