After her marriage to Charles Eames, Ray Eames was an equal and powerful contributor to their design office. They worked together on projects building furniture, houses, exhibitions, films, toys, and design materials. Ray had a profound say over everything that happened or was produced at the now-famous Office of Charles and Ray Eames in Venice California. However, she was cast as a secondary partner for most of her life, discounted by the design and architecture critical establishment (all of the Eames chairs and furniture were, for many years, attributed only to Charles). But in the 1980s the Eames archives and catalogues were opened to the public, and what had always been known within the office became clear to the public: That Ray had her fingerprints on every design that emerged from the little office in Venice, California.
Ray Eames (nÃ©e Kaiser) began her career as a painter, and worked with the legendary Hans Hoffman for six years while living in New York City. In 1940 she switched allegiances to design, and secured a place at the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It was there she met Charles, and a lifelong collaboration began in 1941, when they married. While at the Cranbrook Academy Ray was a gifted and successful student, lending invaluable assistance to both Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen while they were working on designs for the Museum of Modern Art's "organic" furniture competition. With Ray's help, both men won first place prizes for their designs.
The partnership of Charles and Ray Eames was symbiotic and seamless; there was no leading voice or apprentice role, everything was done together and with attention to perfect design rather than perfect workplace bureaucracy. If they can be put into two categories, it's safe to say the while Charles was the architect (who was interested in materials and building), Ray, with her painters soul, was the designer (fabrics, organization, aesthetics). It was Charles who pushed the Office of Charles and Ray Eames to become a leader in the pre-fabricated housing industry, but it was Ray who refined the approach, and was able to construct the Eames Residence (referred to internally as Case Study House #8) both efficiently and brilliantly. The home is still an architectural and aesthetic wonder, a tribute to a fruitful and dynamic collaboration.
Ray Eames is now considered, on her own, to be one of the great designers of this century. With Charles at her side, the pair are arguably the greatest pair of designers in history.
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