Thursday, March 08, 2007

Jonathan Adler of Top Design

I knew Johnny Adler when he was an unknown potter at MUD, SWEAT & TEARS--the same small studio where I started my ceramics career. Now, of course, he is the head judge on TOP DESIGN--and is also celebrated for the mod shapes, vibrant colors and organic eye-popping patterns that are the signature of his work today.

His business encompasses seven retail outlets in Soho & the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Los Angeles, East Hampton, Miami, San Francisco, and Chicago; a thriving interior design business, responsible for the re-design of the Parker Palm Springs hotel in modernist style with a comfy residential feel; a burgeoning licensing business under the brand name Jonathan Adler Happy Home that's expanding into bedding, bath accessories, stationary, dinnerware and table linens at accessible prices; and he continues to sell his wares to high-end boutiques around the world. Jonathan's “happy, handcrafted, and luxe” designs for the home have become a part of American pop-culture, appearing on the sets of the “Today Show,” “Sex and the City,” “Will & Grace,” and “The Apprentice.” In November 2005, Jonathan launched his first book My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living, which combines his wittiness and enthusiasm for creating happy homes everywhere with serious design.


Not that I'm jealous or anything.

Oh Johnny-I knew ye when you used to tape your designs off on your pots with masking tape. When those who didn't understand, mocked you for your precision. "Is Adler making that striped bottle AGAIN?" They would ask. But these were the same people who held me in such disregard for my own sense of commercialism. I still remember walking into the retail space of the studio to see a class of beginners gathered around a pitcher I had made while the instructor used it as an example of how NOT to attach a handle.

I can remember working right beside him at a round canvas table. But I can't remember looking or commenting on his work, and I can't remember him looking or commenting on mine. Which may be why we both went on to leave the studio; both of us were very focused early on.

For the first few years-before he made it REALLY BIG--because he is REALLY REALLY FREEKING BIG-- not that, again, I am jealous or anything, I would see him at the NY Gift Show and I would say "Can you and Simon have dinner with us one night?" And he would always say "yes." But we never did. We never deeply connected and our paths diverged greatly even though we both began in NY in the same place, shared many similar experiences, and were often the only ones left working long after the studio closed.

When you look in the dictionary under ceramic designer-it is Jonathan's picture you'll find, wearing something natty and holding something that transcends simple pottery.

I had one shot at TV; a show on one of the cable networks was doing a Crafters Challenge and I went all stoked to the audition. They put a pipe cleaner in front of me and an egg timer and told me to design a piece of jewelry and I froze. Just froze. Ultimately I think I connected both ends of the pipecleaner and called it a choker. I could have hung myself with it-they were not impressed. Hours later, I came up with seventeen different brilliant ideas for pipecleaner jewelry which haunt my dreams to this day. I could not take the pressure.

So hats off to you Johnny Boy. I hope you think of me when you stroll past a little mom and pop in LA (if you ever do veer off of Rodeo) and see an Instant Human Just Add Coffee Mug. I am happy making stuff that ends up in someone's kitchen sink. Call me on your way to the Hamptons this summer and let's have dinner, eh?

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