I was recently contacted by the winner of Cottonelle’s blogger contest, Stacy Wichelhaus of Hello Cupcake, and asked if I might be interested in featuring an interview. But not just any interview – an interview with designer Jonathan Adler. Yes – THE Jonathan Adler.
Stacy asked Jonathan some really juicy questions about overcoming fears, living a creative life, and a whole lot more. He even references The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Love that. I’ll let the two of them take it away…
Fear of failure is a paralyzing emotion that oftentimes holds one back from pursuing what they are most passionate about.
Stacy here from Hello Cupcake! I’m recently back from a trip to New York City where I had the opportunity to meet and interview well known designer Jonathan Adler in his SoHo loft. In choosing what to ask the “Happy Chic” designer with stores across the US, his third book in production and having collaborated with an impressive list of big name companies, I wanted my questions to resonate with people who are looking to kick start a creative career or act on their ideas no matter how scary it may seem. Having an Etsy shop and recently quitting my full time job at a San Francisco nonprofit to start a boutique public relations agency I wanted to talk about fears, failures and successes in the pursuit of following ones creative passions.
Stacy Wichelhaus: At 27, you vowed never to have a “real job” again. What led you to this leap and how did you overcome your fear of failure to do this?
Jonathan Adler: Lucky for me, I didn’t have to make a choice. I once burnt down an office building from a kiln fire and I got fired from every job I ever had. I was totally unemployable, so I knew I needed to figure this out. Sink or swim. I honestly think there have been so many times along that way that I should have sunk but because there was a sheer sense of panic to make this work I did.
SW: Have there been any words of advice given to you early on in your career that have stuck with you?
JA: When people ask me for advice I usually say that there is a lot to be said for “panicked stick-to-itiveness”. I look at someone like my husband (Simon Doonan) and I who have both been doing what we do for quite some time. Neither of us has bounced around. He has been at Barney’s as a window dresser for 30 years, and I’ve been here for 18 years. I think there is a lot to be said for staying the course.
SW: How did you handle your nay sayers and doubters?
JA: When I was in school, I had a pottery teacher who I went to for advice and told her that I wanted to be a potter and she told me that I had no talent and couldn’t do it. I think it’s good to have someone who doubts you. Having the support of your friends and family is also important. My family has helped me get through some really tough times.
SW: Did you ever have a moment early on in your career where you were asked yourself “what the heck am I doing”?
JA: Every day. Every single day. I can’t count the number of times I would just lie in the fetal position on the bed. The numbers of screw ups that have happened over the course of my career are of such monumental scale and capacity. I’ve had so many of those terrible moments. I think doing your own thing, especially when it’s as weird a thing as a creative business, it’s a preposterous undertaking and you have to be slightly delusional and you need to fully believe that something as crazy as what you’re trying to do can work even though there is a possibility that it may not. You need to be incredibly resilient and hard working. But don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. I wish people weren’t as hard on themselves as I was on myself.
SW: You’ve collaborated with a wide variety of industries. How has this helped you to expand as a designer?
JA: For me, my whole career has been improbable and I would say that I’ve always welcomed design challenges. Collaborations are something that people are doing these days. Once I understood what I was trying to say with my work, I thought that happy chic idea could be applied to so many areas and it made a lot of sense to take my design vocabulary and the spirit of what I do and spread it out. I love designing, it’s what makes me happy and I ALWAYS welcome a challenge!
SW: You and your husband, Simon Doonan are both creative. How do you fit two creative people into one household and where does Liberace (their Norwich Terrier) have a say?
JA: In Simon and my case, we’ve been together a very long time. We do things thoughtlessly and naturally and we’ve always been on the same page with one another. I feel that in a way, creativity is mostly logic anyway. It takes work and analysis and I think Simon and I both fully understand that. He’s a window dresser and a writer and you know the saying ‘writing is rewriting’? I think it’s so true. I can have an idea in my head of what something is going to be and then when I get it back it’s a disaster. So it’s the same thing. If you’ve seen that episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, it’s like when Sheree decided to start a clothing line and when she got the first prototype back she was like “this isn’t what I thought” and I’m like “hello, welcome to any design undertaking. It’s never what you think it’s going to be it’s always a disaster. It’s only on step 10 after you’ve been rigorously analytical and covered all the issues that anything can come to fruition as you hoped or imagined that it would. Once you surrender to that idea in whatever you do, whether it be medicine or a creative pursuit that’s when you end up being successful and that’s something that both Simon and I agree on”. And Liberace is an adorable idiot, he’s really dumb but oh so cute!
Stacy Wichelhaus is the owner of Hello Cupcake Public Relations – a boutique public relations firm for the Wedding Industry. Stacy is also a stationery designer for Hello Cupcake Creations and she, her husband and their furry baby Ginger live in San Francisco.
