Seeing Things Eva's Way

"We all know that Eva is still with us"
-John Zeisel, Memorial Celebration of Eva Zeisel (1906-2011), June 2, 2012

I used to love this bowl. Until one day about 2 years ago when I brought it over to Eva's house. Her daughter Jeannie was always looking for interesting projects to entertain her. Since Eva couldn't see very well by then, fabric and wallpaper weren't going to do it. I was thinking about getting into ceramic design, so I brought over some of my favorite inspirations to see what she had to say about the shapes and surfaces.

Talk about Really Bad Coals to Newcastle. She hated everything, but especially this bowl. "It's all wrong," she decreed. It was immediately obvious. Hateful acute angles stabbing that pregnant sphere--what was I thinking? The ears were, well, fascist.

Then she said, "You're a surface designer! Why do you want to do my job?"

It turns out that Eva had little say about the surface decoration on her "things" (she didn't like the term Industrial Designer, she called herself a "maker of things"). As a maker of things commercially produced, her control stopped at the "thing." Her exquisite forms stood proudly, even in some pretty kitschy "dresses." Sublime when decoration served form--or left it alone entirely. Her forms made white a color.

Eva said "I am the inventor of function follows form." Imagine. She also said "you need to make soul contact."

Eva's biggest gift to us is her admonition to keep working, keep curious, and don't be afraid to challenge goddesses, even.  Someday Eva, I am going to make "things." Meantime I'll put flowers in them, for you.

Between the not yet gilded past
and the time for which we strive
lies, unnoticed, and not to last,
the moment which is life.
-Eva Zeisel, 1950