Thursday, August 21, 2008

Objects of Affection, Part 4

... continuing where we left off—Sara Little Turnbull and I are sitting down to tea with Eva Zeisel:

Eva will not let us help. She carries in a table to hold a tray of food. Tomatoes, a couple of cheeses, boats of French endive, mayonnaise. A late-night feast. The light from the lamp shines through the translucent yellow-green of the lettuce. Everything put in place. When she is ready to sit down, Eva stops at my side and says with a quick sigh of accomplishment, “Now. Let me look at you.” She holds my eyes for a long moment. I let her. I am in safe company. I have never seen eyes like hers – completely brown, but with a narrow border of blue at the outside of the iris. Her daughter Jeannie joins us. She has the same eyes. 

Sara and Eva talked about people they have known over the years. Their friends were, to me, the protagonists of art history. I had moments of desperation that I wasn’t grasping what was being said. That things of utter monumental importance were sliding by without sticking, and then I remembered. Relax. I absorbed the conversation through my pores. My soul has heard and has remembered. The message is in my bones, and will speak when I sit down at my work table to create my next humble offering to the universe.

I drink in the things on the tea table. I had poured over the pictures, but the pieces themselves are alive. I had no idea that a shape could be so vocal. Teapot, pitchers, cups, bowls, saucers - nothing out of tune, no line that is not absolutely of the master’s hand. 

“There is no way to hold this that is not graceful,” Sara remarks, holding the bowl of cherry tomatoes towards us with a smile. There is a moment that I can not pass without picking up the pitcher of milk, holding it at eye level, burning the image into my retina, and putting it back. Eva watches me do this. We are designers. She understands.

We climb to Eva’s “treehouse,” her studio at the top of the stairs. We pass through the workshop, trade opinions on power saws. She shows us photos of current projects. Climb another flight to the top. To the room of affectionate objects. 

The treehouse is a sanctuary that displays all the pieces that Eva has designed on lighted shelves. I spot the refrigerator pitcher she did for Hall kitchenware in 1954. My good sense leaves me and I blurt out, “I would kill for one of those!” She smiles at me like an indulgent grandmother and says with kindness, “You may touch it.” 

to be continued...

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