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Talent On The Table
Eva Zeisel's search for beauty led her to design some
of the 20th century's most beloved pieces for the home.
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va Zeisel's surname is
not exactly a house-
hold word, but her
artistry is part of
countless households. Zeisel has
been designing tableware for
almost 80 years.
Her life story, with drama
reaching beyond a career that
continues past her 97th birth- .
day, is recalled in a film sched-
uled at the Cranbrook Art
Museum. Throwing Curves - Eva
Zeisel will be shown 7 p.m.
Friday, May 28, when viewers
will see how she developed her
distinctive teapots, pitchers and
dishes infused with arc shapes
and contrasting colors. They also
Grand Dame of Design: At age 97, Eva
will get to follow her personal
is still going strong. Inset: Zeisel in
development, starting in
three years before her family fled the
Hungary and moving to
immigrated to America.
Germany, Russia, Austria and
the United States.
, Zeisel, a feminist pioneer in
the industrial design field, also became a social pioneer.
apprentice to a
While advancing in her profession, she maintained a
marriage and raised two children, often with her hus-
She moved on
band working in a different city.
to factories in
The film, touring the United States and other coun-
tries, is buttressed by two new books — Eva Zeisel by
Lucie Young (Chronicle; $8.75) and the artist's own
at age 25, went
Zeisel on Design: The Magic Language of Things
(Overlook Press; $24.50).
where she found work in the porcelain and glass indus-
"I think of the 20th century as my century and con-
sider myself a visitor in the 21st century," says Zeisel,
"I've always been curious and wanted to see what was
who has studios in her New York City apartment and
the other side of the mountains," she said about the
nearby country home. "The geometry of the designs was
journey, which ultimately brought some of her
characteristic of those years and of my work.
saddest times. Accused of attempting to kill Stalin in
"I've always been on a playful search for beauty, and
1936, the designer spent 16 months in prison before
my daily routine is haphazard. I'm not a well-organized
being released on a train to Austria.
person and use assistants to help with that."
Although her family did not adhere to the Jewish reli-
Zeisel, whose industrial designs have included tiles and
gion practiced by earlier generations, they were con-
furniture, has received recognition from arts institutions
cerned their heritage would be discovered by the Nazis,
as well as the public. Besides having her pieces in the
they escaped to America in 1938, after going to
collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art and
Before entering the United States, the artist
London's British Museum among many other arts cen-
married Hans Zeisel, who became a law professor in
ters, she is today represented in stores as familiar as Bed,
Bath and Beyond and Macy's. Her many freelance clients Chicago.
"Eva's grandfather, Assyr Wohl, was a very famous
have included Noritake, Rosenthal and Sears, Roebuck.
The film, directed and produced by Jyll Johnstone and Jewish scholar in Vilna," says the artist's daughter, Jean
Richards, raised as a Unitarian. "He believed in cultural
co-produced and edited by Kate Stilley, uses some still
assimilation and spearheaded a movement that advocat-
pictures to recall the artist's history.
ed keeping one's religion but adapting to a country's cus-
Zeisel, born in Budapest to a family of intellectuals,
toms and language. He translated Hebrew prayer books
early on channeled her aesthetic talents into a trade and