Raising the Curve: Designer Eva Zeisel

Accessories from Zeisel's "Classic Century" tableware line.

Accessories from Zeisel's "Classic Century" tableware line. hide caption

itoggle caption
The "Eva" crystal centerpiece for KleinReid.

The "Eva" crystal centerpiece for KleinReid. KleinReid hide caption

itoggle caption KleinReid
Eva Zeisel, with Crate & Barrel's display of "Century Classic."

Eva Zeisel, with Crate & Barrel's display of "Classic Century." Talisman K. Brolin hide caption

itoggle caption Talisman K. Brolin

Swooping up and around in whimsical curves, the ceramics designs of Eva Zeisel seem to almost come alive. "I do curves because I'm curvy — meaning I am a little bit fat," she says.

Considered one of the premier industrial designers of the 20th century, Zeisel — at 98 — still designs porcelain in her New York apartment. While the scarce originals of her early work have become sought-after collector's items, her signature curves can be found in the permanent collections of the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA. This month, Crate & Barrel introduced "Classic Century," a reissue of some of Zeisel's 1952 china collections.

Born in Hungary in 1906, Zeisel began her career at 18 as an apprentice potter. After jobs in various ceramics factories, she traveled to Russia where she worked her way up to art director of the state china and glass industry. In 1936, she was accused of plotting against the government and imprisoned for more than a year in a Soviet prison. Her time in solitary confinement was later recounted in the novel Darkness at Noon, by her friend Arthur Koestler.

After her release, Zeisel made her way to the United States, where she began teaching ceramics arts at New York's Pratt Institute. Her fluid works quickly gained attention, establishing Zeisel as a leader in modern design.

Books Featured In This Story

Eva Zeisel on Design

The Magic Language of Things

by Eva Zeisel

Hardcover, 221 pages | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Eva Zeisel on Design
The Magic Language of Things
Eva Zeisel

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.