Thank you Stacy for choosing papernstitch as the blog to share this awesome interview. If you like this post, please “like” it or share this article using the buttons below.
33 comments | Click here to reply
Oh dearest Jonathan Adler, thank you for turning any of my doubts into hopes with this fantastic interview! I… http://t.co/N4yEKNCkJeanne Connolly (@vintagerenewal)
An interview with Jonathan Adler. Yep, that Jonathan Adler. http://t.co/mkIz12Fs via @sharethisAnne Betenson (@AnneBetenson)
There’s a lot to be said for â€œpanicked stick-to-itivenessâ€. – Jonathan Adler interviewed for Papersnitch http://t.co/ew8f64tW via @sharethisIndounik (@Indounik)
â€œpanicked stick-to-itivenessâ€ – love it. you’ve put a name to what it is i do! …there are twisted days that I take comfort ’cause i’m not the only one. Thanks for the insights.Indounik
An interview with Jonathan Adler. Yep, that Jonathan Adler. http://t.co/Heec362Vthe soulflower group (@soulflowergroup)
An interview with Jonathan Adler. Yep, that Jonathan Adler. http://t.co/JbIyx9LD via @sharethisAna (@aplusmblog)
RT @papernstitch: There’s a lot to be said for â€œpanicked stick-to-itivenessâ€. -Jonathan Adler http://t.co/WGyEdELc(@mycrochets) (@mycrochets)
Thinking about starting your own creative business? I asked @jonathanadler hard hitting questions on business ownership http://t.co/ld6HIdwg(@HelloCupcakeLLC) (@HelloCupcakeLLC)
Okay, seriously, is there a secret code out that equates to “tell the insanely talented person that they have no talent and should give up”?!? There just has to be! =) I mean, after hearing this from so many talented people at the top of their field, it’s almost like the universe or something knew how things would end up and being told that was just part of the process.
The Real Housewives reference was adorable. =)Shanon
Thanks Brittni for sharing my interview and THANK YOU for reading it! Jonathan was amazing in person – real, honest and hilarious! Hopefully Jonathan’s answers will resonate with you! They were certainly helpful for me.Stacy - Hello Cupcake
@cottonelle thanks for the opportunity to meet @jonathanadler ! My interview is being shared on @papernstitch http://t.co/ld6HIdwg(@HelloCupcakeLLC) (@HelloCupcakeLLC)
RT @HelloCupcakeLLC: My interview with @jonathanadler is being shared today on @papernstitch http://t.co/ld6HIdwg It’s super juicy folks!!!!!!(@papernstitch) (@papernstitch)
My interview with @jonathanadler is being shared today on @papernstitch http://t.co/ld6HIdwg It’s super juicy folks!!!!!!Hello Cupcake (@HelloCupcakeLLC)
Hi Peached. I know, right? I loved that too. And funnier still – I knew exactly what he meant when he said it. No need to explain. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!papernstitch
Holy cats I love that man.
I could listen to him talk all day (or read, I should say).
Great advice, too.
Love that he referenced RHWOA; “Itâ€™s like when Sheree decided to start a clothing line”….ahaha. Life parables through reality television — who would have thunk?Peaches
Hi Angie. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. I loved that quote as well. Lots of good takeaways from Stacy’s interview.papernstitch
What an awesome interview!! This is what spoke to me the strongest:
â€œ”Disaster.” Hello, welcome to any design undertaking. Itâ€™s never what you think itâ€™s going to be itâ€™s always a disaster. Itâ€™s only on step 10 after youâ€™ve been rigorously analytical and covered all the issues that anything can come to fruition as you hoped or imagined that it would. Once you surrender to that idea in whatever you do, whether it be medicine or a creative pursuit thatâ€™s when you end up being successful.
I found this to be so true with the redesign of my blog recently. I thought I was being so clearn with what i wanted when i communicated to my blog designer and it came back horribly wrong. Oh, the drafts we went through. I guess I also learned that I need to be brave enough, and educated myself on the tech side, so that I don’t have to rely on other people to see and agree with my vision as I try to express it!
Any house project I do never makes sense to people before I finish it. And then suddenly I am a genius.
What a super interview! thanks for giving Stacy your place to show it!Angie in the Thick of It
I’m so jealous of this interview from papernstitch, I jsut had to share it with my StellaBella fans – JA is my GURU! http://t.co/QSqyLnQU(@StellaBella824) (@StellaBella824)
RT @papernstitch: An interview with Jonathan Adler. Yep, that Jonathan Adler.: I was recently contacted by theâ€¦ http://t.co/Rs3QQywK(@AgneGon) (@AgneGon)
RT @papernstitch: An interview with Jonathan Adler. Yep, that Jonathan Adler.: I was recently contacted by theâ€¦ http://t.co/Rs3QQywKAlvanny Ramirez (@AguacateConSal)