About Eva Zeisel
Hungarian-born designer, Eva Zeisel (1906–2011), had a prolific career designing well past the age of 100. Born into an educated family (her mother was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Budapest), Eva entered the Hungarian Royal Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 17 as a painter. Wooed by ceramics (and its more dependable income), she switched gears to apprentice under the last pottery master in the medieval guild system and was the first female journeyman. Her early career was spent in Germany developing the sensuous, flowing, and biomorphic ceramics she would later be known for. At the age of 26, Eva moved to Soviet Russia and became an artistic director in the government’s china and glass industry but her time there took an abrupt turn in 1936 when she was falsely accused of plotting against Stalin. After 16 months in prison (mostly in solitary confinement), she was deported to Austria and thereafter fled the threat of Nazi invasion.
Eva and her husband immigrated to New York with $64 to their name, but she quickly established herself as a teacher at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and a ceramics designer with companies such as Bay Ridge Specialty Company, Red Wing Pottery, and Sears & Roebuck. Though known for furniture, rugs, tiles, and lamps in wood, metal, glass, and plastic, she revealed ceramics remained her favorite: “... because I can feel (the clay) with my hands.” In 1942, she was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art and Castleton China to design an all-white modern dinner service that was exhibited as the first one-woman show at MoMA. Her “Museum Shape” established her reputation in the United States and her later work brought the clean, casual shapes of modernist design into middle-class homes with furnishings that encouraged a postwar desire for less formal living.
Eva’s works are in the permanent collections of museums worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum and The Museum of Modern Art in New York; the British Museum and The Victoria and Albert Museum in London; and the Bröhan Museum in Germany. In 2005, Eva won the Lifetime Achievement award from the Cooper-Hewett National Design Museum.