Born in Hungary in 1906, Eva Zeisel endured two world wars and the Soviet revolution. She spent sixteen months in a Russian prison and escaped Nazi persecution before emigrating to the U.S. in 1938. Best known for her ceramics, Zeisel called herself a modernist with a “little m.” She rejected doctrinaire geometries in favor of fluid forms and counterforms.

Throughout her career, Zeisel employed cut paper in her design process. These cutouts enabled her to refine and emphasize the curving silhouettes that are the hallmark of her work. Her Eva flatware, created for the retailer Crate and Barrel, is among her last designs. Olivia Barry, Zeisel’s design assistant, produced these cut-paper designs with Zeisel’s guidance.

Eva Zeisel’s cutouts appear in the exhibition Beautiful Users, 12 December 2014 – 26 April 2015.

Ellen Lupton is Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art.

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