|Style / Design; Urban Potter;
Adam Silverman Shifts His Focus From Dressing
Cool Kids to Crafting Clay with an Eastside Edge
Adam Silverman sits behind his pottery wheel, legs splayed and
bent at the knee, right foot pressing the velocity pedal.
His hair is wild, a thundercloud with thickly woven cyclones above
skin the color of light desert sand. His arms are tattooed-- here
an anchor, there a peace sign, here a spider web--and with one hand
he grabs a triangular-topped trimming tool and holds it against a
damp brown pot.
The friction causes a screech, and trimmings whipsaw off the clay
like lamb off a shwarma spit, crash landing near the slop bucket
and making an otherwise neat workplace resemble the floor of a butcher
He blows on the bowl, clearing the dust away. Then he leans back
and admires his handiwork before grabbing another piece to prune.
"And there you have it," he says.
Silverman is a 39-year-old Rhode Island School of Design graduate
and licensed architect who more famously, co-founded the popular
work-wear garment concern X-Large, that perennial arbiter of skateboarder
chic that came to prominence by creating clever, pop culture-accessible
shirts, as well as pants baggy enough to conceal a spray paint can.
Today, he's taking a more hands-on approach to design with pottery.
Just as with his clothes, Silverman's smooth clay creations marry
an accessible aesthetic with an Eastside edge. He's part of a new
scene of emerging potters who are putting an urban spin on an ancient
An Eastside resident, Silverman first moved to Los Angeles in 1988.
He and college roommate Eli Bonerz launched X-Large on Vermont Avenue
in Los Feliz more than a decade ago.
Putting his architectural skills to use, Silverman designed the
shop interior, then collaborated on clothing designs before shifting
from the creative side to overseeing business operations.
Launching X-Large qualified Silverman as an
American hipster, and brought him a cadre of like-minded colleagues
such as Beastie Boy Mike Diamond (also a partner in X-Large), Japanese
Superflat artist Yoshitomo Nara and Oscar-nominated actor John
C. Reilly. "And
we, of course, had to hire only groovy teenagers," Silverman
says. "So during the L.A. riots, I get a call at 2 in the morning:
'You have to come bail me out of jail,' and, like, three of our employees
were in jail. Somehow, I'm the dad."
Silverman is no longer actively involved in X-Large, maintaining,
he says, only a 1% financial interest. Instead, his time is consumed
by crafting pottery.
"I absolutely love doing it," Silverman says. "I
love the life of it. I love doing it myself. I'm completely over
having employees or partners or contractors or anybody else between
me and the final product."
So now he puts in long days throwing, trimming,
scoring, glazing and firing. On a typical day, he turns out 25
to 35 paper-thin cups and bowls--mottled, pocked and glaze-pooled
in original colors such as "volcanic blue," "volcanic yellow" and "oatmeal"--that
are somehow more urban than organic.
Working under the studio moniker Atwater Pottery, he operates his
business from a storefront just off Glendale Boulevard, sharing space
with Poole Cosmetics, an outfit founded by his girlfriend, Louise
Bonnet. It's an environment where creative synergy thrives. Artist
Geoff McFetridge's Champion Graphics studio also shares a wall with
"It's so different," McFetridge says of his neighbor's
craft. "In a town of frustrated people, to be a potter . . .
it's so primal compared to what is [considered] 'cool'."
Silverman adds that he'd like to see a larger
local pottery scene in Los Angeles. "But on the other hand," he says, "it's
kind of nice to be one of the few people around to be doing it."
His crafting circle may not include contemporaries, but he knows
his history. On a wall a few feet from his wheel, Silverman keeps
a photograph of a work by 20th century master Hans Coper. He also
raves about recently handling pots thrown and glazed by a couple
of his idols, 20th century giants Gertrud and Otto Natzler.
Near the Coper image are photos of and drawings by his two daughters,
Beatrice, 4, and Charlotte, 3. The eldest was not named after recently
deceased centenarian Ojai-based potter Beatrice Wood.
"With all due respect to her and the whole kind of hippie
potter thing, I'm very intentionally an urban person, an urban potter," Silverman
"It's worked for me in the past that if you make something
that you are happy with, other people will be too," Silverman
says. "And if you put it out in the world properly, the response
will hopefully be appropriate."