I have copied this article below for your joy ~ Sparky:
The Life of Eva Zeisel and the Absurdity of Other People's Rules
Eva Zeisel, one of the most important women of the 20th century, lived to be 105, dying just the day before this new year, peacefully during an afternoon nap. She was a great personage of industrial design, and I was privileged to have had the gift of her friendship and love of life.
Someone who is so long-lived leaves much behind. In Eva’s case, her most tangible legacy, obviously, is the enduring beauty of her ceramic work. Over several decades she designed gorgeous pitchers, bowls, dinnerware—all practical and yet sensuous to the touch. Hers is a body of design work that will startle many generations still with the sheer pleasure it brings.
But perhaps even more than her work, Eva’s longevity to me is a testament to the absurdity of dogma. Eva flouted dogma every chance she got. She stripped away its power through sheer force of her will, charm, brilliance, inner strength and craving to know more about the all the curiosities of life. In the face of any useless theory or rule, Eva always won.
She had defied convention from the start. Where the dogma of her day would have had a wellborn Hungarian girl like Eva fall back into the lap of lacy idle luxury, instead Eva went blue collar, digging her hands, literally, into the clay. Wanting to learn a practical craft, Eva apprenticed herself among the ceramic makers for which
was famous. With no mentor or female role model, Eva worked elbow to elbow with the laborers, learning the craft of pottery making so thoroughly she eventually qualified for the guild title “journeyman”—a moniker she always cited as a primary accomplishments of her career. Hungary
Gradually, Eva’s design work matured in the late 1920s. She took great pleasure in making curves. But she soon found herself facing the dogma of modernism that said mass production could not co-exist with individually significant design, or beauty with straight lean modern lines.
Eva kept on, and turned all this theory on its ear by designing dinner sets that indeed were exhibited at the
, a temple to art, at the same time as they were for sale in the Sears Roebuck catalogue, the bible of working class purchase. Museum of Modern Art
She delighted in delight, and as the modernist movement took hold of design, she found it cold, undesirable and limiting and, yes, dogmatic. In her book,, she wrote: 'The modern movement restricted itself to a limited vocabulary of lines and forms. It introduced rules and principles that would dictate what distinguished good design from bad. These new rules aimed at silence communication between the maker of things and his public. Things lost their magic.'
Indeed, Eva chose magic over reality every time and what’s more, she could explain why. Once, when she received a high honor from the Hungarian government and a major retrospective of her work, I had the immense pleasure of traveling with her as a kind of aide-de- camp. At the opening reception, a somewhat haughty critic made a snide remark about the bird-formed lids on a Zeisel dinnerware set a la "you seem to be sentimentally drawn to making birds," Eva quipped, “well, when you have clay in your hands, it’s hard to avoid making birds.” He folded.
A Jew, Eva defied emerging Nazism by fleeing to
where she worked as art director of the Russian state ceramic and glass industry, but soon fell into the jaws of Stalinism. In another absurd development, the young and harmless Eva was accused of plotting to kill Stalin because a pistol was found in her sewing machine, she having no idea how it got there. She was imprisoned for 16 months, much of it in solitary confinement, enduring horrifying conditions and never knowing what would happen next. Yet, again, tapped into her transcendent inner energy and kept sane by doing hand stands in her cell, a space so small and narrow, she noted wryly, "there was no danger I could fall over." Russia
Then one day, as absurdly as the prison ordeal started, it ended. Her jailer showed up with a lipstick, gave it to her, and said she was being freed right then and there with only the clothes on her back. An imprisonment without rhyme or reason came to an end.
Eva eventually came to the United States, married the jurist Hans Zeisel, and went on to become a professor of design at Pratt Institute, a wife, mother, grandmother and world famous—always sticking to her core design beliefs.
But perhaps her greatest defiance was that of age. Once when she was in her mid-90s, I called her to say hello from a far off time zone. I said, “good morning, Eva.” as a tack, she replied, “where are you that it’s daylight? Here it’s night.”
Even at 105, she still loved the taste of chocolate, the crystal clink of her china, and the fold of a petal of a tulip which she fingered to “see” it as her eyesight failed.
As women today struggle with unlimited choices and freedom of behavior on the one hand, and a yearning for guidance and stability on the other, Eva’s knack for getting to the essence of life speaks to us all.
What I learned from Eva is that if one holds precious the thread between soul, heart and mind, it does not have to be lonely in the vanguard. Eva made her path by walking it. Thank you, Eva, and brava to all who can do the same.
For more information on Eva Zeisel and to see images of her work, please visit: