Design Inspiration: “maker of useful things” Eva Zeisel 1906 – 2011

I read the other day that Eva Zeisel recently died on the 30th December at the age of 105! So I thought what a wonderful woman and designer to start with for our Monday edition of Inspiration. We are extending this post to cover all kinds of things and people that are inspirational to us and hopefully to you… I will continue to write about Textiles Inspirations.

“maker of useful things”

Eva Zeisel was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1906 to interesting and successful parents — her mother was Laura Polanyi Striker, a historian, feminist and political activist and her father Alexander Striker owned a textile factory. Eva Zeisel was a world renowned designer and had always explained herself as a “maker of things”. Originally Eva studied Fine Art, 1923, but after 3 semesters quit her course to study as apprentice to a traditional potter after being encouraged by her mother that having a trade would bode her better than the fickle world of art. The apprenticeship afforded her title of Journeyman, she was the first female member of a traditional Hungarian Guild of Chimney Sweeps, Oven Makers, Roof Tilers, Well Diggers & Potters. Years later, in 1946, Eva Zeisel had the first one WOMAN show at the MOMA.

During her 9 decade span as a designer, Eva Zeisel travelled extensively and designed works that were produced in factories all over the world. She famously said “Men have no concept of how to design things for the home…Women should design the things they use”. I loved finding out that lots of her inspiration came from babies bottoms which you can see in the shapes of her designs.

It was very interesting to discover that in 1936 and during Eva Zeisel‘s role as Artistic Director for the Porcelain and Glass Industries for the entire country in Moscow, she was arrested and spent 16 months in a Russian prison after being falsely accused by a colleague of conspiring to assassinate Stalin! She was finally discharged and put on a train to Austria with no explanation as to her incarceration. I can only imagine the relief of being able to design after that kind of experience, using colour again and having fun with form must have been so wonderful for her after such a cold, dark and terrifying ordeal.

Please read more here, where you can get an idea of the enormity of her achievements and a timeline.