Learning from the world of Charles and Ray Eames

The World of Charles and Ray Eames. Charles shows Antony Armstrong_Jones model of I.B.M. Pavilion for NY Worlds Fair. © Eames Office LLC

A foldable poster acts as a cover sleeve, while a range of paper textures and the simple juxtaposition of image and tex create a narrative flow in The World of Charles and Ray Eames. This is the catalogue to accompany the exhibition of the same name, held at London’s Barbican until 14 February 2016. And much like the show, the book explores the various facets of this inspiring design couple.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames. Wire Chairs with bird, 1953. Photo Charles Eames. © Eames Office LLC

Today Charles and Ray Eames are mostly associated with their furniture design, their hugely iconic chairs that are copied the world over. Their work, however, expands hugely beyond bendy wood and steel – it is their thinking, their ideology that has influenced generations of creatives and we suspect will continue to do so.


The World of Charles and Ray Eames. Eames Office staff © Eames Office LLC

The Eameses are intimately connected with a very unique mid-century Californian modernism. It would be impossible to consider one without the other. The sunshine state embodied the New World then – the west coast became synonymous with a new kind of modernity after the war. At its centre is optimism that was naturally lacking in Europe at the aftermath of two major world wars. California also benefited hugely from its geographical distance from ‘old world’ modernism, and perhaps the climate and vast beautiful coastline helped shape a very different creative mind-set.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames. Eames House exterior © Eames Office LLC

Californian modernism rejected some of the more rigid dogmas whilst maintaining the core values of the movement, and arguably directing it towards modern life so that ideologies like social improvement married new sensibilities of popular culture. Therefore film, music, magazines, mass-produced products joined the more ‘high culture’ disciplines like art, architecture and design as tools for shaping our lives. Californian modernism embraced free-thinking, liberalism, it had a direct connection with lifestyle. It took design out of the strict codes set by the European avant-garde and set it free. It was so very modern.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames. Cover of Arts & Architecture, July 1943, designed by Ray Eames © Eames Office LLC

Charles and Ray truly embodied Californian modernism. Just browse through photograph after photograph of this handsome and healthy couple working alongside their equally stylish friends in the Eames Studio. We see them experimenting with new material, finding new solutions for sustainable products, creating movies, stills and architectural models for living. Their energy is intoxicating, almost bouncing off the pages of this book. It is the kind of thinking that inspires our team at Spinach.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames. Office staff with model for Glimpses of the U.S.A, Moscow 1959 © Eames Office LLC

Charles and Ray Eames took the principles of early modernism, the expressive visions of early Bauhaus, transported it to sunny California, and moved it forward to be relevant in the new age. And what is most fascinating is just how relevant their work remains today. We hope to continue their discourse.

Image © Carles and Eay Eames Estate for Thames & Hudson

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