Charles & Ray Eames
American designers Charles (1907-1978) and his wife Ray (1912-1988) Eames made groundbreaking contributions to many creative fields including architecture, furniture design, industrial design, graphic design, fine arts and film.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Charles Eames grew up in America's industrial heartland. As a young man he worked for engineers and manufacturers, anticipating his lifelong interest in mechanics and the complex working of things. Ray Kaiser, born in Sacramento, California, demonstrated her fascination with the abstract qualities of ordinary objects early on. She spent her formative years in the orbit of New York's modern art movements and participated in the first wave of American-born abstract artists.
The couple married in 1941 and moved from Michigan, where they had met at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, to Los Angeles and established an office together. With a grand sense of adventure, Charles and Ray turned their curiosity and boundless enthusiasm into creations that established them as a truly great husband-and-wife design team. Their unique synergy led to a whole new look in furniture. Modern and minimal. Playful and functional. Sleek, sophisticated, and beautifully simple. That was and is the "Eames look."
They got their first big break in 1942 when the US navy placed an order for 5,000 splints that they had made from a mould of Charles’ own leg. Having moved into a rented studio on nearby Santa Monica Boulevard, the couple continued their experiments in plywood producing furniture such as the Plywood Chair (1945), sculptures and even toys. After plywood, the Eames focused on projects with other materials by creating furniture in fibreglass, plastic, aluminium and, for the 1956 Lounge Chair, which was designed as a gift for director Billy Wilder, leather and a rich plywood. It was their experiments with fibreglass that led to the production of one of their most recognisable pieces still today: the Eames plastic armchair. The Eames plastic armchair was first presented in 1948 at the New York Museum of Modern Art’s ‘Low cost furniture design’ competition. The comfortable shell, made of fibreglass-reinforced plastic, was combined with a variety of bases to create different looks.
Their lives and work represented the nation's defining movements: the West Coast's coming-of-age, the economy's shift from making goods to producing information, and the global expansion of American culture. Their evolution from furniture designers to cultural ambassadors demonstrated their boundless talents and the overlap of their interests with those of their country. In a rare era of shared objectives, the design team partnered with the federal government and the country's top businesses to lead the charge to modernise postwar America.