Ceramicists tend to live to a very late age. So said Gloria Gerace, director of Pacific Standard Time, on this DnA, when talking about ceramic art and craft on display in Pacific Standard Time’s design shows. She pointed out that Beatrice Wood lived to 105 while others with work on exhibit typically lived at least into their late 90s.
And now we have the news of another ceramicist leaving us, also at 105 years; namely, the gifted Eva Zeisel. The Hungarian-born Zeisel (whose salt and pepper shakers are shown, left) arrived in New York after extraordinary trials in Europe — imprisonment in a Soviet prison and subsequent flight from Nazi-controlled Austria. She was embraced in New York in the 1940s, saw her work collected by MOMA and dedicated the rest of her life to the creation of curvaceous functional objects, in what she described as a “playful search for beauty.” She even lived long enough to see her work enjoy a rebirth of public interest in the last decade.
But what might account for such longevity, and could there be a connection to ceramics? Beatrice Wood attributed her vitality to “chocolate and younger men”; Eva Zeisel was certainly invigorated by her passion for her work. When I talked about this with Gloria Gerace, we wondered if there was something specific to pottery that lengthened life — the connection to the earth, maybe; the meditative nature of working at a potter’s wheel (at least, when you know what you are doing); the physical exertion demanded in pottery-making, strengthening heart and lungs and arms; or simply, the calming nature of creating form with ones hands.
If you have thoughts on this, let us know. In the meantime, Eva Zeisel, RIP.