Jessica Puff, Michigan State Historic Preservation OfficeLook00
Charles and Ray Eames (Photo from Library of Congress Web site: http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9905/eames.html )
My two favorite things about modern design are Charles and Ray Eames. In my opinion, the two of them together are the greatest design team that ever practiced. They chose fun and exploration over disciplined philosophies and stuffy design rules. Nothing was off limits to them, and everything was possible.
“…And Then They Would Make it Better”
The two met at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in the 1940s and married soon after Charles and his wife Catherine Woermann divorced in 1941. Charles and Ray’s romance may have raised some eyebrows, but their work together overshadowed any shock or awe created from the first days of their relationship.
Over the course of their thirty-plus years together, Charles and Ray designed and explored countless projects. Toys, chairs, military splints, fabric, homes and random objects of interest were all dissected and analyzed. The two created videos about their interests and explained their theories in just a few short minutes of film. Charles and Ray studied how objects worked, where they didn’t work, and how to fix whatever it was they were studying. And then, they would make it better.
Herman Miller Lounge Chair, Designed by Eames, 1956 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Herman Miller, in Zeeland, Michigan, has been integral to the Charles and Ray Eames design story. In the late 1940s, the company gave the couple carte blanche to do whatever they wanted without restriction or interference. In return, Herman Miller has produced and sold numerous Eames chairs and continues to supply the world with reproduction Eames pieces that are both timeless and modern. However, for each piece actually built and sold, there were numerous pieces that never saw a day outside the design studio. These were study pieces, used to develop Charles and Ray’s ideas into the final furniture pieces sold over the past seventy years.
Today, design rarely is explored and analyzed as thoroughly or to the same extent as it was with Charles and Ray. Models and test case houses have been replaced by virtual and 3D images that are more easily produced but less personally created. Personal connection, fun and exploration are often forgotten in new design. We are left only with fond memories of what once was, remembered through the reproductions and videos from a pricelessly eccentric team that will never be replicated.