Sunday, August 24, 2008

Objects of Affection, Part 6

This is the last part of "Objects of Affection," a short piece I wrote about my first meeting with Eva Zeisel. I hope you have enjoyed it.

Jeannie came up the stairs. “Mr. Swan is lonely.” She reminded us that the driver is still waiting in the kitchen. We had reached the limit of his patience.  When we came down to leave, he knew that something of great importance had happened. He asked us for our names, so that he could tell his wife where he’d been and who he’d met. We each wrote down who we were, each protesting that the other was more of a luminary. I put an end to the gentle contest. When Eva wrote down her name, I said to Mr. Swan, “Do you see this tableware?” taking in the overloaded shelves of the kitchen with a sweep of my hand, “This woman designed all of these things.” He looked more closely at Eva, and looked at the stacks of dishes. That settled it, in his eyes. He put the paper with our names on it in his pocket.

Sara was my tour guide to Twentieth Century culture on the ride back to the conference. She interpreted the significance of everything we had seen. Turning to me in the darkness of Mr. Swan’s immaculate car, she said, “I suppose you know that this means we are meant to become friends, you and I. This sort of experience does not just happen.” God’s finger.

Coming back to the conference where just hours ago, things of utmost importance were being discussed, nothing seemed as crucial as before. In the treehouse, Eva Zeisel had leaned forward and said, “We are makers of things, not thinkers of thoughts.” Making things, talking with wise people, using the tools my father used, surrounding myself with affectionate objects - these are of life-shaping importance. 

The designed object is a vessel of communication, from the one making it to the one holding it. The message can be thoughtless, or it can be infused with meaning that speaks across time. This is my first lesson from a master of the wordless, magic language of design.


Wendee said...

This is wonderful stuff, Katherine; my summer reading! Thanks for sharing it all!

Katherine Bennett said...

Glad you liked it! I used to share this (and the accompanying slide show) with my History of ID students, but stopped some time ago. I show the documentary instead.