Eva Zeisel (1906 – 2011) Hungarian designer and ceramicist

Eva Zeisel ceramic tea set
Eva Zeisel ceramic tea set

Eva Zeisel (1906 – 2011) was a Hungarian designer and ceramicist. She was born in Budapest. She was professionally active in Germany, Russia, Austria, and the USA. She settled in the United States in 1938.

She designed ceramics for many different clients and is best known for her dinnerware, including Stratoware designed for Sears, Roebuck in 1942.

Education

Between 1923-24, Zeisal studied painting at Képzömüvészeti Akadémia (Academy of Art), in Budapest, under Vaszari. She subsequently apprenticed in pottery.

Biography

Between 1927-32, she worked first for the Kispest earthenware factory, Budapest, and for various ceramics factories in Germany, including a ceramics designer at Schramberg Majolika Fabrik and the Carsten ceramics factory. She was familiar with Werkbund and Bauhaus forms. 

In 1932, she went to the Soviet Union, where she worked in various ceramics factories, including a sanitary ceramics plant and at the Lomonosov porcelain factory in St. Petersburg under Nikolai Suetin. Suetin applied motifs to some of her forms. 

From 1934, she worked for the Deulevo ceramics factory, Moscow. She became artistic director, Central Administration of the Glass and China Industry of the USSR, Moscow. During the Stalin Purges, she was imprisoned between 1936-37. She was released and deported via Vienna and Britain and settled in the USA.

Between 1939-53 she taught at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. Between 1959 and 1960 at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. During this time, she was also designing for clients.

Eva Zeisel - Cloverware Serving Set (c1947) MOMA
Eva Zeisel – Cloverware Serving Set (c1947) MOMA

Her ceramic designs of the 1940s reflected the organic furniture of the time. Her classic 1942-45 Museum White dinnerware, designed in collaboration with the New York Museum of Modern Art, was produced by Castleton China, New Castle, Pennsylvania. It emulated the Functionalist ceramics made by major factories in Europe, especially those in Arzberg and Berlin. 

Eva Zeisel Creamer c. 1946 MOMA
Eva Zeisel Creamer c. 1946 MOMA

She designed the 1950 knock-down chair with a zippered plastic cover for Richards-Morgenthau, wooden pieces for Salisbury Artisans from 1951 and 1952 dinnerware for Hall China. 

Exhibitions

Museum White china subject of 1946 ‘Modern China by Eva Zeisel’ exhibition, New York Museum of Modern Art. Work included in the 1991 USA ‘Design 1935-1965: What Modern Was· travelling exhibition. Work was subject of 1984 ‘Eva Zeis~l: Designer for Industry’ travelling exhibition organized by Musee des Arts Decoratifs. Montreal. Received 1983 Senior Fellowship. National Endowment for the Arts. 

Eva Zeisel ceramic teapots
Eva Zeisel ceramic teapots

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Kovel, R. M., & Kovel, T. H. (2007). Kovels’ American collectibles 1900-2000. Random House.

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