Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Objects of Affection, Part 3

Part three of my story of meeting Eva Zeisel...

Albert Swan, owner and sole driver of Albert Swan’s Limousine Service, owns a spotlessly kept, gold-colored car. He was the carriage driver on our magical journey through the wooded drives of Rockland County. Off we rode into the dark countryside, as Sara talked about Eva Zeisel’s impact on the design world.

We found the address in the darkness of a winding road, turned into a short drive and pulled up behind a stable of Volvo station wagons. Eva came out of the house to meet us, standing on the flagstones paving the tree-shadowed entry. Gurus eventually become human, this one a woman with white hair and kindness in her eyes,  waiting to greet us. We asked Mr. Swan to wait, and we went to meet her. 

She has the grace and manner of an earlier time, another continent. Old world. I remind myself that the Europeans defined Western hospitality. The house is one of those old, northeastern country houses. Originally very small, and added to over the years, an assembly of rooms following rooms. Settling with great age, the furniture settling with it, standing in place longer than several lifetimes. We pass through the hallway into a sitting room. There are two very small upholstered chairs, armless with heart-shaped backs and flowered covers. Little Miss Muffet chairs. There are two larger wingbacked chairs. I choose one of those; Sara puts her tiny form on one of the tuffets. Each has a chair that fits perfectly. 

There are low bookcases along one wall. A lamp stands on one and reminds me that Eva is a designer who is not afraid of ornament. The lamp base swells into a curving volume, white porcelain covered with a repeating design of small gold medallions. In front of us is a low round table filled with teapot, cups, saucers, plates and bowls. All her designs. I can not pull my eyes away from it.

To be continued...

photo: Hallcraft Century in a sublime yellow pattern, photographed at the Mingei Museum, San Diego. For designers like me, raised in the Modernist tradition, the thought of applied decoration gives us pause. Not in this case. The total effect of this display was breathtaking.

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