Jonathan Adler's pottery teacher once told him that he didn't have any talent. Boy, did he prove her wrong.
The prolific potter has evolved from selling his wares at Barneys New York in 1994 to heading a home decor empire with a chain of 17 hip stores, including his latest in Uptown Minneapolis. Adler's résumé also includes a judging stint on Bravo's "Top Design" and authoring several decorating books, including "Jonathan Adler on Happy Chic Colors."
The color-crazy designer's new boutique on Lake Street includes vignettes demonstrating how to create an Adler attitude at home, using his signature bold patterns and splashes of juicy colors. We chatted with Adler about being a "maximalist," Andy Warhol influences and the one color you'll never see in his collections.
Q Why did you pick Minneapolis for your latest Jonathan Adler store?
A Minneapolis is one of those legendary markets with lots of creative people. The Uptown area felt right for my products -- there's a lot of groovy people walking around. And I've always loved Prince.
Q Describe your signature look.
A A mix of style, craft and joy. I'm committed to creating chic design that's highly want-able. Craft comes from the fact of my background as a potter. Joy because I love color, and I hope there's an uplifting side to the work I create.
Q Your designs range from whimsical porcelain pottery to mod Soho-loft-style sofas. What are some of your influences?
A I would definitely say that I am a modernist. I grew up in a modern house, and I've always appreciated the design vocabulary of modernism. And I love Andy Warhol. His approach to art and culture has had a tremendous impact on me, and I'm a huge fan.
Q Why does a lot of your merchandise have a retro vibe?
A I was born in 1966, so I have a natural affinity for '60s and '70s design. I think there's an optimism to that period of design. But I would say that a retro vibe is only one of my influences. I strive to create work that has many frames of reference -- Modernism, Pre-Columbian, Art Deco and a distinct and personal character.
Q Why is your motto "If your heirs won't fight over it -- we won't make it."
A We try to make the heirlooms of the future. The Dora Maar porcelain vase with faces all around it has a sense of permanency and history. I was lucky enough to grow up with a grandmother like Auntie Mame. When she died, my brother and sister and I wanted to get our paws on her things. I hope there are future family spats over my stuff.
Q Pottery launched your home decor business. What role does it play in your boutiques?
A The pottery starts its journey in my Soho studio and is the foundation of my collections. The stores have a broad selection from groovy, poppy bright mugs to some really nifty white porcelain animals.
Q How did your product line expand from pottery?
A When I opened my first pottery store in 1998, I thought that my pots should be on a table, so I started making lamps. Now I have a whole range of lighting, from great twinkling chandeliers to nifty poppy glass lamps.
Q What piece of furniture is a big seller?
A My Lampert sofa is the most popular. It's emblematic of the spirit of my collection and is based on classicism, with a definite modern update and lots of glamour.
Q What "happy chic colors" are in the spring collection?
A I always use a lot of white with pops of bold color. I'm mad for orange, and I've never said no to turquoise and there's always a bit of twinkling glamour from gold and silver finishes. And I like a dollop of chocolate brown and warm wood in the mix.
Q What's a color you're not crazy about?
A You will never see mauve in my collections. I find it to be a sad color.
Q How can people blend your furnishings with what they already have?
A My collection is really accessible. You can go whole hog and do your whole house or just add little bits of punctuation. A bold throw pillow can bring a room to life, or a nice porcelain vase can anchor any table. I'm a big advocate of more table lamps -- they bring life to a dark corner in a room. I'm always road-testing my stuff in my Manhattan apartment.
Q Why do you describe yourself as a maximalist?
A It's funny because when it comes to designing objects, I'm a minimalist. I create simple pieces that use the minimum amount of gesture necessary. When I decorate, I'm more of a maximalist. I like to fill my house with stuff I love and I believe that an abundance of great stuff around you will make you happy -- so don't hold back.
Q You've been phenomenally successful. What advice can you give others just starting out?
A When I was at the Rhode Island School of Design, my pottery teacher told me that I had no talent. I joined a studio and started making the pots I wanted to make without trying to please my pottery teacher. It led to a creative explosion. A lot can be said for being told you can't do something.
Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619