With a wink at convention and a nod to modernism, Adler's creations -- from whimsical fox figures and striped gourd-shaped vases to hexagon stacking dishes in punchy citrus colors and decorated with gold-leaf designs - have been furnishing homes for almost two decades.
And they've opened up new doors to the New York-based potter in home furnishings, fashion and interior design, as well as in television and publishing.
"How is this possible, you ask? Because everything Jonathan Adler does is seamlessly in line with Jonathan Adler," writes Deborah Needleman, editor of WSJ magazine and founding editor of Domino, in the forward of Adler's new book, "100 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life" (Sterling Signature).
You might say happy chic is to Adler as existentialism was to Albert Camus. It's both a philosophy and a way of life.
"Design and life should be glamorous, chic and always colorful," says Adler, who drops by the Skirball Cultural Center on Sunday for a free, ticketed discussion about his new book.
The son of lawyers, Adler, 46, grew up in a New Jersey farming town. He discovered pottery- making at a young age and he was smitten.
In the mid-'90s, while he was unemployed and living in New York, Adler showed his pots to a buyer from Barneys. Suddenly, his business was off and running.
"When I started I was a full-time production potter and I desperately needed help with manufacturing," he says.
It was through Aid for Artisans, a nonprofit organization that connects designers with artisans in developing countries to promote fair trade, that he found what is now his main workshop in Peru where his prototypes are mass produced.
Those pieces are now sold worldwide, including at Adler's eponymous online store and 23 brick-and-mortars across the U.S. and in London.
And in 2013, he'll be rolling out an affordable line for JCPenney.
Adler discussed his career via email:
Question: You were introduced to pottery-making as a Jewish kid growing up in New Jersey. What was it about pottery that hooked you?
Answer: I was 12 when I went to summer camp and encountered my first potter's wheel. I'm not a very spiritual person, but the second I put my paws in clay I felt a spiritual connection and knew that it was my calling. My first creation was so amorphous I don't think I can even put a name to it - it certainly left room for improvement.
Q: How did your Jewish upbringing impact your craft?
A: Even though it's very challenging to make a living as a craftsperson, there is an incredible tradition of Jewish artists.
Both of my parents were very creative and artistic people.
Q: What compelled you to move into home furnishings and fashion?
A: I've always been restless, and as much as I love pottery I've always wanted to do more.
Q: You and your husband, Simon Doonan (Barneys New York creative ambassador-at-large), will be visiting the Skirball on Sunday, the first full day of Hanukkah. Will you be celebrating it?
A: Yes, of course I celebrate Hanukkah. I'm lucky to be married to a goy so I also get to celebrate Christmas.
Q: And will you be lighting a menorah of your own design?
A: This year I'll be rocking my dachshund menorah.
Jonathan AdlerWhat: Hear the iconic potter, designer, author and TV personality discuss his latest book, "100 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life."
When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday; a designer trunk show featuring an assortment of Adler's housewares, sculptures and menorahs coincides with the appearance from noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.
Admission: Free; reservations recommended.
Information: 310-440-4500 or www.skirball.org
Sandra Barrera 818-713-3728 firstname.lastname@example.org
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