Nah’Tivah Ross: Eva Zeisel

Eva Zeisel

Eva Zeisel was a celebrated ceramic artist and designer who created useful objects with rare beauty and elegance. She is originally from Hungary but moved to the United States in the late 1930’s. It wasn’t until 1942 that she received her first commission from the Museum of Modern Art and Castleton China. The commission necessitated Zeisel to design a set of modernist porcelain tableware that was to be simple but dynamic. This tableware would also be exhibited at MoMA and sold by Castleton. [1]This creation started Zeisel’s career in ceramics and became well known for its simplicity but great form. Zeisel once said “the clean lines of modern design could be successfully combined with sensuous, classic shapes,” and she did just that. She combined organic, fluid lines, and pure elegance with everyday useful objects, this became her signature.

This view of modernism came about during the 1920’s when she visited the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. This was the birthplace of Art Deco. Zeisel explained that she felt modernist design was “too cold” and from there she sought to combine modernism with everyday life in order to conceal its firm expression. In 1940 [2]than in 1944, Zeisel gave birth to a daughter and a son and from there motherhood seemed to expand her modernist eye. This inspired her dinnerware collection “Town and Country”, [3]this collection focused on the relationship between each piece of the set. In 1946 it was designed for Red Wings Potteries and released for sale the following year. It was a colorful mix-and -match set available in seven different colors. This collection resembles familial relationships with complementary shapes such as its tilted plates and bowls and rounded shapes that easily nested inside the hand; similar to a mother’s relationship with their infant. The most iconic pieces of the set are the salt and pepper shakers. The shakers are bulbous, curvilinear and gracefully curve toward one another, resembling a mother and child. Zeisel once stated that “Men have no concept of how to design things for the home,” she told a writer. “Women should design the things they use.” It’s evident that she embraced the curve but continued to modernize it in several different characters.

Zeisel’s most available and sought after collection today is “Tomorrow’s Classic”, as most of her work is no longer in production this collection is available in today’s market.[4] In the permanent design collection of Museum of Modern Art…The collection has forty separate pieces and the most famous of this collection is the basket-shaped gravy boat and spoon. The bowl bears a resemblance to an unborn child in the womb. The design is audacious and the simple pattern that adorns the form looks similar to an atom swirling about, possibly a reflection on the beauty of life. Zeisel’s organic approach to modernism seems to be influenced by her experience with the Art Deco and Bauhaus movements of the time. Most of her collections come in large groups that complement and interact with one another through the curvy lines and shapes creating a harmonious balance between shape

[1]  The collection was never produced, but displayed at Museum of Modern Art. Designs Museum Shape for Castleton China, New Castle, Pennsylvania, and the Museum of Modern Art; designs completed in 1945

[2] While working at Pratt Institute she arranges industrial design experience for students at Bay Ridge Specialty Corp; designs Stratoware dinnerware with students, based on a design by student Frances Blod; later manufactured by Universal Potteries, Ohio, and sold through the Sears catalog.

[3] released in 1947. Castleton Museum dinnerware presented at one-woman show at MoMA, “New Shapes in Modern China Designed by Eva Zeisel” (April 7-June 9), sold through select stores; after years of testing and

adjustments, Castleton went into production and reintroduced the Museum Shape on September 15,

1949 for wider consumer sales.

[4] Designs Tomorrow’s Classic dinnerware for Hall China Company, Ohio; promoted by Hall in 1951,

marketed by Midhurst China, NY and available commercially in 1952



“Eva Zeisel – R & Company.” Eva Zeisel – R & Company. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

Hamilton, William L. “Eva Zeisel, Ceramic Artist and Designer, Dies at 105.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 Dec. 2011. Web. 03 May 2016.

“Philosophy of Science Portal.” : Deceased–Eva Zeisel. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2016

“The Eva Zeisel Forum.” The Eva Zeisel Forum. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

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