Our 8 Days of Creativity series highlights the Jewish creators you should know about all year long.
Jonathan Adler is as devoted a potter as it gets. Being an artist, designer, author, and TV personality — you may know him from the show Top Design and more recently, Design Star — Adler has a packed resume with a seemingly endless number of projects under his belt. Plus, there are many more on the horizon. But his artistic journey began as just a young child at summer camp.
Adler was only 12 years old when he was exposed to pottery, and it was love at first glaze. Describing his previous self as "spiritually bankrupt," the artist soon found himself spiritually connected to mud. After a failed career in the movie business as a producer and talent agent, he began focusing on his pottery to pay the bills. Now, nearly 30 years later, Adler has a renowned business with over 100 employees, a loving husband, and adorable rescue pup, FoxyLady.
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"I have a limitless desire to make groovy things that will be memorable, wantable, and bring about lawsuits between siblings in the future," said Adler to Hunker. "So, that's kind of my lifelong quest. I always say if your heirs won't fight over it, we won't make it."
When inspiration strikes, Adler races to the studio to begin throwing clay. Motivation comes from a lot of different avenues for the potter, making it challenging for him to pinpoint just a few specific muses. "People always ask, 'Where do you get your inspiration?', and I think as a creative person, I find that to be the hardest question to answer. I have my interests, but there's an element to creativity that is divine. Things just come to you. It's not so much a deductive process as it is a process of keeping your eyes and mind wide open."
Aside from just beauty, Adler focuses intently on functionality. So, even if the potter creates a superficially alluring teapot, he also ensures that it pours just as beautifully as it looks. Adler carefully considers proportion and lines when it comes to any product, making pieces that one may call "smart" as well as "unimpeachably chic."
The artist believes that his Jewish upbringing has influenced this type of creative, yet intellectual work. "As you can probably tell, I'm very analytical about what I do and I think that's a very Jewish approach to life," he said. "[We are] people who wrestle with meaning."
Jewish influence has also physically stemmed into his work as fans have seen in his quirky, yet stunning menorah designs. There's an adorable dachshund and elephant, along with an edgy punk rock piece, and even an elegant peacock. The hand-sculpted and minimalistic designs are sleek with subtle patterns, and are finished with a soft satin matte glaze.
"I've always made some Judaica," explained Adler. "I love to create Judaica because, traditionally, whether it's a goblet in a Catholic church, or arcs in the synagogue, or just synagogues themselves, there's sort of a stylistic freedom when addressing religious design. It's a space to be completely free and attempt to soar."
As for Jewish representation in the design industry, Alder finds the number to be positively disproportionate to the community of people who identify as Jewish in the world. With Jewish people making up only 0.2% of the total world population, according to World Population Review, they are likely overrepresented in the world of design.
"I think there are tons of Jewish designers, artists, writers, and intellectuals. We're not dissimilar from gays in our creative representation, for whatever reason."
Adler has been keeping fans on their toes for years, so there's no doubt there will be even more beautiful pieces coming down the pipeline. For now, you can keep his winter collection in mind for the holiday season and give him a follow on Instagram to stay up to date on what's next.