There’s tremendous power in art that joyously represents and genuinely uplifts the diversity in our communities. Black and queer-owned business CTOAN Co creates homeware designed to look like fat, Black, queer, gender-neutral bodies. CTOAN invites its customers and their loved ones to decorate their lives and homes with the magnificent, colorful candles and planters (among many other products) as a reminder of the beauty in their own skin.
Jodyann Morgan, a Black queer woman living in Wisconsin with her wife, their tortoise, and a rescue cat, is the heart and talent behind this wonderful business. Jodyann started CTOAN Co as a creative outlet during a painful time for the Black community, with a mission to turn fat bodies into art. Just four months later, she was able to quit her full-time job. It was a pleasure chatting to Jodyann about finding unexpected joy in experimenting with candle-making in her kitchen, her passion for celebrating the human form “in all of its glory”, and CTOAN’s consistent monetary donations to organizations that support marginalized communities.
Jodyann’s products unapologetically celebrate bodies that society tries to shame, dismiss, and erase. CTOAN’s candles are body positive, queer-affirming works of art “infused with joy, heart, and a whole lot of love”, so that you can bring all that energy into your life. This Pride month, TikTok honored Jodyann’s work on and off the platform by selecting her as one of their 15 Visionary Voices. INTO is proud to share more of her story and join them in showcasing the joy and purpose with which CTOAN radiates hope and healing to fat, queer, and Black people.
What does your business name mean? Is there a story behind it?
Ah, yes, my business name. It’s actually a silly story. When I decided to start CTOAN, I couldn’t figure out what to call the business. After my wife asked me for the [umpteenth] time what I was going to go with, I just blurted out in frustration, “I can’t think of a name!” And so, CTOAN was born, an acronym for Can’t Think of a Name.
Amazing! You’ve shared the incredible story of your journey from security guard to small business owner. What do you think has most contributed to your success?
I was just a regular person, working in security and making $15 an hour when I started pouring candles. It’s not a glamorous and ambitious story, I just needed an outlet during the protests that followed the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and found it in wax. My story and art really resonated with people, and they rallied around me, building a community that continues to support and cheer me on to this very day.
Everything from the shape to the skin tone of your products looks so realistic, complete with dimples on the thighs and hair detail on the vulva wax melts. Why did you choose to design them this way, and how does the production happen?
When I first started looking for fat candle molds on Etsy and around the internet, there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from. What was available was either highly sexualizsed or without the details that I wanted to include in my candles. But I had to start something. So, I picked what I could, building my business while I saved, and learned how to create my own molds, with my original designs, so that I could represent fat bodies in the way that I knew was desperately needed.
Today, our lineup is primarily our original designs, and we have seven more in the works! We’ve turned those designs into planters, cross stitch patterns, and and stickers. CTOAN was started with candles, but at its core, it’s a fat art business, focusing on home decor and accessories, which we’ll develop one by one with the same kind of thoughtful designs and life-like effect we’ve become known for.
What’s been the most meaningful or exciting feedback about your creations?
It’s been incredible to read the reviews, comments, and messages I get from people from all walks of life. My candles have over 1000 five-star reviews, and I’ve read every single one of them. Seeing the impact of my art and reading the heartfelt and joyous reviews has been one of the most satisfying and rewarding parts of my job. I never imagined that my little hobby would bring so much light and joy into the world, but I’m so grateful to be the catalyst for it.
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration for the new collections you create?
It’s a lengthy process, but we start with discussing the season, holidays, and themes that we’d like to think about. Once we settle on a theme, we start brainstorming different colors, designs, and scents. This is also when we started researching organizations that fit the theme that we’d like the collection to contribute to.
Could you tell us about the organizations you’re donating to with the sale of these products, and your connection to them?
Prioritizing and centering fat, queer, Black, trans, and other marginalized communities is the foundation of my business. While many large corporations make grand promises regarding social justice, their actions often fall short or lack follow-through altogether. Rather than relying solely on promises, my small business, which operates out of my basement, believes in putting our money where our mouth is.
We’ve donated to a slew of different nonprofits and mutual aid funds, including the Black Trans Travel Fund, Midwest Access Coalition, the Last Prisoner Project, Hetrick-Martin Institute, Transgender Law Center, as well to the family of Tyre Nichols, Rooted MKE, a Black children’s bookstore, and others. We try to match the organizations with the themes of our seasonal collections in some way.
Who are the queer artists and small businesses that you enjoy? Whose creative work inspires you?
I shared some of them in my Junetheenth Instagram post. Black Queer Magic makes handmade jewelry that I love (and own!). Chase My Creations makes social justice apparel and ships nation-wide. Griot Goods makes fat 3D printed planters, stickers and more. They adapted our planter design and have so much incredible art!
What’s next for CTOAN Co?
Candles were just the beginning! I recently launched a fat planter, adapted by Griot Goods, stickers, cross stitch patterns, and have so much more in the pipeline.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can view and purchase CTOAN Co’s products here. ♦
“There’s plenty of Black queer joy to be shown on-screen.”