Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Designer Love... {Eva Zeisel}

I've been endlessly debating about starting a designer series that includes spotlights on some of my favorite designers. I figured I would at least do one and so I chose one of my absolute favorites... Eva Zeisel.

Eva Stricker (Zeisel) was born in Budapest in 1906. In 1923, she began her painting studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. During her studies, her mother convinced her to learn a trade and so Eva began an apprenticeship with a traditional potter.

In 1928, she designed several dinnerware pieces for Schramberg. Pat Moore, a member of Modish (a great source) published a book on Zeisel's work for Schramberg.

In 1938, she moved to New York as a newlywed with husband Hans Zeisel. The following year she begins teaching at the Pratt Institute and creates a curriculum for Industrial Ceramics. She creates designs that are manufactured by Universal Potteries, Castleton China and Red Wing to name a few.

Town and Country Line via British Museum

The shmoo that I have is unmarked but the shape is so unique and recognizable that I knew what it was right away. I found it at an antique store for .50 because it was unmarked and didn't have its pair.

Town and Country shaker for Red Wing- shmoo (schmoo)

One of the lines that I haven't been able to gather much information on is the one for Monmouth Pottery. This blog features a 1954 article on some of her pieces for them. You can also see some of the pieces here at Modish.

Eva Zeisel for Monmouth Pottery

I found a shaker that has the form of her Pals line for monmouth but it does not look like the blueberry glaze to me. It actually looks like one of the glazes for Red Wing. I also found this one (at the same antique store as the shmoo shaker) for a mere .50! It took me ages to figure out what it was but I thought the shape was really neat and the price was just unbeatable.

Eva Zeisel- Hallcraft Classic Century 

One of the lines that I've been lucky to get my hands on is the Classic Century Dinnerware for Hallcraft. It was originally designed in 1952. In 2004, it was re-launched by Royal Stafford and is carried by Crate & Barrel. That alone should be a testament to the beauty and understated elegance of the set.

Luckily for me, I found a 32 piece set in pristine condition at a local Goodwill. The thrifting gods were looking over me because I had never been to this Goodwill and the only reason I went that day was because I dropped the boy off for a bike ride. I was looking through the housewares section and I always look at the white dinnerware. I liked the shape of one of the serving bowls and so I picked it up. When I turned it over I almost fell over with excitement, not only because I read Eva Zeisel but because it also read set of 31! I momentarily panicked because I didn't have a basket. Well, somehow I managed to carry all (32 not 31) of them to the register.

Later in the year I came across a hard to find 4 part relish dish in the Sunglow Pattern. The line is Classic Century for Hallcraft. If you feel so inclined, I would take a gander at some of her patterns for Hallcraft. They are quite stunning. 

I love her work so much that when I was browsing craigslist for her stuff I found the large set above listed in the Bay Area. The price was unbelievable and I immediately sent an email to a dear friend of mine about the find. Luckily, she was in the market for a tableware set and snagged it right up!

She also made designs for the Riverside Ceramics Company, United China & Glass, Sears, Clover Box Co., Salisbury Artisans, Federal Glass Co. and so on. You can see a complete chronology of her life and work here.

I badly want to find this book at a thrift!

It is nearly impossible for me to cover all of her work because I haven't even seen most of it. She is one designer that I continuously pursue. She has an incredibly extensive body of work that continues to amaze me. She is over 100 years old and continues to work and inspire. As a result, she was awarded a lifetime achievement award in 2005 by the Cooper-Hewitt.

You can see some of her pieces at UNICA, Klein Reid, The Rug Company, The Orange Chicken, Crate and Barrel and Design Within Reach.

My only hope is that after reading this you have added one more designer to your list of notable designers. You can continue learning about her through the various links that I've provided. If you have anything to add please feel free to comment below. If you want to share some insight on some of your favorite designers I would love to hear it!

Information was extracted from the Eva Zeisel Forum and MODish.


  1. Definitely start a designer series! That was interesting! I honestly don't know who my favorite designer is. I get overwhelmed with pottery and china. Its a big BIG gap in my knowledge of vintage.

  2. Wonderful glad you chose Eva because I know, correction...knew nothing about her. Her Town and Country line in first pic is stunning. Slightly crazy, but beautiful. So richly cloloured, shiny and glossy! And that set of bowls on the cover of book...Wow!
    Thanks, I'm looking forward to your next designer...please.

  3. I love the Classic Century Dinnerware. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Really enjoyed this post - Zeisel was one of the first modern designers we really became aware of at thrifts. But even that was too late. It's still possible to find her work occasionally, especially the unmarked Red Wing stuff. Early on I passed up a bunch of the dinnerware because I had no idea what it was. Oh I found one Sunglow pattern item earlier and sold it - sort of regret that now!

  5. Thanks for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed some of her pieces! I'm thinking I'll continue with some of the bigger designers (since that is how I started learning about them myself). We'll see!

    @ A La Modern- I haven't found her stuff in a while. I actually passed up a beautiful Red Wing creamer of hers when I first started. It caught my attention but the price was a bit high for my comfort. It sat there for months and when I finally knew what it was, it was gone! I think I may resell the shakers that I have but definitely not the dinnerware, I'm too attached. :)

  6. I know you wrote this a year ago, but I was doing some investigating about the schmoo shaker and came across your blog. I just found a tall shaker that matches the one you posted- I would never have known it was anything at all except that Zeisel was featured in Dwell magazine this month and I had just seen the shaker set in the magazine and then promptly stumbled across one in a thrift store. I'm not a collector and it's not something I need- if these are a collector's item, where would be the best place to offer it for sale?

    1. Hi Amy,

      I'm so glad you were able to ID the design and I hope you've learned a bit more about Eva Zeisel in the process. The Schmoos do command a nice price. I don't know where you are but if you aren't interested in reselling a lot of items, or if you don't have an Ebay, Etsy or Paypal account I would recommend selling it through Craigslist. One of the factors for pricing the item is the glaze color as well as the condition. If it is peach, like mine, then it isn't as desirable but still a great seller for a shaker!

      I hope this helps!