Acclaimed New York City-based potter, designer and author Jonathan Adler is perfectly poised at the intersection of high-end design and subversive style. Since launching his first collection at Barneys New York two decades ago, Adler has built a cult-like customer base with his covetable, tongue-in-chic ceramics and interior accoutrements. He correctly refers to his gorgeously recognizable design aesthetic as “modern American glamour.” Bullseye. Checking in on the celebrated designer’s views on drug iconography and the evolution of cannabis paraphernalia was sheer fun.
Cannabis Now: Where does your passion for design come from?
Jonathan Adler: Probably my parents. My dad was a lawyer who spent every spare moment painting and my mother’s ebullient sense of color continues to inspire me to this day.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
My weird brain. Inspiration is everywhere—just keep your eyes and your mind wide open.
What do you love most about your work?
I love when I’ve created something that doesn’t look like it was designed; it looks like it was uncovered. I think my best pieces don’t look like they’re designed; they just look like they’re supposed to be that way.
What are your biggest passions?
I’d say my husband, Simon Doonan; but I suppose his diminutive stature disqualifies him. [Laughs]
From psychedelic-themed wall tapestries and “chill-pill” cushions to brass pill boxes and ornate pottery, the normalization of drugs has been a recurring theme through numerous collections. What started this journey?
It’s actually not about courting controversy or normalizing drugs. The truth is, I’m the cleanest living person around. Drug iconography allows me to explore—vicariously—my hedonistic side. I always say I live clean but decorate dirty.
What inspires you to push boundaries even further?
I just make what I want to make and hope that people enjoy it as much as I do.
How did your 2019 Higher Standards collab come about?
When Higher Standards approached me about working together, all it took was one look at who they are and what they do to realize they’re not like the headshops of yore. They’re irreverent and glamorous, two things I try to express in my own work.
How would you describe the collection?
Saucy, sassy and subversive.
You’ve said that you made pottery bongs as a teenager. Any plans to make them now?
No plans, but never say never!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I’ve never met a baked good I didn’t like.
Design and sustainability are tied at the hip as of late. How important is it to you to combine the two?
I strive to make stuff that you’re going to keep forever and never throw out.
You’ve said that your work is often a reflection and commentary on popular culture. In that regard, what do luxury drug-themed accessories say?
Pot paraphernalia used to be the antithesis of chic—pewter goblins, crystal dragons—and it’s time it got a complete makeover. If it’s going to sit out on your cocktail table, it might as well look good. Cannabis accessories should be as well designed as the rest of your home.
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.