We mourn the recent passing of designers Eva Zeisel and Sori Yanagi, two masters of modern design. While perhaps lesser known than others of their generation, they are no less important. Both enjoyed long careers marked by many beautiful designs.
Eva Zeisel, a trained painter, took up the industrial arts to avoid becoming a starving artist. Beginning her career in a Soviet porcelain factory, the Hungarian-born Zeisel made her way to the United States, following a harrowing escape from Eastern Europe. In the U.S., she joined the growing design scene of the 1940s. Describing her own work as the, “playful search for beauty,” Ziesel drew upon human forms and relationships to create flower vases with belly buttons, bowls that nestled, and shakers that embraced. Rightly credited with bringing tranquility to the American table, Zeisel was 105 when she passed away on December 30, 2011.
For Sori Yanangi the fundamental problem was “that many products are created to be sold, not used.” In response, Yanagi designed everyday objects, ranging from kettles to motorcycles; in doing so, he helped define the look of Japan following the Second World War. One of his most famous designs, the Kikomann soy sauce bottle and its iconic red cap, is familiar to many Western eyes. Inspired by a Japanese shrine gate, the design is largely unchanged since it was introduced almost 50 years ago. Sori Yanagi was 96 when he passed away on December 27, 2011.