“Design is pleasure for me”, states Eva Zeisel. This statement perchance is the secret to becoming an icon of design but it may also be the blueprint to living a long life. Eva Zeisel who turns 104 on Saturday, November 13th was born in Hungry and found that her passion was to be a “maker of useful things”. Eva has designed thousands of products over her long and productive career mostly to beautify the surroundings in our homes. Eva’s work graces both the permanent collections of the world’s finest museum and the tables of every day life.
One of the keys to Zeisel’s success has been her consistent maxim of “the playful search for beauty”. Eva’s designs arouse the senses with their sensual curves and delightful lines that standout from the commonplace. Making designs that are fresh, intelligent, and discerning would be hard work for most but Eva has been doing it for the last 80 plus years.
Eva learned design and the craft of pottery in Hungry as a young woman. She completed her internship and used her experiences and designs to allow her to see the world. Seeking out opportunities, she selected the job that took her the farthest from her home in Budapest to Germany.
Eva was one of the first to design dinnerware for mass production in 1928 for Schramberger Majolikafabrik in Germany. She moved to Russia in 1932 to design dinnerware, bath fixtures and numerous household products. Zeisel was named the artistic director of the Soviet ceramics industry. In 1936 while working in Moscow, she was arrested by the Stalin regime and placed in a prison camp for 15 months. She was charged with “plotting against the life of Stalin”. Just as suddenly as she was taken prisoner, she was released with only the cloths on her back due to the influences of important European intellectuals that contacted Stalin. Upon Eva’s release in 1937, she traveled to Vienna. She married Hans Zeisel at this time and they both moved the USA as the Nazi movement grew in Austria and Germany.
In late 1938, Eva and Hans move to New York. Eva raised two children with Hans, their son John Zeisel and daughter Jean Richards. She started working on numerous designs and began teaching at the Pratt Institute in 1939, founding the industrial ceramics curriculum. Eva’s designs have been sought after over these many years. She has designed dinnerware and products for all the major china companies the world over in her career.
In 1946, Eva Zeisel had the first one women show at MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). Her work can be found in every major museum collection around the world from MoMA and the Metropolitan in NYC to the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert in London. In 2005, Zeisel was awarded the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Eva has continued to design over the years never letting her passion for design to dwindle. “I design better than before, I have so much experience” said Eva. At the young age of 101, she designed the One-O-One collection of tableware for Royal Stafford.
Eva’s work is available today at Eva Zeisel Originals run by her grandson, Adam Zeisel. Adam wrote earlier this week, “EvaZeiselOriginals.com is having a successful year. We have already added the Eva Zeisel Lounge Chair and Bird Shakers to the collection. My relationship with Eva continues to be strong and joyous.” Her designs are also available at such major outlets like Design within Reach and Crate and Barrel along with many art museum stores and galleries. Eva is still actively designing today. She works with a Design Assistant, Olivia Barry, who helps translate her ideas and concepts into reality. Eva personally reviews the progress and designs during development. (See Video Below) Eva has also authored a book, Eva Zeisel on Design in 2004.
We all can learn a great deal for the wonderful career of Eva Zeisel. Design with passion, love your family and friends, laugh, and always look forward. Seeing, using and touching one of Eva’s exquisite and graceful designs might just be our way to drink from the fountain of youth that Eva Zeisel has discovered. May design continue to flow from your heart and mind, Happy Birthday Mrs. Zeisel!!!
(A film from Eva Zeisel's 102nd Birthday party and her working with her Design Assistant, Olivia Barry)