A day with Lindsey Adelman

LINDSEY ADELMAN: I start the day by having breakfast with my family. Then I take the subway to my workshop in NoHo, Manhattan, where assembly, wiring, packaging, sales and accounting all happen in one space two blocks from our showroom on Great Jones. We occupy the top floor with lots of sunshine, a good breeze and speakers.

On a typical day, I find myself always designing and never designing; my process happens on the fly. I try to notice what’s drawing me in: sunlight making a pattern on the sidewalk, the way a brass clasp is sewn into a leather handbag I see on the subway, shredded plastic caught in a chain-link fence. And also what pisses me off, like SUVs trying to weave through pedestrians with baby carriages. All this influences my designs, and I write notes and make sketches to refer to later.

In the workshop, I’m creative director, but I pass the baton in many areas. We schedule time for moving ideas back and forth between myself and the team: 30 employees in New York and eight in Los Angeles. I’m efficient in order to have creative time, but it's also great to not try to do everything any more.

I love mocking up new pieces and ideas to scale. It can feel overwhelming to work on something larger than me – and it always feels like a breakthrough when the wrestling part is over and the refining part begins. My work reflects this 1:1 mocking-up process; you can tell these ideas were not born in the computer. Ideas have a lifespan – some are meant to be finite, left unbaked. It's actually rare when something makes it all the way through development and production and into the world. And I don’t call finite ideas a failure.

Some days I work with artisans – glass-blowers, porcelain-crafters, blacksmiths and so on – to create elements for my lighting. Last week I spent a day in the hot shop with Michiko Sakano, whom I’ve worked with for 15 years. We were prototyping a concept for vessels, embedding brass chain into molten glass, which I’ve never seen anybody do before. I believe a glass artist’s energy goes into the piece. It’s a chemical reaction, and Sakano’s humble, refined, fearless attitude shows in the work. It’s such a pleasure to work with her because she brings out the patient side of me, and it becomes an experiment full of surprises.

I find myself always designing and never designing

At any given time, I have at least one major project going in the Department of Fantasy. [Adelman’s New York workshop is divided into a Department of Reality and a Department of Fantasy.] I didn't start my own studio just to produce high-selling work; I wanted to develop a support system for manifesting ideas. It’s a luxury to have self-funded projects – exploring forms, visuals, sounds – that are not meant to make money.

Every day I notice nature everywhere. Right now, sitting on Houston Street, I’ve got fresh peonies, dried lavender, a sweet-potato lunch, little handmade clay bits that I’m trying for a necklace, driftwood, shells and a giant crystal. I’m inspired by raw nature and by nature that’s been modified: wood furniture, paper, cast bronze, stitched leather, gold rings. I go to the beach a lot and to the mountains in the winter.

I almost always eat lunch at the studio. I don’t like to take a break when I’m at work. But most days I’m the last one to arrive and the first one to go home. I’m very selfish with my time. I try to leave for home by 5 p.m. After dinner and homework, sometimes my husband and I read to each other and listen to music – or make it. Our son, Finn, makes tracks in GarageBand, and Ian tries new things in Serato. I play lacrosse with Finn in Prospect Park or in our backyard out on Long Island.

I’ve had to grow up in my roles as mother and wife. Much of that growth feeds into being a better business owner, and the creativity I find at work feeds into more energy and expansiveness at home. There’s never enough time to hang with family and friends, but I take what I can every day. Work can be a bit of an ego stroke, but Frisbee playing and picnics are more important.

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