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Raising the Curve: Designer Eva Zeisel

Accessories from Zeisel's "Classic Century" tableware line.
Accessories from Zeisel's "Classic Century" tableware line.

Swooping up and around in whimsical curves, the ceramics designs of Eva Zeisel seem to almost come alive. "I do curves because I'm curvy -- meaning I am a little bit fat," she says.

Considered one of the premier industrial designers of the 20th century, Zeisel -- at 98 -- still designs porcelain in her New York apartment. While the scarce originals of her early work have become sought-after collector's items, her signature curves can be found in the permanent collections of the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA. This month, Crate & Barrel introduced "Classic Century," a reissue of some of Zeisel's 1952 china collections.

Born in Hungary in 1906, Zeisel began her career at 18 as an apprentice potter. After jobs in various ceramics factories, she traveled to Russia where she worked her way up to art director of the state china and glass industry. In 1936, she was accused of plotting against the government and imprisoned for more than a year in a Soviet prison. Her time in solitary confinement was later recounted in the novel Darkness at Noon, by her friend Arthur Koestler.

After her release, Zeisel made her way to the United States, where she began teaching ceramics arts at New York's Pratt Institute. Her fluid works quickly gained attention, establishing Zeisel as a leader in modern design.

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Jennifer Ludden
NPR National Correspondent Jennifer Ludden covers economic inequality, exploring systemic disparities in housing, food insecurity and wealth. She seeks to explain the growing gap between socio-economic groups, and government policies to try and change it.