The designer Lindsey Adelman is embracing her dark side. Who knew she even had one? Since opening her New York studio in 2006, she’s become known primarily for her Bubble Series chandelier, an industrially-inspired brass armature blooming with charmingly lumpy blown glass globes. It consistently tops the shopping lists of architects and designers like Peter Marino and Kelly Wearstler; a sheik in Kuwait has one, and Ivanka Trump has two in her new Park Avenue apartment. “It’s almost like hanging a tree branch from your ceiling,” Adelman says, who, as a design student at the Rhode Island School of Design, also dabbled in sculpture.
In her new work, however, you get the sense that nature has gone wild and completely taken over. Drippy glass stalactites are entwined in cobweb-like snarls of knotted rope. Thorny cast brass and horsehair stoppers pierce the tops of small glass vessels, while individual brass barbs screw directly into the wall in ominous clusters. In the fall, Adelman will introduce a line of hand-drawn wallpaper with Anthropologie, for which she turned the contents of her junk drawer (hair balls, X-Acto blades) into a densely baroque floral pattern inspired by English and Moorish ornamentation. And the bronze and wood candlesticks she showed last month at the Milan furniture fair emulate fungus growing on the dark side of a log. “Most of the work visually and metaphorically comes from a place that’s hidden away,” she says.
Lately Adelman has been hiding away herself, in an empty office space two floors below her main studio, where she has immersed herself in books about 19th-century ornamentation and photos of natural phenomena. If she has a current patron saint it’s not Ray Eames but the Argentine Surrealist Leonor Fini, whose strange, erotically charged paintings often depicted women engaged in bizarre ceremonies or stripped of their flesh.
A certain moodiness had been percolating in Adelman’s private sketchbooks for years — she showed a glimpse of it when she added tiny barbs to the arms of her 2010 Ceres chandelier for MatterMade — but mostly she held it back from her commercial work out of fear that it might turn people off. (She points, as evidence, to the human-hair drawings she’s been making on the side — to mixed reactions — since 1998.) Then last year, her studio reached a measure of financial success and her creative floodgates opened wide. “It’s a feeling of no longer having to put on a happy face anymore,” says Adelman, who calls her new collection Dusk to Dawn. “I’m realizing the dark can coexist with the light.”
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