While studying industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design, Adelman focused on lighting because “It has an effect on a space in its entirety,” says the New York-born Adelman, admitting, “I had a habit of adjusting other peoples' lighting constantly — even at an impromptu party in a kitchen. I'd rummage for candles and flick the overhead fluorescent eye-sore off. People look a whole lot better, and I am pretty sure feel better — I know I do. So I turned it into a career.” In the seven years since she opened her Brooklyn studio, Adelman’s elegant, nature-inspired chandeliers have been featured everywhere from the Cooper-Hewitt Design Triennial to the Design Miami fair during Art Basel Miami Beach. Though she’s continually branching into new pursuits — jewelry, hotel collaborations, even music videos — Adelman’s first love is still well-designed lighting. Her message to others seeking out a well-crafted lighting scheme? “Enjoy it!”
You obviously pull from nature, specifically branches, and your most recent work was inspired by Japanese cherry blossoms. Can you talk about how your inspirations have evolved?
It always been about moving from observing nature to exploiting what is distinctly made by humans and then back again. I just dream bigger now because there are many more helping hands.
What's your latest source of inspiration?
As I write this from an airplane my latest inspiration was visiting the Lobmeyr workshop yesterday and seeing the amazing cut crystal and chandeliers being fabricated in Vienna. I adore combining new ideas with proven, elegant modes of manufacturing.
Do you have any icons in the field (or other people in other fields you look to for inspiration)? If so, in what respects?
From fashion Rick Owens, Maria Cornejo, and Tsumori Chisato. From film Michel Gondry and Sofia Coppola. In architecture Shigeru Ban. And in design Carl Aubock. At London Design Festival last week I fell in love with the Muller van Severen furniture collection at Viaduct.
You started out with hand-blown glass and brass pieces, but have moved into wood, concrete, gold, porcelain. How do materials speak to you and inform a piece?
Materials tell me what to do. It is a really deep and rewarding experience working with raw materials - you feel connected. But they are always the boss and I like that.
What new materials or technologies are you looking to test out next?
We do a lot of 3D printing now which is fairly interesting, we have a printer now in studio. In lighting I am interested in these new illuminated glass fibers from Corning.
How would you describe your studio practice? Could you walk me through the design of a piece from idea to realization?
There are 20 very creative people in my studio and I usually develop a strong creative direction but then allow room for play and surprise in the process. In the end there is always a lot of editing or just feeling like a piece needs more time - but you never know how much time. Sometimes it can go quickly from the first sketch to the final piece - like 8 weeks if for an exhibition - other things I am making now I literally drew originally in 1998.
You've also expanded the practice into jewelry, housewares, and wallpaper. What made you want to move beyond lighting?
I didn't realize it was a move away from lighting honestly. I really didn't think about it. I have always made a lot of things that aren't lighting and aren't for selling. Gifts, useful things for home, but when my business started growing I was able to fold some of these ideas into the studio practice. But I don't have a plan in mind about expansion or collapsing in terms of categories. I just do what I am drawn to.
I know you work with a lot of top interior designers. Are you working on any collaborations at the moment we might discuss?
I just finished an installation at the Peninsula Hotel in New York with Yabu Pushelberg. It is our new porcelain disc chandelier. I can't wait to see it! I am also happy that my new Catch Floor Light just went to the Fendi store in Milan.
Are there other mediums you're interested in trying right now? Furniture? Home Design? Something you haven't ventured into yet, but really want to one day?
I am working on my second video - it will screen in the spring. It is a 3-minute music video with a friend singing and a set decorated with everything we make. I am attempting to build a chandelier a dancer can swing on - he probably weighs 180 lbs so we'll see how it goes.