Written by Meagan Alford
Laura Johnson answered the door with her goldendoodle, Willow, resting on her hip. She invited me into her home in historic St. Elmo, and took me into her studio. Each wall was filled with plans, pots waiting to be fired, and finished creations of her own design.
We ventured down a staircase into her back yard where we sat down to throw a stick for the dogs, and she talked to me about her business, Slow Drawl Studios — a name her partner, Dylan, helped her coin because of her southern roots, and her love for the outdoors in East Tennessee.
Johnson only launched Slow Drawl Studios in 2019, but has expanded her business enough that she is able to support herself with her creations alone.
It was at a market in July of 2019 that Johnson began selling her pieces. Her shop includes delicate, thoughtful, and handmade ceramic pieces. A few of which include: mugs, incense domes, miniature sculptures, and custom made dinner sets of bowls and plates.
She says her earliest memory of working with clay was when she was in elementary school, and would later go on to major in art with a focus on ceramics at Lee University.
“I’ve been obsessed with it ever since,” she says.
Johnson says she dove head first into selling her art to make a living because working jobs in a neurotypical geared society proved difficult for her. In February of this year, Johnson was diagnosed with autism, and being her own boss has proved especially successful for her.
“For those with autism, communicating is difficult, so work was hard for me,” she says, “until I started working for myself.”
The Tennessee Small Business Development Center is a resource that Johnson believes helped her to get where she is today. They offer free online business classes, of which Johnson has taken and completed all of them.
“It’s really an amazing resource for people who are wanting to start their own small business — and it’s free,” she says.
Johnson also offers her own advice, saying that it’s smart to separate your finances.
“It’s really important that you have a separate bank account for your personal finances and your business,” Johnson says. She established enough funds by doing this, so that she was eventually able to pay herself.
Looking forward, Johnson says that she is trying to develop a three, five, and ten year plan for her business. We ended our conversation with two things that Johnson believes to be important advice. “If there are two things that I would tell someone who is trying to start their own business is ‘know when to ask for help, and you don’t have to do it all in one day,” she says.
For now, she says that she plans to stay in Chattanooga, and continue to do the work that she loves — away from any rules or expectations.
Meet The Storyteller
Meagan Alford is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is a Creative Writing major, with a minor in Communications. Her strengths include bringing people’s stories to life on the page and leaving readers with something they will remember. She specializes in works of creative nonfiction, and short stories. She is patient, observant, and works well in teams of other like minded creatives. She enjoys coffee and long discussions with friends on her front porch in Chattanooga, TN. If you have a story that you would like thoughtfully and carefully written, please contact Meagan Alford via email at email@example.com.