Eva Zeisel More Info

1906 – 2011

Beatnik Eva

It is with great sadness that we advise of the recent death of Eva Zeisel at 105 years of age.

A great lady and an exceptional designer, she will be missed by all who knew her both personally and professionally and by those whose work she inspired. She received many accolades during the life not least when in 2004 at the age of 98, she was made an Honorary Royal Designer for Industry (HonRDI) by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and only the second woman honored for ceramic design.

Her story is one from tales of Triumph over Adversity and her legacy is one which will live on as each new generation takes inspiration from her designs.

Royal Stafford has been proud to be associated with such a great designer.

The Eva Zeisel Collection

Eva Zeisel  - Firing the imagination

Beatnik EvaEva was born Eva Amalia Striker on November 13, 1906 in Budapest, her father Alexander was a textile factory owner and her mother Laura Polanyi  ran a progressive kindergarten. Her mother was the first woman to receive a doctorate from a Hungarian university.

At eighteen Eva enrolled in the Kepzomuveszeti Academia (Budapest’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts) to become a painter but after eighteen months she left. Her parents insisted she learn a trade so she enrolled as an apprentice with a local potter making her the first woman member of “The Hungarian Guild of Chimney Sweeps Oven Makers, Roof Tilers, Well Diggers and Potters” She trod clay with her bare feet and travelled from house to house with her master to repair and install ovens.

At twenty-one Eva got her second position at an Art-pottery, Hansa Kunsterkeramik in Hamburg, Germany but her throwing was not proficient enough so after six months she returned to Budapest.

In 1928 she applied for a job at one of Germanys best known factories Shramberger Majolika Fabrik in the Black Forest and the geometric shapes she designed were starting to be exported mainly to America. A major influence on her work was the Modernist architecture of the time and the designs of the Bauhaus students.

One of the most intellectually stimulating times in Eva's life was in 1931 when she lived together with her brother Michael in a rented studio in Berlin.  The location was nearby to the Romanisches Café, considered at the time to be the intellectual epicentre of the world.  At the time in Berlin, Russian culture and folk art were extremely popular and Eva's enjoyment led her to visit Russia in 1932.  A boyfriend, Alex Weissberg was already working as a physicist and obtained a visa for Eva by saying they "were engaged to be married".
On arrival a visit to a local factory run by the Ukrainian China & Glass trust resulted in a job and Eva being sent to visit ceramic factories across the Ukraine.  Six months later she was transferred to the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory near St. Petersburg where she worked with the artist Nikolai Suetin and then in 1934 to Dulevo near Moscow then the second largest ceramic factory in the world. At 29 years of age Eva was made Artistic Director of the China & Glass Industry.  She was tasked to come up with a standard service to be used throughout the Soviet Union but before completion the idea was scrapped.  As well as the many ceramic designs she produced were also designs for bottles and electrical fixtures and store interiors.  For the sake of good order she also married Alex Weissberg.

Eva Zeisel Classic Century TeasetNow the darkest period of Eva’s life, when in May 1936 she was arrested in Moscow for conspiring to assassinate Stalin.  Her success had brought many enemies and for sixteen months she was incarcerated in various prisons, held in solitary confinement and interrogated.  However on September 17th 1937 believing she was to be executed she was in fact repatriated to Vienna due to the efforts of many of her influential contacts.  Six months later as Hitler moved into Austria through the ‘front door’, Eva escaped via the ‘back door’ to England where she met up with an old boyfriend she had met in 1931 during her time in Berlin.  Already divorced they married in 1938 and sailed to New York.

In America one of her first contacts was with the Bay Ridge Company in New Jersey to design a line of Giftware.  Working out of a room on the Pratt Institute campus her work was recognised and the Institute asked her to prepare a course on ceramic design.  This was the first time ceramics were dealt with as ‘Industrial Design’ as opposed to ‘Arts & Crafts’.

In the early 40’s Eva was approached by the Museum of Modern Art to design the first ‘all white china service’ in the States.  Working with Castleton China and delayed due to W.W.II it wasn't until 1946 that MoMA exhibited the collection ad the reaction left no question of Eva Zeisels importance as one of the leaders in modern ceramic design.  Many commissions followed for famous department stores and Eva worked with a number of important manufacturers.  It was her work at Hall China in the early 50’s which attracted the attention of Royal Stafford and discovering that Eva still retained the original block moulds led them to recreate items from the Classic and Century shapes for a new generation, 5 decades and the next millennium from the original concept.

