If you google search “top women in American history,” you will likely find names like Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, and Rosa Parks at the top of the list — and rightly so. Our noteworthy woman for this Women’s History Month won’t be found on these lists, but when it comes to groundbreaking American design — she’s a definite forerunner in the game. Her name is Ray Eames.
For the last 116 years, product development and design has sky-rocketed from the introduction of the first dial telephone in 1897 to the release of the Apple iPhone in 2007. This advancement in product design and technology spreads across all industries — including furniture and home architecture. That’s where Ray Eames enters the iconic American women designers scene. Among the key players in the circle of mid-20th century, avant-garde furniture and architectural designers, Ray Eames is one of the few women.
While Ray Eames is credited for much design work with fabrics, photographic arts, and cinematography, her name most resonates with much of Herman Miller’s classic furniture collection — as well as the design and development of the Eames House , her own home she lived in for most of her adult life with her husband and architect, Charles Eames.
In 1942, the Navy commissioned Ray and Charles Eames, to develop molded plywood splints, stretchers and experimental glider shells. Four years later, Evans Products began mass producing the Eameses’ molded plywood furniture – including the Eames molded plywood dining chair, molded plywood lounge chair, molded plywood folding screen, and molded plywood coffee table.
Almost immediately after seeing the success of the Eameses’ furniture work, Herman Miller recruited both Ray and Charles into their design and development team;
And just a year later, Herman Miller gained exclusive market and distribution rights to the Eameses’ award-winning products — that to this day are being sold and admired across the globe as authentic Eames furniture pieces.
Ray Eames is also famous for her work with Case House Study #8, one of the 25 case houses built between 1945 to 1966 as part of a residential architecture experiment sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine. In light of the housing boom from the return of millions of soldiers after WWII, John Entenza with Arts and Archtecture employed a select few architects/designers to develop “house models” for the housing market – with beauty, comfort and functionality in mind. The Eames House, located at 203 North Chautauqua Boulevard, Los Angeles, now serves as a landmark for modern architecture, and is noted as the most successful of the cases houses to infuse beauty, comfort and functionality together.
A job well done to Ray Eames! We salute your cutting-edge work in furniture and architectural design that has remained innovative through the past seven decades, and will continue to inspire many minds and warm many homes for decades to come.