written by:
May 17, 2011
Originally published in Rethink Recycling

Seventeen years ago, Jonathan Adler wasn’t a brand, he was a one-man full-time pottery production operation—“making, glazing, firing, packing, and shipping every single piece I made.” After successfully pitching an initial order for Barneys, he expanded his empire to eponymous shops in major cities across the United States and an online catalog featuring goods that range from ceramic rhinoceros boxes to wool area rugs to lamps and candleholders. Developing his business savvy alongside his ever-expanding collection was an organic process for Adler, one that has allowed the potter to grow with his company. “Getting out from behind the wheel has enabled me to be infinitely more creative,” he says.

Pottery by Jonathan Adler
Three of Adler's ceramic designs.
2 / 3
Jonathan Adler showroom
Jonathan Adler's showroom.
3 / 3
Designer Jonathan Adler making pottery

No-access pass:
I was an oddity in the small New Jersey farm town I grew up in, which was actually great in its own way. It’s important to not have access sometimes—it gives 
you time to think.
Eternal endurance:
I’ve had a million setbacks along the way—–from kiln fires burning down buildings to shipping disasters—that should have put me out of business, or at least left me lying in the fetal position on my bed for a few days. Luckily, though, I’ve never for one second thought that I had any other option than to just keep going.
Mile-high club:
I would love to rebrand an airline. It would be so fun to bring back a bit of the glamour of travel.
Rereading:
Beautiful People, by my much-better half, Simon Doonan. I read voraciously, but I keep going back to this one by Simon.
The importance of being earnest:
My design process is not necessarily kicky and optimistic, and when it comes to my work, I am deadly serious. I live, eat, and breathe what I make; I can lose sleep over the silhouette of a pot not being exactly right.
Au courant:
I’m a slightly schizophrenic designer and craftsperson, but everything I produce shows my hand. I’m inspired by the typical fashion-design example, where every season has a different inspiration. It just seemed to be a way to be more creatively prolific.

Jonathan Adler showroom
Jonathan Adler's showroom.

Appreciation:
It’s the nicest thing on earth if someone comes up to me and says, “Every day I drink out of a mug you designed.”
Pink-slip muse:
When I was first starting out, I had been fired from every job I ever had. The good thing about being unemployable is that it gives you a sink-or-swim mentality. When I began making pots, I figured someday I’d be lucky enough to hawk my wares in a rain-soaked craft fair, but I also realized if I didn’t make a go of it I was really screwed.
Overstimulation:
I’m a multi-tasking freak who needs a lot going on to get anything done. My pottery studio is in the same space as my office, and it’s mayhem. I can finish a meeting then duck out to make a pot.
Pottery by Jonathan Adler
Three of Adler's ceramic designs.

Making lemonade:
I believe that adversity and negativity can be an amazing fuel towards personal success.
Prototypical behavior:
I have a lot, a lot, a lot of products in my office. Squillions. Not to get all Pollyanna-ish, but here’s the deal: The main reason I’ve worked so hard is because nothing makes me more excited and happy than when I get in a new sample of one of my designs and it’s fantastic. That is an addictive high. It’s what I strive for.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016