Eva Zeisel’s Shakers

Most people recognize these playful salt and pepper shakers. The Hungarian-born designer Eva Zeisel (1906–2011) is known as a ceramicist and industrial designer but referred to herself as a “maker of things.” Her career spanned nine decades and changed the way Americans set their tables and furnish their homes.

Zeisel created her Town and Country ceramic dinnerware line in the 1940s for Red Wing Pottery in Minnesota. The line is famous for its tilted plates and bowls and biomorphic shapes that fit nicely in the hu- man hand. The line was originally available in seven colors to be mixed and matched. The best-known accessory pieces from the Town and Country line are these nestling salt and pepper shakers. Zeisels pieces are highly collectible and recently have been reissued.

Eva Zeisel’s daughter, Jean Richards, gave Maine Home+Design some insight about these iconic shakers: “Two years after the dinnerware was released, cartoonist Al Capp came out with his comic strip showing a group of odd characters that looked suspiciously like the salt and peppers,” said Richards. Capp called them “shmoos.” She added, “We assume they were the inspiration for Al Capp’s characters—definitely not the other way around!”

“The salt and peppers were originally supposed to be a mother and child; Eva always designed her pieces in relationships,” revealed Richards. “The salt and peppers were based on her and me.”

Eva passed away in 2011 at age 105, but not before receiving the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005. Her works can be found in some of the world’s most renowned muse- ums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.