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Design Icon: Eva Zeisel

Hungarian designer Eva Zeisel is best known for her sculptural organic ceramic pieces.

Eva Zeisel (1906-2011) crafted playful ceramic pieces and described herself as “a maker of useful things.” Originally a painter, Zeisel turned to ceramics as a more practical alternative career. She went on to become the first journeyman in the Hungarian guild for potters, and then worked in Germany for two years creating dinnerware, tea sets, and other assorted items. She moved to Russia “out of curiosity” and became the artistic director of the glass and ceramics industries for the Communist government. When she was 30, she was accused of plotting to assassinate Stalin and imprisoned for 16 months, 12 of which were in solitary confinement. This time altered her perception greatly, “You feel the difference first in the way you see colors,” she wrote later. She married Hans Zeisel, and they eventually moved to New York where she taught at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, presenting ceramics as an industrial design, rather than a traditional craft. Her work began to garner international attention, ultimately earning her the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewett National Design Museum, and she continued to actively work almost up until her death, at age 105. 

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