After years of working in the interior design industry, two things have become clear to Diana Adams. The first was that, just like the interior designers themselves, the decor and furniture makers were also artists. The second was that a lot of materials are often wasted while running a project. “We don’t teach you at school that you can make a business out of art,” she says. Home business.
Courtesy of SampleHaus
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Adams has always considered herself an artist. “I’ve been drawing since elementary school,” she says. “However, once in college, I felt I had to choose a degree that would allow me to earn a living.”
For Adams, that meant majoring in biology at California State University, Dominguez Hills before choosing to follow his heart. “I remember walking to my car after class and walking past the art department. I wanted to be there so badly,” she said. “So I said ‘fuck you’ and signed up for painting and ceramics classes. The first time I touched clay, something clicked. I bought a wheel and started practicing pottery at home.
But his vocation had still not yet penetrated. After graduating, Adams took a day job at Apple which left her creatively unfulfilled. So she decided to pursue a master’s degree in interior architecture offered in collaboration between UCLA Extension and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Education led to a full-time gig with the designer Michael Smith. “I was immersed in the materials – fabrics, stones and woods – and I started to see the artistic value of the decor,” she says. “Then it finally hit me: this is how you make a living doing art.”
In 2019, she opened SampleHaus, the Hawthorne, Calif.-based studio where she recycles discarded samples and samples from showrooms into heirloom-worthy collages. “I started contacting local suppliers to collect their discarded materials,” she explains. “Then I turned them into works of art that I sold at various pop-up stores in the area.”
Once she started selling collages, Adams decided to turn her attention to pottery again. She enrolled in a ceramics class at a local studio to hone her skills and fell head over heels in love with age-old tribal designs. “I love how different brands of pottery symbolize different cultures,” she says. “There is a universal language of pottery that is conveyed through distinct engravings.”
Specifically, she was seduced by African Zulu pottery, marked by bold geometric lines and vibrant enamel finishes, and began to incorporate the designs into her own handmade ceramic creations. “I made lidded jars with markings mimicking those found on traditional tribal shields,” she explains. “And where appropriate, also incorporating salvaged fabric into the designs.”
When the pandemic hit, Adams says demand for her colorful ceramic confections skyrocketed. “Suddenly people started asking for planters, mugs and other functional household items,” she says. “So I focused on pottery and developing my Zulu collection.”
Courtesy of SampleHaus
Adams describes his process as intuitive, with no concrete sketches to guide behind the wheel, just his memory. “I throw things on the wheel by heart,” she says. “I take measurements to make them consistent in size, then carve, sculpt and underglaze them before they go into the kiln for the first firing.”
His signature palette for the Zulu series consists of yellow, black, and white finishes, with each respective glaze corresponding to a specific pattern. “My family members often help me paint, so it feels like a collaborative process,” she says.
Looking ahead, Adams plans to expand its popular Zulu line with new colorways, as well as lighting and tableware designs. She also hopes to release a new crop of collages, made up, of course, of materials once destined for the trash. “I want to continue making art that speaks to people,” she says, “but also does my soul good.”
Homepage photo: Diana Adams at work on the wheel | Justin Galligher