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Q & A with Jonathan Adler

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To call Jonathan Adler prolific is an understatement. The New York City-based ceramicist and designer long ago moved beyond just vases and tabletop accessories to put his signature cool and cheeky mark on everything from needlepoint pillows to handbags and hotel design, debuting new creations at a fast and furious pace. To produce his latest series of lighting designs, however, he partnered with the esteemed North Carolina lighting company Robert Abbey. Adler’s chandeliers, pendants, sconces, and floor and table lamps offer a mod spin on retro-inspired designs, in the process creating new, timeless icons for the 21st-century. Here, Adler sheds light on his partnership, his favorite fixture (of the moment), and what’s next for his company.

YLighting: What drew you to working with Robert Abbey specifically? How did your collaboration come about?
Jonathan Adler: Robert Abbey is passionate about lighting. As a craftsperson, I appreciate people who are as dedicated to craft and quality as I am.

YL: You began your career designing fine pottery. Today your creative energy spans multiple product categories. Is there anything you find different with regard to designing lighting as opposed to other products?
JA: Everything I make has to be functional and good-looking; a pot has to hold flowers, a teapot has to pour tea—all while adding style, craft, and joy to your life. Lighting has to look as good when it’s turned off as it does when it’s turned on. I believe good lighting not only makes your space looks better, it makes you look better.

YL: The Parker, Sputnik, and Ventana collections you’ve designed are extremely popular. We were wondering if there are any collections or items that you are especially enamored with?
JA: This is a real Sophie’s choice, but my current fling is with the Ipanema Multi-Boom Pendant. It’s fresh and groovy, the arms create a mod linear shape, and the way that light reflects off the nickel is twinkly and alluring.

YL: Can you give us some insight as to how you collaborate with Robert Abbey, specifically related to the design process?
JA: Everything I make begins in the pottery studio, even lighting. It’s where I work out all my ideas. I’m fortunate to work with an incredibly talented team of people at my headquarters. We call it the Fantasy Factory, and turn my ideas into drawings and plans. From there, it’s endless rounds of sampling and tweaking. Nothing is ever right the first time. That’s the beauty and challenge of design.

YL: Without giving away your trade secrets, is there anything on the drawing board that you are excited about and can share with us?
JA: I’m designing a hotel that I’m excited about, and we’re about to open our second store in London. I’m a restless designer—the more I make the more I want to make.
Shop All Jonathan Adler for Robert Abbey >>

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Jennie Oh

The most difficult part of Jennie's role as Merchandise Manager for YLighting is deciding exactly which pendant she loves the most for her mid-century Oakland condo. When not making design decisions she and her 3 year old son compose songs to sing to the family's new baby.