a peek into our world
A PEEK INTO OUR WORLD
emily's mission: to bring style, craft, and happines to your everyday life. How? By creating a world of timelessly loveable characters and accessorizing their worlds with love.
It all started with painting. emily first gave the summer camp when she was 12 years old. Sh e was obsessed with paint, the moment she touched it, and the rest of his summer was spent painting by the lake in northern michigan. Paint, paint paint.
In college at Rhode Island School of Design she spent most of her time painting portraits of her friends. Her RISD paintings —Chanel inspired teapots and updated takes on Sevres urns—reflected her 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, she moved to Los Angeles. After three years as a waitress in the entertainment industry, she had a revelation. The approval of his pottery teacher meant nothing, and he had to do what he loved…which meant making functional art that she herself would want to buy. Luckily she was a terrible assistant and got fired from every job he ever had.
Emily started teaching classes at a variety of Los Angeles studios in exchange for free studio space. Soon, he had a collection of pots that made him happy, so she 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, she 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 herself 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. She fused a Scandinavian modern sensibility with the ethnic, handcrafted styles of Peru.
Emily opened his first store in Soho in 1998. Although painting and storytellling will always be her 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 emily'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 emily'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 her painting 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 a myriad of 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.
Born in farm town in New Jersey.
Tries pottery at summer camp while wearing a Rush concert tee.
Begs parents to buy him a wheel and kiln.
Spends entire adolescence in basement of family’s modern house throwing pots.
Allegedly studies semiotics and art history at Brown but actually spends all his time at RISD making pots.
Makes quilted line of pottery inspired by Chanel. Evil professor advises him to bag pottery and try a career in law.
Moves to New York and starts working at a talent agency.
Deeply depressed from three long years in the movie business (as anyone would be), quits and returns to the studio to recuperate. Tells parents he wants to be a potter and vows never to have a real job again. Concerned parents schedule an intervention.
Shows pots to Barneys and gets an order. Realizes he has to make the pots.
Orders pour in. Time to make the donuts.
At wit’s end from making the donuts, hooks up with Aid to Artisans, a non-profit organization which helps artisans in developing countries to make products for the American market. Flies to Peru and discovers paradise—a beautiful workshop by the sea with parrots and gardens and incredible artisans, creative explosion ensues.
Opens a store in Soho.
Adopts (with his partner Simon Doonan) a Norwich terrier named Liberace who is the light of their lives.
Millennium madness. Luckily Y2K has no impact on pottery wheels.
Bicoastal! Opens store in Los Angeles. Fervently hopes the cast of Friends will stop by. They don’t.
Launches a glamorous new furniture collection and takes on interior design projects. Starts fondling swatches as well as clay. Liberace turns three.
Develops raging obsession with waspy country club style—needlepoint, chinoiserie and acid green lacquer. Concerned Jewish mother schedules another intervention.
Creative odyssey continues. Branches out into new categories—bedding, towels, stationery—and designs The Parker Palm Springs hotel. Finds it increasingly difficult to make time to watch Law and Order.
Opens stores in Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, and on Madison Avenue (oodles of frequent flyer miles). Wildly expands furniture line with even more glamorous upholstered groups and casegoods. Writes first design book. Jewish mother proud, but Liberace remains aloof—he is, after all, a terrier…
Turns 40. Reluctantly relinquishes ingénue status. Suddenly needlepoint obsession becomes less ironic & more age appropriate.
Reality TV! Joins the Bravo family as lead judge on Top Design. Wanders the streets in outfits borrowed from the TV show hoping to be recognized. Alas……
Gets hitched to Simon… hopes his civil right to marriage will be upheld.
More stores, more stuff, more fun. Tapped to design a real life Malibu Dream House to celebrate Barbie’s 50th. Can finally make amends for decapitating sister’s Barbie in 1974.
Proud Mary keeps on rolling. Despite gnarly economy, spreads Style, Craft & Joy message with two new books, a bunch of new stores, and a slew of life-enhancing designs. Liberace (12 years old!) barks at Lollipop Peacock.
Selected to be Lacoste’s 6th Annual Holiday Collector’s Series artist, opened first international store in London with aim of world-wide domination…
Launches fabric line with Kravet and continues global take over with stores in Minneapolis, Dallas, Georgetown, Austin, Westport and more…
New launches include fashion accessories, men’s neckwear, bath & body and more. World domination continues with the addition of stores in Houston and Seattle.
Celebrating twenty years of style, craft, joy, and empire building. London and Boston love us so much they each get another JA store. Desert oasis opens in the form of Jonathan Adler Biltmore store in Arizona. Wholesale accounts launch in glamorous jet-set locations in Australia and Asia.