Potter, designer and author Jonathan Adler launched his namesake brand after leaving his day job to pursue his first love: pottery. In 1993, Barneys bought his collection of pots, and five years later, he opened his first store in Soho. Jonathan’s desire to design all the bits one needs to create a flawlessly chic home led to more and more. Today, we are a design company with over 25 stores worldwide, a thriving e-commerce site, and a wholesale business boasting over 1,000 locations globally. Pottery continues to be core to our business and our commitment to impeccable craftsmanship and luxury is reflected in all we do. Our offerings span home accessories, decorative objects, tabletop collections, bedding, bath accessories, candles, furniture, rugs, pillows, lighting, fashion accessories and more. And our design work can be found in top restaurants, hotels and houses around the world. We are dedicated to bringing style, craft and joy to your life.
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Jonathan’s mission: to bring style, craft, and joy to your life. How? By creating a foundation of timelessly chic furniture and accessorizing with abandon.
It all started with pottery. Jonathan first gave the wheel a spin at summer camp when he was 12 years old. He was obsessed with clay the moment he touched it, and the rest of his summer was spent in a clay-spattered Rush concert tee. Clay clay clay.
In college at Brown University he allegedly studied semiotics and art history…but he spent most of his time at the nearby Rhode Island School of Design making pots. His RISD pottery—Chanel inspired teapots and updated takes on Sevres urns—reflected his interests in pop culture, early Hip Hop bling, contemporary art, and fashion. When his hippie-dippy professor got a look at his stuff, she gave him a bit of career advice: “You have no talent. Move to New York and become a lawyer.”
And so, he moved to New York City. After three years as an assistant to various tyrants in the entertainment industry, he had a revelation. The approval of his pottery teacher meant nothing, and he had to do what he loved…which meant making pots that he himself would want to buy. Luckily he was a terrible assistant and got fired from every job he ever had.
Jonathan started teaching classes at Mud, Sweat ‘n’ Tears in New York City in exchange for free studio space. Soon, he had a collection of pots that made him happy, so he called up the buyers from Barneys New York. They took a look at his work, loved it, and placed an order. And so, he spent his pretty years as a production potter—rollerblading to the studio at 6am, making a hundred mugs, and coming home to fall asleep. Blaze, glaze, pack, and ship: He did it all.
After doing this seven days a week for three years, he hooked up with Aid to Artisans, a non-profit organization devoted to helping artisans in developing countries by connecting them with designers in America. They asked him to come to Peru to check out a workshop that could make his work. It was a match made in heaven. By freeing himself from production, Jonathan was able to dream. While in Peru, he fell in love with South American textiles and started designing pillows, throws, and rugs. He fused a Scandinavian modern sensibility with the ethnic, handcrafted styles of Peru.
Jonathan opened his first store in Soho in 1998. Although pottery will always be his first love, his desire to design all the bits one needs to create a flawlessly chic home became more and more difficult to ignore. First, he designed a few innocent throw pillows, then the sofas on which to plunk those pillows, then the side tables with which to flank those sofas, then the lamps to light it all up…you get the picture. Each piece, from a vase to a bench, is fueled by Jonathan’s various points of inspiration: Mid-Century Modern design, Brancusi’s mix of guts and elegance, Pop Art, global pop culture, fierce femmes, luxe lifestyles.
Now Jonathan’s design world is a bit broader than it used to be. In addition to making things he also makes spaces—he works as an interior designer on hotels and restaurants and houses. But his pottery beginnings are ingrained in our company’s culture. Jonathan’s office sits in between a giant kiln and a working pottery studio. Our sprawling headquarters occupy a full floor in Soho—we call it the Fantasy Factory (a cheeky nod to Warhol’s Factory). Here, Jonathan and his collaborators slave away, problem-solve, have fun, and most importantly, design and sculpt the prototypes for our pottery by hand.
As lawless as our Fantasy Factory may sound, it’s actually quite serious. It’s a place for creative minds to discuss design and craft, and create things that will (we hope!) become iconic designs. We believe that elegance makes fun possible. Once you have an elegant foundation, you can truly start to play. But, take note: This does not mean that there are not at least 10 dogs in our Headquarters at all times. We really love dogs.
Today, Jonathan’s work spans myriad categories, from furnishings to fashion. In less than 20 years he’s opened nearly 30 stores. With his serious design philosophy and colorful sense of optimism, he’s built a robust ecommerce site and a successful worldwide wholesale business with over 1,000 locations. His guiding motto, “If your heirs won’t fight over it, we won’t make it,” reflects his commitment to impeccable craftsmanship and irreverent luxury. And our current flagship store? It sits across the street from that little store with a dream from 1998.