Eva Zeisel, ‘Maker of Useful Things,’ Dies at 105

Hungarian-born designer Eva Zeisel died on Friday at the age of 105. Best known for her sensuous ceramics, Zeisel described herself as a “maker of useful things” that ranged from tableware and furniture to rugs and “jewelry trees.” “She brought form to the organicism and elegance and fluidity that we expect of ceramics today, reaching as many people as possible,” MoMA’s Paola Antonelli told The New York Times. “It’s easy to do something stunning that stays in a collector’s cabinet. But her designs reached people at the table, where they gather.” Inspired by the natural world, Zeisel eschewed the label of industrial designer and the notion of innovation. “Industrial designers want to make novel things. Novelty is a concept of commerce, not an aesthetic concept,” she told the audience at the 2001 TED Conference (video below). “Makers of things: they make things more beautiful, more elegant, more comfortable than just the craftsmen do….To describe our profession otherwise, we are actually concerned with the playful search for beauty.” She spoke of her creations in refreshingly human terms and was concerned with how they related to one another. Among her final projects was a collaboration with Leucos that marked her first light fixtures: two pendants, two wall sconces, and two table lamps. “I always like to design at least two shapes together, so that I create a family that relates to each other,” she said earlier this year. “These lights are cousins.”