Three weeks ago I got a call from the terrific Cathy Bame, the doyenne of Sub-Zero and Wolf. Cathy told me that she'd recommended me to the DuPont Corporation as a good addition to a party they were hosting in Chicago during my industry's big trade show, KBIS. DuPont was being particular about who they'd put on the guest list and somehow I made the cut.
A detail of this event that I found endlessly amusing was that the official host was none other than Jonathan Adler. To make it even more precious, the party was being held at Chicago's Adler Planetarium.
The connection between Jonathan Adler and the Adler Planetarium is coincidental by the way.
Anyhow, I was allowed to bring a date. I wanted to bring someone who would appreciate the humor of my being in the same room as the man I've made a virtual sideline out of mocking. The lucky woman I selected was none other than Cheryl Kees-Clendenon. Cheryl's a high-profile designer as well as one of the most amusing women I know. I figured that we'd have a couple of inside laughs and that would be the end of it.
The evening started with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and there were about 50 people in attendance. Most of them were DuPont marketing people, their PR agency and then the rest of the crowd were DuPont's high-performing sales people. It was a pleasant, if reserved crowd. Cheryl and I worked out way through the buffet tables and the bar and then we spotted him.
He's smaller than I thought he'd be. That makes him my height and build. It was an odd thing to be standing so close to someone who's work I've mocked so regularly. He was surrounded by a small clot of people and before I could work my way over toward him, the hostess announced that Adler was going to give a short presentation.
Jonathan Adler took the stage and proceeded to deliver about a half hour presentation on his life and his work. He reviewed his creations from his starting out days as a potter and then brought everything up to date with his stores and his interior design business. I uncrossed my arms after about five minutes.
The longer he spoke, the more I could see that Jonathan Adler's an artist who used to struggle and who can't quite believe his good fortune today. I started to see that he's an ethical business man. I started to see that he's a decent human being. He spoke candidly and honestly about his life at home with Simon Doonan, a man he married two years ago during a brief window of opportunity in California. That he was so forthright about his home life in front of a crowd completely not used to hearing such things made me see him in a light approaching the heroic frankly.
He took a few questions from the audience after his presentation and I wanted to stand up and shout, "Why aren't you an asshole?!" I passed on the opportunity.
After he was finished I walked over and introduced myself. His licensed product manager was standing next to him. Cheryl sells Adler lighting in her showroom. The four of us stood and talked for about five minutes and it was genuinely enjoyable. I'm glad I met him.
I will not be buying any orange giraffes any time soon and that evening showed me once again that I can dislike an idea but still like the person behind it. I was counting on getting a snarky post or two out of the evening but that's not at all what I got. No, what I got was a life lesson. From Jonathan Adler no less.
As an endnote, when Cheryl and I were leaving the party we ran into the VP of Marketing for DuPont Surfaces. She knew who I was and we exchanged pleasantries for a moment or two while waiting for the elevator. She told me that for the party, they'd made a concerted effort to reach out to the design blog community. "Oh really? I asked, "Who else was here?" She looked at me and said, "Well, there's you and we invited Apartment Therapy."
Apartment Therapy. Ugh. I hope I never meet Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan and Oliver Ryan, the guys who started Apartment Therapy. With my luck they'll be decent human beings too and I'll be out of punchlines.
Jonathan Adler's stuff can be found on his website. And that my friends is a back link.