For further information consult;
Web site;              www.evazeisel.org
Books;                 Eva Zeisel                      by      Lucie Young
                               Eva Zeisel On Design     by      Eva Zeisel

Eva Zeisel Biography

  1. Born November 13th in Budapest
  2. Enters the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Kepzomuveszeti Academia in Budapest).
  3. Becomes the first woman member of the Hungarian Guild of Chimney Sweeps, Oven Makers, Roof Tilers, Well Diggers, and Potters.
  4. Visits the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris.
  5. First job at Hansa Kunstkeramik, a small art pottery studio in Hamburg
  6. Designs over 200 objects for the Schramberger Majolika Fabrik, in Schramberg, Germany                                                          .
  7. Works for Christian Carstens Kommerz Gessellschaft in Germany while living five doors away from the famous Romanisches Café in Berlin.
  8. January 1st, visits Russia “to see what is behind the mountain.”  Designs for the Lomonosov factory near St. Petersburg.
  9. Works at Dulevo, near Moscow, the world’s second largest ceramics factory.
  10. Promoted to the post of Artistic Director of the China and Glass Industry in Russia.
  11. May 28th, arrested and imprisoned in Moscow on suspicion of plotting to assassinate Stalin.
  12. Arrives in Manhattan with $64 in her pocket.
  13. Establishes the first American course teaching ceramics as industrial design at Pratt Institure, Brooklyn, New York.
  14. Designs America’s first Modern, all-white, china dinner service, the Museum line for Castleton China of New Castle, Pennsylvania.
  15. The Museum line is presented to the public at a special exhibition at the museum of Modern Art (Castleton’s production was held up due to wartime conditions).  Designs the Town and Country service for Red Wing Pottery in Minnesota.
  16. Opens a design studio in the basement of her apartment building on Riverside Drive and West 115th Street in New York.
  17. Receives a mechanical patent for a tubular steel and canvas chair (now part of the MoMA permanent collection).

Designs Hallcraft / Tomorrow’s Classic dinner service for Hall China

  1. Creates the Prestige line for Federal Glass.  The glasses are produced at the rate of one a second and sell al over the world.
  2. Designs the Hallcraft/Century dinner service for Hall China.
  3. Teaches for a year at the Rhode Island School of Design.
  4. Creates her last design for 20 years for Hyalyn Pottery, Hickory, North Carolina.
  5. Visits the Zsolnay factory in Pecs, Hungary, and designs sculptural modern ceramics using colourful iridescent glazes.
  6. “Eva Zeisel: Designer for Industry” retrospective at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs de Montréal, which then travels to America and Europe.
  7. Designs Pinnacle dinnerware for International China.
  8. Honorary Doctorate from Royal College of Art, London.
  9. Honorary Doctorate from Parsons New School, New York City.
  10. Designs first of three interiors for the first Original Leather store in New York City.
  11. Designs and builds an office interior for John Striker, the president of Brownstone Publishers.
  12. Designs line of metal dishes, crystal vases, lamps, and ceramics for Nambé.  Creates six Eva vases for KleinReid in Brooklyn, New York.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art launches a re-edition of the Red Wing Town and Country line in its stores.  “Lost Molds and Found Dinnerware: Discovering Eva Zeisel’s Hallcraft,” a retrospective of her work at the Schien Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art, Alfred University, New York.  Establishes Eva Zeisel Web site.
  13. Returns to Lomonosov in Russia to design a modern tea set.  IDSA (Industrial Design Society of America) Bronze Apple Award.
  14. Honorary Member, American Ceramics Society.  Creates a martini glass for Bombay Sapphire Gin’s ad campaign.
  15. Receives Pratt Legends Award and Russel Wright Award.

2004    Creation of “Classic Century” by Royal Stafford, England,from original moulds of Eva’s Classic and Century designs.

          Eva is appointed an Honorary Royal Designer for Industry by the RDI in London.

Eva Zeisel Classic Century Footed Bowl Eva Zeisel Classic Century Teaset


For more information on Eva Zeisel contact:
The Eva Zeisel Forum
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