Emily Morrow Finkell: Design Spectator…Everything Connects, Eames style
“Eventually everything connects . . .” according to Charles and Ray Eames.
The fall of 2016 marked the 60th anniversary celebration of Charles and Ray Eames’ lounge chair design. It is nearly impossible to look around and not find some design element that was the work or influence of the Eames. When you see a stack of molded chairs, can you even imagine that there was a time before this curved plastic molded shape existed? Charles and Ray Eames are among the most prominent figures in the world of architecture and design who forced us to see and consider things entirely differently, oftentimes elaborating about something as simple as the number ten. “Powers of Ten”, was a short documentary film created by the Eames on seeing things differently within 10 seconds, 10 miles, across galaxies or within the human body in increments of ten. Watching it you’ll easily see that they imagined concepts and the world well ahead of their time. Charles and Ray Eames were not just a power couple of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, they were THE power couple of the 20th century, sensible visionaries who identified qualities worthy of their time and attention, and details that mattered in the making of a product.
If you have any awareness of Charles and Ray Eames, then your next thought goes to Herman Miller Furniture. In walking the halls of the Chicago Merchandise Mart during NeoCon,design eyes will no doubt be open for the subtle nuances as well as the obvious details of the Eames. There are endless other entities beyond Herman Miller who have found inspiration and have taken silent direction from the Eames work. What those elements are and why are they important in today’s time beyond the 60th anniversary of the upholstered lounge chair, are more important than you’d imagine. Those elements and details include things that are now so deeply a part of our world that we take them for granted. Molding plastic, wire and plywood veneer into beautiful curved shapes and the integration of ergonomic design in such a way that form and function morph into something uniquely elegant, are some of the ways that the Eames permanently changed our world.
We have been seeing a gradual but undeniable influx of mid century modern furnishings throughout the interior design and furniture industry for several years now. From the least expensive knock-offs of Eames molded plastic chairs at department stores like Target or Ikea to the better quality modern retailers like Design Within Reach, you’ll easily find evidence of the Eames’ legacy. Flipping through recent copies of HGTV Home magazine, Lonny Magazine and HOUZZ, the molded plastic, molded plywood and wire framed chairs, I can’t help but wonder if the designers who are selecting the furniture are choosing it for the fact that it’s tres chic or for its practical form and functional attributes that Charles or Ray originally envisioned? I think both perhaps. Some of the most interesting insights I’ve enjoyed knowing about Charles Eames is that he believed aesthetics could be a part of function and said “take your pleasure seriously”. Knowing this, we can all appreciate the ever-present Eames influence in the world around us. Each piece was obsessively studied and considered for our comfort, our pleasure and our appreciation of how it serves usl better than any other object could.
Ray Eames believed that “things were not separate in our lives…just because you painted didn’t mean you didn’t were not interested in weaving…you simply would not separate things….whether it was history, music or pottery”. She studied abstract art which is not surprising in that each piece of the Eames designs have a sculptural appeal and feels as if it’s a piece of art. The two Eames mutually respected and admired one another as the great talent and design mind that they were. Charles Eames said “Anything I can do, Ray can do better.” Their own unique histories and viewpoints complemented the others’ and the result was as simple as combining “work and play” which was what they strived to do in their projects. It seems as if their work and play combination was nothing short of the alignment of the planets within the galaxy where all that they created had a lasting and meaningful impact.