As a first-generation American, 38-year-old Osa Atoe never lost sight of her Nigerian roots. But she didn’t realize how Nigeria and the African continent would come to play a role in her most recent personal and business endeavor: pottery.
“I feel like I have always had that influence in my life, so I’m sure it’s showing up now in ways that I can’t even really make out,” Atoe tells 225 in a new feature in the current issue.
For years she had been a musician, playing in punk bands and traveling the country. Then about seven years ago, Atoe moved to New Orleans where in 2013 she took her first community pottery classes.
She had enrolled for fun, but she got really good, really fast.
“I got really obsessed with it and realized that I could put a lot of creative intensity in it, like I would with music,” Atoe says. “Pottery is a subtle thing. Like I’ll see my vases with gorgeous flowers in them, and the flowers are the point. The vase is playing this supportive role, which I’m really into.”
Pottery is now her full-time job, and her items are sold at events and boutiques in New Orleans and Baton Rouge as well as online at her e-store, Pottery by Osa. Her items have even been featured in Southern Living.
Atoe sells planters, vases, jars, mugs and other practical holders and kitchenware. It wasn’t until she began selling her products that she realized where some of the inspiration for her materials, such as the red clay she uses, might have come from.
“I spend a lot of time making dishware and functional items, which to me, harken back more to Western culture,” Atoe says. “I think where that African influence comes in is my decoration style or the color of the clay itself. The last time I went back to Nigeria, I realized that all of the earth there is red. All the clay there is red. All ancient Nigerian pottery is made with red clay.”