On December 10, EVA ZEISEL – Extraordinary Designer at 100 opened to the public. Organized by Mingei International as the first major West Coast presentation of Eva Zeisel’s work, the exhibition drew on two large private California collections, those of Pat Moore and Dr. Gene L. Grobman in the San Francisco Bay Area and Jim Drobka in Los Angeles. The Guest Curator is Joyce Corbett.
Here is lyrical, sinuous, sometimes whimsical work that is the unfragmented creative expression of one human being – head, heart and hands, made available to a large public by machine production. In this, Eva Zeisel is a most important exponent of mingei principles for the machine age
About Eva Zeisel
Eva Amalia Striker was born in Budapest in 1906. From an intellectual family, she studied painting at Hungary’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. After a visit to the Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels, where she was introduced to the functional arts as espoused by modernist architect Le Corbusier, she returned to Hungary and apprenticed as a potter. Early in her new career, one of her clay pieces received honorable mention at the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial.
A desire to travel led her to accept a job in Schramberg, Germany, followed by stays in Berlin and Hamburg. In 1932, she went to Russia where she worked to create a modern ceramic industry. She spent time at the Lomonsov factory in Leningrad before being named Artistic Director for the Porcelain and Glass Industries of Russia. Arrested in 1936 for allegedly plotting against Stalin, she spent 16 months in prison, much of the time in solitary confinement. Released without explanation in 1938, she went to Austria, then to England with Hans Zeisel whom she married. From England they went to NewYork, where she has lived since.
Honored by the Hungarian government in 2004 with the Medal of the Middle Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, she has also been designated an honorary Royal Designer by the Royal Designers for Industry, the highest honor a non-British designer can achieve in the United Kingdom. She received an Honorary Doctorate from the Rhode Island School of Design and a National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement from the National Design Museum, Cooper-Hewitt, New York. Recent works include designs for the Zsolnay Factory in Pecs and Kispester-Granit in Budapest.
Eva Zeisel has had a 75-year career and, by her own accounting, has designed more than 100,000 objects centered on the home and table – dinnerware, vases, candlesticks, dishes, tea and coffee pots, pitchers, and salt and pepper shakers. She was the first designer in this country to produce an all-white dinner service, an event documented by a special exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1946. She was also the first to teach ceramics as industrial design for mass production rather than as handcraft. She has said significantly, “Everything I do is a direct creation of my hands, whether it is made in wood, plaster or clay.”
Eva Zeisel’s book, On Design, was available in The Collectors’ Gallery. Throwing Curves, a video documentary on Zeisel’s life and work, played in the Museum throughout the exhibition.