Go Behind-the-Scenes at Jonathan Adler’s New Soho Shop

Above: A view inside the new Jonathan Adler showroom.

Come one, come all. The hand-knotted, multicolor carpet has been rolled out, and you are cordially invited to step into the glamorous world of Jonathan Adler at the new Atelier Adler in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. It’s a whimsical wondrium for interior design addicts not only interested in getting their retail therapy fix but also a glimpse into Jonathan’s artistic ceramic process—from wheel to kiln to your shopping basket.

The shop is a portal to surreal fantasy: a riot of ’70s-inspired acrylic baubles, irreverent pop art, zany wicker-woven animals, and many, many rainbow-colored tchotchkes. An ashtray (a pair of lips) sits on a cocktail table beside a set of cannabis-scented candles, all guarded by a giant photographic print of Lady Daphne Cameron on a tiger skin rug. It’s an uproarious scene, shifting effortlessly between high and low brow. But of course, this is what you can expect from a Jonathan Adler store—this being one of 11 retail spaces worldwide that tout the JA aesthetic.

Courtesy Jonathan Adler

However, this store, which opened May 29, offers a new shopping experience. Beyond the carefully assembled display fixtures and the floor-to-ceiling wall of polished vases, customers can peer into a glass window to see Adler in his true element: donning his trademark white skinny jeans, his hands covered in clay, throwing at the wheel. “It gives you a window into how all those pretty pieces actually begin,” says Adler. “It’s a real working pottery studio with all the mess and mayhem that that entails. And it’s the heart and soul of this whole business.”

Unfinished vases of various sizes (and a few spidery-looking objects, of course) line the shelf of a back wall, some ready for the kiln and others unfinished prototypes. A large table stretches across the room, where Adler’s two pottery artisans—Eddie Vera and Jack Mitchell—meticulously whittle blocks of wet clay with sculpting tools. A side door leads to a massive kiln that Adler brought in, a 2,000-pound giant that necessitated flooring reinforcement. The entire scene unfolds beneath a series of fluorescent lights that mimic Walter de Maria’s permanent conceptual installation The Broken Kilometer located across the street—a tribute to what Adler calls his “temple.”

jonathan adler atelier soho pottery studio

A view to the eclectic wares for sale. The mezzanine level (above) houses work spaces.
Ethan Barber

The hybrid space also houses the namesake brand’s headquarters, a photo studio, and a mezzanine-level lounge with a clubhouse-meets-office-meets-funfair vibe. It’s the first time everything-Jonathan Adler—from creation to commerce—resides in one place, something Adler says he’s always fantasized about. “It’s been amazing seeing the creativity that has already ensued with human interaction and reminding people just exactly what the hell we’re all doing every day,” he says.

Adler says the atelier is his “love letter to SoHo,” a place that has long been part of his creative journey. “In the ’70s, my dad used to drive us in from our farm town three hours away, and we’d spend all day at the galleries in SoHo,” he says. “He was a fabulous painter, and I was a budding potter. I was probably the only 12-year-old whose dream weekend was spent in art galleries. The smell of oil paint is my Proustian madeleine.”

jonathan adler atelier soho pottery studio

A stylish staff lounge area.
Ethan Barber

Years later in the 1990s, Adler took studio space in SoHo at Downtown Potters’ Hall, a pottery collective in a dilapidated loft that he shared with six other potters. “I paid $250 a month for a 10-by-10-foot space,” Adler says. “Had the fire inspector come to visit, we would have been shut down in seconds because it was so ramshackle and subcode. But I didn’t care. I was living la vie bohème, SoHo style.”

The housewares guru, now 55, has since built a nearly $100 million worldwide design business, written a book, and been a judge on HGTV. But amid his success, he hasn’t forgotten the place where it all began. “Whenever I needed help, whenever I had ‘potter’s block,’ whenever I needed a perfect shirt, whenever I needed inspiration, it was SoHo to the rescue,” Adler says. “Now I hope to return the favor.”

With characteristic flair, no doubt.

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