Sunday, January 1, 2012

Eva Zeisel

The Awesome Woman for Wednesday, January 4, 2012, is Eva Zeisel, who died last week on December 30 at the age of 105.

She was an amazing industrial designer, whose tableware, especially was uniquely elegant, organic, and nurturing. "All my work is mother-and-child," Zeisel once said.,0,6670974,full.story

From the above-cited L.A. Times obituary: After becoming interested in Russian art and culture, she moved to Ukraine. She quickly rose through the ranks of pottery design and production in the Soviet Union, and by age 29 was art director at the state-run Porcelain and Glass Industries.

Her life took a terrifying turn in 1936, when she was arrested on trumped-up charges that she had plotted to assassinate Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. She was imprisoned for 16 months, spending most of it in solitary confinement. Her confinement included torture and brainwashing, and became the basis for her friend Arthur Koestler's stark 1941 novel about totalitarianism, "Darkness at Noon."

"You never knew when the door would open and you would be shot," Zeisel said many years later. "So you learned to rule out the future."

When she was released, Zeisel later said, she thought the guards were taking her to be executed. She arrived in Vienna just six months before Hitler annexed Austria and then fled to London, where she married Hans Zeisel, a lawyer she had known in Vienna. The couple arrived in the U.S. with $64." Id.

By 1942, the Museum of Modern Art had asked her to design a set of dishes. Her iconic all white set was very different from the typical gilt and floral patterns then being produced in the US and very much altered the tableware landscape in this country. Id.

Through the 40s and 50s, she designed for numerous entities from Noritake to Sears Roebuck, and when midcentury modern aesthetic began to fall out of favor during the sixties, she turned to writing and protesting the Vietnam War. Id.

Her work remained influential, and, byt the 1980s, she was back at it. In 2002, the documentary Throwing Curves was made about her.

And in 2005 , when she was 99 years old, she she received the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement by the National Design Museum, Smithsonian. And she kept working and making new designs.

For more information, see:
Eva Zeisel, one of the most influential industrial designers of the 20th century who created lyrical yet practical tableware and ceramics, has died. She was 105.