cover image Eva Zeisel on Design: The Magic Language of Things

Eva Zeisel on Design: The Magic Language of Things

Eva Zeisel. Overlook Press, $45 (221pp) ISBN 978-1-58567-407-7

Despite having lived through both moderism's advent and its 'post'-ification, 97-year-old designer Zeisel advocates a pre-modernist concept of""magic design language"" in this lavishly illustrated tribute to her inspirations, accomplishments and beliefs. The Hungarian-born Zeisel spent the early years of her career in the U.S.S.R., until she was accused of plotting to murder Stalin. After 16 months of arrest, she was inexplicably freed, and arrived in New York via Austria and England in 1938. Within 10 years, she was at the forefront of America ceramic design. Her work now resides in the collections of major museums. Throughout this volume, Zeisel compares the objects that she has designed with works from ancient and contemporary cultures. Her smooth, evocative forks, glasses, cups, irons, tea pots are juxtaposed with long-limbed cacti, the arches of a medieval cloister, the""ragged contour"" of an Iranian village wall and an Etruscan""spiky pitcher."" The photos unfold organically, loosely grouped around various design precepts. Alone, a tall teapot skewed on its axis""makes us feel ill-at-ease""; balanced with a second one facing it,""the teapots seem to be dancing,"" Zeisel writes--thus the magic. In one of the most amusing parts of the book, Zeisel shows how her students often resemble their own designs, deftly reminding us of the close link she advocates between works and the people who make them. With a film on her life recently completed, and further books on her work forthcoming, expect a Zeisel renaissance. 164 color and 85 b&w photographs.