Ray-Bernice Alexandra Kaiser Eames, née Kaiser (December 15, 1912 – August 21, 1988), was an American artist, designer, and filmmaker. In creative partnership with her spouse Charles Eames and the Eames Office she was responsible for groundbreaking contributions in the field of architecture, furniture design, industrial design, manufacturing and the photographic arts.
Ray-Bernice Alexandra Kaiser
December 15, 1912
|Died||August 21, 1988 (aged 75)|
Los Angeles California
|Occupation||Artist, Designer, Film Maker|
|Known for||Artist with Allied Artists Association, Hoffmann Studio and designer at The Eames Office|
Ray Eames was born in Sacramento, California to Alexander and Edna Burr Kaiser, and had an older brother named Maurice. Edna was Episcopalian and Alexander was raised Jewish but did not practice; Ray and Maurice were raised as Episcopalians. Eames was known to her family as Ray Ray. Eames' father managed a vaudeville theatre, the Empress Theater (now the Crest Theatre), in Sacramento until 1920 when he became an insurance salesman, later owning a downtown office to better support his family.
The family lived in an apartment for much of Ray's early childhood and moved to a bungalow outside of town. Her parents taught her the quality of enjoyment which later led to inventions in furniture design and toys. Her parents also instilled the value of enjoyment of nature.
In 1933, Eames graduated from the Bennett Women's College in Millbrook, New York (where her art teacher was Lu Duble), and moved to New York City to study abstract expressionist painting with Duble's mentor, Hans Hofmann.
In 1936, Eames became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group and displayed paintings in their first show in 1937 at Riverside Museum in Manhattan. The AAA group promoted abstract art at a time when major galleries refused to show it. She was a key figure in the New York art scene at that time and was friends with Lee Krasner and Mercedes Matter, who were important figures in abstract expressionism. Eames has a painting in the permanent collection of The Whitney Museum of American Art. Little remains of her art from this period as it was lost.
Eames lived alone in New York City until she left the Hoffman Studio to return home to care for her ailing mother. Edna died in 1940.
By September 1940, Eames was entertaining the idea of moving to and building a house in California. Her architect friend, Ben Baldwin, recommended that she would enjoy studying at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It was there that Eames learned a variety of arts, not limiting herself to abstract painting. She worked with Harry Bertoia, Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames, and others on the display panels for the exhibition "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" at the Museum of Modern Art.
Marriage to Charles EamesEdit
Following a quick courtship, Eames married Charles Eames in 1941. Settling in Los Angeles, California, Charles and Ray Eames began an outstanding career in design and architecture.
The Eames HouseEdit
Charles and Ray were asked to participate in the Case Study House Program, a housing program sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine in the hopes of showcasing examples of economically-priced modern homes that utilized wartime and industrial materials. John Entenza, the owner and editor of Arts & Architecture magazine, recognized the importance of Charles and Ray’s thinking and design practices—alongside becoming a close friend of the couple. Charles and Eero Saarinen were hired to design Case Study House number 8, which would be the residence of Charles and Ray, in 1945. The home (alongside other Case Study houses) would share a five-acre parcel of land in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood north of Santa Monica, which overlooked the Pacific Ocean. Because of post-war material rationing, the materials ordered for the first draft of the Eames House (called “the Bridge House”) were backordered. Charles and Ray spent many days and nights on-site in the meadow picnicking, shooting arrows, and socializing with family, friends, and coworkers. They learned of their love for the eucalyptus grove, the expanse of land, and the unobstructed view of the ocean. They made the decision to not build the Bridge House and instead reconfigured the materials to create two separate structures nestled into the property’s hillside. Eero Saarinen had no part in this second draft of the Eames House; it was a full collaboration between Charles and Ray. The materials were finally delivered and the house was erected from February through December of 1949. The Eameses moved in on Christmas Eve and it became their only residence for the remainder of their lives. It remains a milestone of modern architecture.
The Eames Office designed a few more pieces of architecture, many of which were never put into fruition. The Herman Miller Showroom on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles was built in 1950 and the De Pree House was constructed in Zeeland, Michigan for the founder of Herman Miller’s son, Max De Pree, and his growing family. Unbuilt projects include the Billy Wilder House, the prefabricated kit home known as the Kwikset House, and a national aquarium.
The Eames OfficeEdit
The design process between Ray and Charles was strongly collaborative. This entry refers to a sample of the works done by Ray.
The graphic and commercial artwork of the Eames Office projects can be largely attributed to Ray. Separately from Charles and the Eames Office, she designed twenty-seven cover designs for the journal Arts & Architecture from 1942 to 1948. She also contributed to the Eames furniture advertisements for Herman Miller (since 1948).
In 1947, Eames created several textile designs, two of which, "Crosspatch" and "Sea Things", were produced by Schiffer Prints, a company that also produced textiles by Salvador Dalí and Frank Lloyd Wright. Two of her textile patterns were distinguished with awards in a textile competition organized by MoMA. She worked on graphics for advertising, magazine covers, posters, timelines, game boards, invitations and business cards. Original examples of Ray Eames textiles can be found in many art museum collections. The Ray Eames textiles have been re-issued by Maharam as part of their “Textiles of the Twentieth Century” collection.
Between 1943 and 1978, the Eames Office produced numerous furniture designs that went into commercial production, many of which utilized plywood. The first of the Eameses’ plywood pieces was a splint made for the US Navy. This idea came when one of Eameses medical friends, told the Eameses about the problems caused by unhygienic metal splints. The metal splints were mass produced and used simple designs molded in one plane rather the a more ergonomic compound curved design that better responded to the human body. Ray Eames's early background in fashion design proved useful for this project, as the design for the splint's form resembled a clothing pattern with a system of darts to contour the plywood to the shape of a soldier's leg. The Navy commissioned the Eameses to mass produce 150,000 unites of their splint design. Their company became the Molded Plywood Products Division of Evans Plywood. The splint funding allowed for Charles and Ray to expand their production and experimentation of creating furniture with plywood.
The Eames Office's productivity slowed after the death of Charles Eames in August 1978. Ray Eames worked on several unfinished projects (e.g. a German version of the Mathematica exhibition), was a consultant to IBM, published books, gave lectures, accepted awards, and administered the Eames archive and estate. Approximately 1.5 million two-dimensional objects were organized and donated by Ray to the Library of Congress for archival safekeeping. She authored a book featuring all Eames Office projects from 1941 until the mid-80s, although much of it was altered before publication (just after Ray's death). In the years before her death Ray hosted visiting student groups, numbering in the region of fifty to sixty, and was planning to host one hundred members of the American Institute of Architects to view the house and picnic in the meadow.
Ray Eames died in Cedars Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles, California, on August 21st, 1988, ten years to the day after Charles. They are buried next to each other in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis. The office closed completely after Ray's death.
On February 23rd, 2013 a 3,300-square-foot exhibition titled “Ray Eames: A Century of Modern Design,” opened in the Sacramento, California Museum. The exhibition ran for one year and featured work produced by Ray before she met Charles in 1941 in addition to the work of The Eames Office.
Anything I can do, Ray can do better.— Charles Eames
I never gave up painting, I just changed my palette.— Ray Eames
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