The Eames brand name has become the definition of a design powerhouse. Its contributions can be found anywhere in the United States, from the office chair that they give you at work to those flat, square-shaped patterns you see in houses sometimes.
Talking about the brand can sometimes be confused with talking about Charles Eames, exclusively. Though he was the designated poster boy for everything Eames-related, the legacy of Ray Eames (wife, workmate) is too great to be overlooked.
The enduring sexism of American society kept Ray in the shadows for a long time, even though her husband always made an effort to give her recognition.
Nowadays we understand that she’s the other half of an American legacy in art and design, and that she should be treated as such.
The collective history behind the Eames lounge chair
Behind every design by Charles and Ray Eames there was also a group of dedicated workers who actually molded the metal, plywood, and glass to make the furniture the Eameses are known for.
We are also not counting the myriad of manufacturers that contributed to the Eameses’ success by providing them with new materials, such as fiberglass.
From the beginning of the 1940s until Charles’ death in 1978 there were dozens of interns and workers doing the hard labor of working the various materials the Eameses used to realize their ideas.
Some of them were war veterans, while others were victims of the Great Depression. This bulk of disenfranchised individuals became the driving force behind the success of the brand name and postwar economy in America itself.
Remembering those who made Eames
A huge contributor the Eames design legacy was Parke Meek (1924 – 2010), a furniture designer who perfected the details that would allow the Eames chair to be mass produced.
He went on to pursue a career in film, and he had a love for science fiction that provided Eames furniture with its futuristic, modernist aura.
Other examples include Harry Bertoia, who is mostly known today for his own designs, including the ubiquitous Diamond chair, and Norman Bruns, a boxer. The latter became the technical force behind the treatment of plywood for different design challenges.
If you look up the staff that worked at the Eameses office you’ll find a rare collection of gifted individuals who gave their all and received little to no credit, quite sadly. But their legacy still lives in the works that bear the Eames brand name, including the classic Lounge chair and Ottoman.
To remember them is to understand American history, especially after WWII. Design and architecture are intimately tied to the work of the common man and his efforts to become something more, something everlasting.
To remember that Eames was (and still is) a team effort is to truly appreciate the beauty behind every piece of furniture.