Ray-Bernice Alexandra Kaiser Eames, née Kaiser (December 15, 1912 – August 21, 1988), was an American artist, designer, and filmmaker. In creative partnership with her spouse Charles Eames and the Eames Office she was responsible for groundbreaking contributions in the field of architecture, furniture design, industrial design, manufacturing and the photographic arts.
Ray-Bernice Alexandra Kaiser
December 15, 1912
|Died||August 21, 1988 (aged 75)|
Los Angeles California
|Occupation||Artist, Designer, Film Maker|
|Known for||Artist with Allied Artists Association, Hoffmann Studio and designer at The Eames Office|
Ray was born in Sacramento, California to Alexander and Edna Burr Kaiser, and had an older brother named Maurice. Edna was Episcopalian and Alexander was raised Jewish but did not practice; Ray and Maurice were raised as Episcopalians. Ray was known to her family as Ray Ray. Rays’ father managed a vaudeville theatre, the Empress Theater (now the Crest Theatre), in Sacramento until 1920 when he became an insurance salesman, later going on to own a downtown office, to better support his family.
The family lived in an apartment for much of Rays' early childhood and they moved to a bungalow outside of the town. Her parents taught her the quality of enjoyment which later led to inventions in furniture design and toys. Her parents also instilled the value of enjoyment of nature.
After having lived in a number of cities during her youth and after her father's death, in 1933 she graduated from Bennett Women's College in Millbrook, New York, where her art teacher was Lu Duble; she moved to New York City, where she studied abstract expressionist painting with Duble's mentor, Hans Hofmann.
In 1936 Ray became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group and displayed paintings in their first show a year later in 1937 at Riverside Museum in Manhattan. The AAA group promoted abstract art at a time when major galleries refused to show it. Ray was a key figure in the New York art scene at that time and was friends with Lee Krasner and Mercedes Matter, who were to become important figures in abstract expressionism. Ray has a painting in the permanent collection of The Whitney Museum of American Art. Little remains of Ray's art from this period as it was lost.
Ray lived alone in New York City until she left the Hoffman Studio to return home to care for her ailing mother. Edna died in 1940.
By September 1940 Ray had decided to move to California to design and build a house. However, an architect friend, Ben Baldwin, recommended that she would enjoy studying at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It was here that Ray learned a variety of arts, not limiting herself to abstract painting. She worked with Harry Bertoia, Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames, and others on the display panels for the exhibition "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" at Museum of Modern Art.
Marriage to Charles Eames
Ray married Charles Eames in 1941. Settling in Los Angeles, California, Charles and Ray Eames began an outstanding career in design and architecture.
The Eames Office
The design process between Ray and Charles was strongly collaborative. This article refers to the works done by Ray.
The graphic and commercial artwork can be clearly attributed to Ray, she designed twenty-six cover designs for the journal Arts & Architecture during 1942 to 1948, and a major part of the Eames furniture advertisements at Herman Miller (since 1948).
In the late 1940s, Ray Eames created several textile designs, two of which, "Crosspatch" and "Sea Things", were produced by Schiffer Prints, a company that also produced textiles by Salvador Dalí and Frank Lloyd Wright. Two of her textile patterns were distinguished with awards in a textile competition (organized by MoMa). She worked on graphics for advertising, magazine covers, posters, timelines, game boards, invitations and business cards. Original examples of Ray Eames textiles can be found in many art museum collections. The Ray Eames textiles have been re-issued by Maharam as part of their “Textiles of the Twentieth Century” collection.
Between 1945 and 1978 the Eames office produced many furniture designs that went into commercial production, many of which utilised plywood. The first of the Eameses’ plywood pieces was a splint made for the US Navy. This idea came when one of Eameses medical friends, told her in detail about some of the problems caused by unhygienic metal splints. The metal splints were mass produced and therefore used simple designs molded in one plane rather the a more ergonomic compound curved design which would better respond to the human body. The Navy commissioned the Eameses to mass produce their design. Their company became the Molded Plywood Products Division.
After Charles's death in 1978, the Eames Office was wound down. Ray Eames worked on several unfinished projects (e.g. a German version of the Mathematica exhibition), was a consultant to IBM, published books, and administered the Eames archive and estate. In the years before her death Ray hosted visiting student groups, numbering in the region of fifty to sixty, and shortly before she died she was planning to host one hundred members of the American Institute of Architects to view the house and picnic in the meadow.
Ray Eames died in Cedars Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles, California, in 1988, ten years to the day after Charles. They are buried next to each other in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis. The office closed completely after Ray's death.
On 23 February 2013 a 3,300-square-foot exhibition titled “Ray Eames: A Century of Modern Design,” opened in the Sacramento, California Museum. The exhibition ran for one year and featured work produced by Ray before she met Charles in 1941 in addition to the work of The Eames Office.
Anything I can do, Ray can do better.— Charles Eames
Ray Eames had a joyful and rigorous work ethic at the "Eames office". She called it "shop"- a place where they worked and did early production work.
I never gave up painting, I just changed my palette.— Ray Eames
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