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Charles Eames

Charles Eames

*  1907 St. Louis/Missouri
† 1978 St. Louis

Charles Eames was already working as an architect when he met Eliel Saarinen, head of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In 1938 Eliel Saarinen offered Charles Eames a scholarship to Cranbrook Academy to study design and architecture. Charles Eames became a teacher of design at Cranbrook in 1939 and, in 1940, head of the industrial design department there. Charles Eames's friendship with Eliel Saarinen's son Eero was also of paramount importance for his subsequent career. Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen collaborated on designs to be submitted to the "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition hosted by the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1940. Their main design, an armchair with the seat and back formed three dimensionally of a single piece of molded plywood received an award at the MOMA competition but proved unsuitable for mass production. Other designers who collaborated with Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen on the designs submitted to the MOMA competition included Harry Bertoia, Don Albinson, who would later play an important role in Eames's office, and Ray Kaiser, whom Charles Eames married in 1941. The couple moved to Los Angeles, where they continued in their flat to experiment on developing an efficient and cost-effective method of molding plywood in three dimensions, using a press they dubbed "Kazam! Machine". In 1942 Charles and Ray Eames founded the Plyformed Wood Company and made splints and stretchers of molded plywood for the US Navy. Financial straits forced them to sell the business to the Evans Product Company, where Charles Eames became head of the research and development division. Eames's office produced more prototype plywood furniture, which MOMA exhibited in 1946 at the one-man show "New Furniture by Charles Eames". The Eames designs shown included the "Lounge Chair, Metal" featuring a tubular steel framework and the "Lounge Chair, Wood", based on a 1940 design and made of bentwood elements. Further developed with armrests, this Eames chair became the prototype of the celebrated and sophisticated 1956 "No. 670" lounge chair with the "No. 671" footstool. Ray and Charles Eames also experimented with fiber glass in the late 1950s, producing the revolutionary "Plastic Shell Group", that included the "La Chaise" chair (1948), the "Dining Armchair Rod" and the "Rocking Armchair Rod" (1948-1950). The "Aluminium Group" dates from 1958. Furniture designed by Charles and Ray Eames is produced mainly by Herman Miller and Vitra.