November 13, 1906|
Eva Zeisel (born Eva Amalia Stricker, November 13, 1906) is a Hungarian industrial designer known for her work with ceramics, primarily from the period after she immigrated to the United States. Her forms are often abstractions of the natural world and human relationships. Work from throughout her prodigious career is included in important museum collections across the world. Zeisel declares herself a "maker of useful things.". Zeisel currently resides in New York where she continues to design furniture as well as glass and ceramic objects.
Early Life and FamilyEditar
She was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1906 to a wealthy, highly educated assimilated Jewish family. Her mother, Laura Polanyi Stricker, a historian, was the first woman to graduate from the University of Budapest. Her work on Captain John Smith's adventures in Hungary added fundamentally to our understanding and appreciation of his reliability as a narrator. Laura's brothers, Karl Polanyi, the sociologist and economist, and Michael Polanyi, the physical chemist and philosopher of science, are also extremely well known. Despite her family's intellectual prominence in the sciences, Eva Stricker was always interested in the arts. At 17, Zeisel entered Kepzomuveszeti Academia (the Budapest Royal Academy of Fine Arts). Originally, she hoped to become a painter but eventually decided to pursue a more practical profession and apprenticed herself to the guild of potters. She left the academy in 1925 to work with a potter in Budapest learning to design and make ceramic objects. She was the first woman to learn the craft and, after mastering the basics of ceramic manufacture, applied for work with German ceramic manufacturers.
Early Career, Imprisonment, and EmigrationEditar
In 1928 Eva Stricker became the designer for the Schramberger Majolikafabrik in the Black Forest region of Germany where she worked for about two years creating many designs for tea sets, vases, inkwells and other ceramic items. Her designs at Schramberg were largely based on geometry and were clearly influenced by the Bauhaus design school in Weimar and later Dessau.
In 1932 Eva Striker decided to join her brother, Michael, a patent attorney, who was working in the Soviet Union as a foreign expert at the invitation of Joseph Stalin. In 1935, at the age of 29, after working several jobs in the ceramic industry—inspecting factories in the Ukraine as well as designing for the Lomonosov factory—Zeisel was named the artistic director of the Soviet ceramics industry. It was only a year later, in 1936, while living in Moscow Zeisel was accused of participating in an assassination plot against Stalin. Zeisel was arrested and held in prison for 16 months, 12 of which were spent in solitary confinement. Zeisel was released and deported to Vienna, Austria. Her experiences in the Soviet prison form the basis for Darkness at Noon, the well known anti-Stalinist novel written by her childhood sweetheart, Arthur Koestler. It was while in Vienna that Zeisel met her husband Hans Zeisel, a noted legal scholar, statistician, and (later) professor at The University of Chicago. In 1938, shortly after her arrival and marriage, the Nazis invaded Vienna. As a result, the couple moved to New York with only $64.00 to their name.
Marriage and ChildrenEditar
Eva raised two children with Hans: son Jon Zeisel and daughter Jean Richards. In the documentary Throwing Curves: Eva Zeisel, Jon and Jean comment on their parents' tempestuous relationship in the 1940s and 50s when the children were young. They claim in the film that both Hans and Eva had dominant personalities, and that this often led to "a collision of forcefields when you would see them argue and fight". Eva spent a good deal of time away from home during this time, further fueling the couple's conflict. As Jon explains in Throwing Curves, "they were fighting because they needed that to stay together."
Later Career to Present DayEditar
Zeisel’s career in design continued to develop in the United States. In addition to designing for companies such as General Mills, Rosenthal China, Castelton China, Zeisel taught one of the first courses in industrial design at the Pratt Institute in New York. In 1946, Zeisel had the first one-woman show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Zeisel stopped designing for industry during the 1960’s and 1970’s, returning to work in the 1980’s. Many of her recent designs have found the same success as her earlier designs. Zeisel’s recent designs have included a teakettle for Chantal, glasses for Nambe, a sink and bathtub for Signature, ceramics for KleinReid, a coffee table for Eva Zeisel Originals (later became available through Design Within Reach) as well as the designer of one of Crate and Barrel’s best selling dinner services.
Works and ExhibitionsEditar
Eva Zeisel’s designs are made for use. The inspiration for her sensuous forms often comes from the natural organic curves of the body, taking advantage of the softness of clay. Zeisel’s more organic approach to modernism most likely comes as a reaction to the Bauhaus aesthetics that were popular at the time of her early training. Her sense of form and color show influence from the Hungarian folk arts she grew up seeing. All of Zeisel’s designs, whether it be her furniture, metal, glass or ceramic, are often made in sets or in relationship to other objects. Many of Zeisel’s designs nest together creating modular designs that also function to save space.
Zeisel describes her designs in a New York Sun article: “I don’t create angular things. I’m a more circular person—it’s more my character….even the air between my hands is round.” 
Her best known work includes the eccentric, biomorphic "Town and Country" line of dishes, produced by Red Wing Pottery, The "Tomorrow's Classic" and "Century" lines for Hallcraft, the "Museum" line from Castleton, which was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Tri-Tone line by Hall. In 1998, a limited run of reproduction Town and Country pieces was sold through MoMA. (Crate & Barrel currently is selling a new reproduction line called "Century" which includes many of the original "Century" pieces, along with a few of the "Tomorrow's Classic" pieces. Unlike the originals, these are claimed to be oven proof.)
Zeisel’s works are in the permanent collections of Bröhan Museum, Germany; the British Museum; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Musée des Arts Decoratifs de Montreal; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Brooklyn, Metropolitan, Dallas, Knoxville, Milwaukee. In 2005, Zeisel was awarded the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement.
On December 10, 2006, The Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego, opened a major centenary retrospective exhibit "Eva Zeisel: Extraordinary Designer at 100", showing her designs from Schramberg (1928) through to current designs for Nambe, Chantal, Eva Zeisel Originals and others (2006). The show ran through August 12, 2007.
Her most recent furniture release is called "Eva Zeisel Lounge Chair" and is sold exclusively at Eva Zeisel Originals. The chair and Eva's award winning coffee table are on stage in "A Lifetime Burning" by Cusi Cram at the Primary Stages theater in New York City.
- Eva Zeisel Forum
- Collector's information about Town and Country by Red Wing
- Mingei International Museum
- Eva Zeisel Originals
- Throwing Curves: Eva Zeisel Documentary
- Crate & Barrel
- Klein Reid
- New York State College of Ceramics
- Zeisel's talk at TED 2001
- Zeisel designed teakettle for Chantal Corporation
- ↑ 1,0 1,1 1,2 The Eva Zeisel Forum; www.evazeisel.org
- ↑ 2,0 2,1 2,2 Thurman, Judith; Prolific; December 18, 2006, The New Yorker
- ↑ 3,0 3,1 Matchan, Linda; At 98, Ziesel’s Design Influence Comes Full Circle; June 23, 2005, The Boston Globe
- ↑ 4,0 4,1 4,2 McGee, Celia; Eva’s Ardor; Departures Magazine; March 2007
- ↑ Throwing Curves: Eva Zeisel. www.canobiefilms.org. Retrieved on 2009-09-03.
- ↑ Traubman, Eleanor; Meeting Eva Zeisel; January 13, 2007, http://creativetimes.blogspot.com/2007/01/meeting-eva-zeisel.html
- ↑ Herrup, Katharine; A Potter, a Pioneer, A Candlestick Maker; The New York Sun, At Home Section, March 3, 2007
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