Eva Zeisel*

Eva Zeisel
(1906–2011)

At its annual conference in Washington, DC, IDSA honored Ms. Zeisel, "for her long-term contributions to the field, and bringing Europe's high standards of integrity to mass-produced American goods."

Born Eva Striker to an upper class Jewish family in Budapest, she trained traditionally at Kepzomuveszeti Academia (Academy of Fine Arts) there in 1923. She opened her own studio in 1925, and had first work produced in 1926 working for the Granit Company. She shifted to the International style while working in Germany at Schramburger Majolika Fabrik (1928-1930) and Christian Carstens Kommerz Gesellschaft (1930-1931) in Berlin.

From 1932 to 1937 she worked in Russia at the Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory in Leningrad and the Dulevo factory near Moscow from 1934, becoming Art Director of the China and Glass Industry of the Russian Republic in 1935. In 1936 she was falsely accused of plotting to assassinate Stalin and imprisoned. Cleared and released in 1937, she went to Vienna until fleeing to England from Nazi occupation in 1938, where she married Hans Zeisel and emigrated to New York with him.

She started teaching with Donald Dohner in 1939 at Pratt Institute while working as designer at Bay Ridge Specialty Co. in NJ. In 1947 she won a competition by the Museum of Modern Art to design its Museum Service dinnerware, produced by Castleton China, which became the criteria for good design in dinnerware. She worked also for Red Wing Potteries, Italcraft, and Hall China. She taught regularly at Pratt Institute until 1953 and at Rhode Island School of Design from 1959 until her retirement in the mid-1960s.

In 1982, she returned to Hungary to work in a leading ceramics factory. Back in the US, she was again designing dinnerware, and was honored by a feature article in the New Yorker (Profiles, April 13, 1987) about her life, and by exhibitions of her work mounted at MoMA (1996), the Brooklyn Museum and the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Montreal (1984). In 1996, she started a new group of furniture designs for Palizzeti Furniture.

To hear more about Eva's incredible lifestory listen to her 2001 TED presentation.