Ray and Charles Eames: The Seriousness of Play

(Left) One of sixteen stamps honoring the work of Ray and Charles Eames in 2008; (Right) Conceptual model for the Exhibition Mathematica 1960. Photos: Library of Congress

No two people knew the importance of play as a tool for designing a better world than Ray and Charles Eames. Awarded “The Most Influential Designers of the 20th Century” by IDSA (Industrial Designers Society of America) in 1985, this power couple changed the industries of modern architecture and furniture design, influencing all others who have come afterwards. To this day, their furniture has held their value as collectible masterpieces such as the Eames lounge chair (my personal favorite) or Eames chair.

Pictured is just a few of the Eames' many chair designs. You can still pick up a chair at Vitra stores or Design Within Reach stores.

They refined their building techniques to be able to bringing higher conceptual designs to affordable, everyday pieces such as their fiberglass, plastic resin chairs and their wire mesh chairs which influences can be seen just by walking through an IKEA store.

 

Charles and Ray during production of the short film "Toccata for Toy Trains".

This husband-and-wife team travelled the world collecting toys of interest and other cultural artifacts, and using them to create photographs and short films to document their interests. Toccata for Toy Trains was a short film taken from a toy’s-eye-view showing the experience of traveling from a busy, urban city by train to the quaint countryside station. Their narrative emphasized the value they saw in the imperfect, handmade qualities of antique toys, qualities that are lost in modern times in the attempt to have “a perfect little copy of the real thing.” Film-making was their vehicle for experimenting and educating, much like this website will be a vehicle, using “dollhouses” (or “modern miniatures” for those of the higher-brow community) and miniatures as the tools.

 

Many Eames toys are still being produced and evolving into collector's pieces today. (Left to right) House of Cards, kid's elephant chair, Folding Triangle modules, Bear, and building blocks

 

Breaking through many boundaries, the Eames redefining what is possible such as bendable plywood, the co-existing of work and play, and great design in affordable, everyday objects. Most importantly, they took charge and created the lives they wanted to live, not limiting themselves to a set job title with set duties, but letting their spirit of play take them into new places. As Charles has been quoted in saying, “Who ever said that pleasure wasn’t functional?”

 

 

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