Fashion Meets Art: Adler’s ‘design journey’ captivates

Famed potter and designer Jonathan Adler enthralled a crowd of 300 guests with a dynamic energy that matches his work at the Fashion Meets Art event last Wednesday afternoon at the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

“Simon raved to him about his visit to Vero Beach,” said Karen Loeffler, event co-chair with Melinda Cooper, referencing last year’s inaugural speaker, Simon Doonan, creative ambassador of Barney’s New York and Adler’s husband. “Jonathan’s people phoned and asked if we would like him to come to Vero Beach and we said we would love it!”

Event sponsors enjoyed some one-on-one time with Adler at a pre-presentation reception, and following his talk – held this year in the Holmes Great Hall to accommodate the large crowd – he graciously met with numerous other fans at another reception, where guests could also purchase Trunk Show selections.

“Last year was the first year that we did this program. We filled the auditorium and people loved it. It was unbelievable for Year One to be so successful,” said Brady Roberts, VBMA executive director/CEO in his welcome address, attributing the success of both events to two dynamic speakers and the leadership of the co-chairs.

“I’ll just tell you a little about moi,” said Adler captivating the audience with snippets of his “improbable design career journey.”

Against a backdrop of colorful slides of his work – including many displayed in his own stunningly beautiful homes – Adler said he describes his design style as “modern American glamour.” Modern, meaning “forward thinking, original and rooted in today and tomorrow”; American, capturing the “spirit of optimism and possibility”; and glamour, “standing out, being memorable, eccentric and making an impression.”

“The second I touched clay, it was just on,” said Adler, sharing that his lifelong pottery passion first began at summer camp. “I knew that clay would have to be in my future.”

A graduate of Brown University, he took classes at the Rhode Island School of Design and considered studying for an MFA but was told he had no talent. “So, that happened,” said Adler with a laugh.

He described his early life as “a complete screw-up, disaster,” until a pivotal moment at about age 27, when he received his first big production assignment for Barney’s – and also met Doonan.

Bit by bit, Adler branched out, and now creates a wide and eclectic collection of items for the home in “as many different mediums as possible.” He said he also works on various design projects, from residential to commercial, always attempting to “create a sense of place. I try to make everything very personal; very un-programmed.”

Commenting that ideas come to him when he opens up his mind, he said, “I’m always looking for inspiration in improbable places. Inspiration is not a rational thing.”

Adler said the journey from idea to product is a long and challenging one, adding, “I just really want to continue to be creative. I have all these merry collaborators helping me realize my vision. There’s a team of people doing this; I take all the credit,” said Adler, adding with a laugh, “and I want to keep that alive.”

Adler said he considers himself very lucky to have had such an incredible design journey, but that ultimately, family and friends are most important to him.

“Peace and love is what it’s all about; that’s me.”

Photos by: Denise Ritchie
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