Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Feats of Clay

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Feats of Clay

Article excerpt

With his whimsical pottery, playful design stores, and celebrity clientele, Jonathan Adler makes ceramics chic

Even by New York City standards Jonathan Adler is one of a kind. As a potter--not a children's book character but a guy who makes pottery--Adler shouldn't rate high on the glamour meter. But the 30-something designer has become a media darling, garnering praise from such style, arbiters as the ultrahip Wallpaper to the classic House & Garden.

Meeting Adler, it's not hard to understand why. Like his art, he's impish, sexy, and witty. But bring all this to his attention-plus his recent London gallop/show called "I Never Thought! I'd Be a Fucking Potter" and his celebrity clients such as Todd Oldham and Catherine Deneuve--and he'll quickly demur. "Not to diminish my accomplishments, but some degree it's who you know," Adler says from his East Hampton gateway, where he recently opened a Jonathan Adler shop, the sister store to his original eponymous SoHo digs. "I'm lucky enough to know a lot of journalists!"

Still, most people who see Adler's work trace his success to talent, not connections. "I was very lucky also," Iii, adds, "because when I first started [making ceramics] in '93 my aesthetic seemed to resonate with what was about to go on in fashion and interior design." His sensuous pieces did anticipate the return of the Modernist and Contemporary movements of the '50s through the '70s. For instance, one line of vases pays homage to George Nelson's classic bubble lamps, while another line cops the elongated, twisted soft-drink bottles popular in '70s novelty shops.

But Adler's biggest influence is fashion, as evidenced by the names of his "labels"--the Couture collection, which he does by hand, and the Pot-a-Porter selections, which are produced by artisans to whom he's taught his craft.

"Fashion's always been the great inspiration throughout my life," Adler explains. Fashion and its superstars, Coco Channel in particular, have been so influential that Adler's earliest pieces were inspired by Chanel's quilted handbags, There was even a pink pottery teapot, complete with the trademark interlocking C's.

"It was so good! I wish I had gone on with ii," Adler exclaims, explaining that an unappreciative and critical pottery professor told him to "bag it. …

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