Jonathan Adler has managed to single-handedly turn his passion for a humble craft into a multimillion dollar home furnishings empire. From the time he was 13, there was nothing Jonathan liked better than working with clay. But as he got older, Jonathan says he was discouraged from making pottery his career. "Most notably, I was discouraged by my pottery teacher in college," he says. "I went to her and I said, 'You know, do you think I have any talent? Could I do it?' And she was, like, 'No, I'm sorry. No talent.'"
Instead, Jonathan took a job as a talent agent after graduation. "I felt like an imposter because the true me was a potter," he says. Finally, 14 years ago, Jonathan summoned the courage to quit his job and make pottery full time. "Forget about that stupid teacher," he says. "I'm going to make the stuff I want to make and make it just for me."
Today, Jonathan has eight stores across the country and his products are also sold in department stores like Barney's. Did Jonathan ever imagine this kind of success? "I think my idea of success at the time would have just been hawking my wares at a rain-soaked craft fair," he says. "I wanted to just say something with pots. It never occurred to me in a ba-gillion years that I would get to do all this stuff."
Jonathan says he has one overall intention behind everything he designs. "I feel your home should make you happy," he says. "The real intention is to make stuff that's very personal, very idiosyncratic, and very uplifting."
When Jonathan started making pottery for a living, he made every single piece. "It was very, like, 'time to make the doughnuts,' if you remember that. I had to just make pot after pot," he says. Today, Jonathan still designs every single piece in his collection and makes the prototypes, but he hires artisans in developing countries to bring his creations to life through an organization called Aid to Artisans.
So is pottery still a calming activity for Jonathan? "Not really," he says. "People always ask me if it's calming and I say, you know, maybe when you're sort of doing it as a hobbyist, but when you're a production potter, not so calming."
Jonathan and Oprah share a Ghost-like moment when he shows her how to throw a pot. "I can understand why you like this," Oprah says. "It's very soothing."
Jonathan says the secret behind his success is simple—passion. "I think that the key is having an authentic passion and not having, like, a business plan and a whole, you know, grand scheme behind the whole thing," he says. "For me, it was just doing what I wanted to do."
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