Check out Sighted 2012 for more inspiring photos.
What inspires us and what we hope will inspire you and all the members of the Herman Miller community.
Mindy Koschmann is a story lover and lives for writing, reading, watching, and listening to well-told tales. When she isn't telling stories for Herman Miller, she's fishing matchbox cars out of the toilet for her two boys.
Check out Sighted 2012 for more inspiring photos.
In 1951, Charles and Ray Eames held a tea ceremony at their Pacific Palisades home with a whimsical mix of guests including sculptor Isamu Noguchi, poet Iris Tree, and actors Charlie Chaplin and Ford Rainey. Japanese actress and singer Shirley Yamaguchi participated in the event as a student. The tea master, Shizuye Sosei Matsumoto, was teaching Yamaguchi how to perform the tea ceremony for the film “East Is East.” Like everything done by the Eameses, the ceremony was a spirited artistic statement—a singular experience impossible to replicate.
The singularity of the experience recalls the Japanese saying “Ichi-go ichi-ye,” which in essence means “one time, one meeting.” Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles Eames and head of the Eames Foundation, took this phrase to heart when considering a reenactment of the original ceremony. He and members of the Eames Foundation, tasked with preserving and restoring the Eameses’ home, thought reenacting the ceremony would be a compelling way to raise money for repairing the home’s floors.
When Ray Eames entered this textile design in a 1947 competition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, she titled the print “Brown and Black Free Shapes on a White Ground.”
One might find the title a bit uninspiring, in light of the whimsical, other worldly creatures vacillating across the fabric. But considering Ray’s background in Expressionist painting—she trained with Hans Hofmann—the title makes perfect sense. Ray would have been more concerned with the basics of shape, color, and scale. And, perhaps, she would have expected others to be more impressed with her execution of these elements than with the vibrancy and character of her “Sea Things”— the name by which the textile is commonly known.
Whether you are compelled by the brilliance of her abstract composition or by her fanciful creatures, one thing is clear. “Sea Things” is yet another example of the creative, playful, and colorful mind of Ray Eames.
Bill Stumpf once said, “I know this sounds terribly self serving, but I design for myself. Who else am I going to know better than me?”
The outcome of Stumpf’s self-described “selfishness”? Empathic designs that can help everyone feel better as they work.
Stumpf and design partner Jeff Weber turned their own problems with the lack of physical harmony between themselves and their computers into a solution that benefits people who sit all day at a computer. The resulting designs—the Embody Chair and the Envelop Desk—work together to support the wrists, back, and eyes as the sitter moves through a range of postures. This concept, which we call concordance, helps people stay healthy and aligned as they work.
Charles and Ray Eames kept many of the holiday cards they received over the years—cards from family and friends, including the likes for Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Eero and Lily Saarinen, and D.J. De Pree. Not surprising, considering the Eames’s inclination to collect and curate objects they found beautiful, intriguing, or particularly well designed.
For more holiday cards and Eames ephemera, visit the Library of Congress website, where you can view many of the over 1,000,000 Eames photos and documents housed in the Library’s collection.
“I never thought of myself as an artist and couldn’t bear the word.”
She objected to the generality of the label, but her comments about her interdisciplinary approach to art and design provide an intriguing contrast:
“It was natural for me not to separate them, you know—now you study history, now you study dance, now you study music, or now you study pottery or whatever it is—it all seemed to be one thing. “
Of Ray’s many artistic pursuits—painting, film, textiles, fashion, and furniture design—perhaps the most personal was her proclivity for making interesting arrangements with found objects. Of her curious habit, she said:
“Almost everything that was ever collected was an example of some facet of design and form. We never collected anything as just collectors, but because something was inherent in the piece that made it seem like a good idea to be looking at it. “
It’s always a good idea to revisit the work of Charles and Ray Eames, especially in light of the 100th anniversary of Ray’s birth on Saturday, December 15, 2012. We celebrate Ray’s life and work as a painter, collector, and designer.
Finding space to keep your things is just as much a problem today as it was in the 1940s, when George Nelson and fellow architect Henry Wright devised the Storagewall. It was designed to take the place of the traditional walls between the rooms in a home, and offered storage tailored to the function of the room.
Their concept for the multi-functional wall was presented in the 1945 Life article, “Storage Wall”—the first in a series of articles on the unique design challenges of what would soon be the postwar American home. Life built it’s own version of the Storagewall, and installed it in a New Jersey home. The article documented the many ways Storagewall could be used to provide structure, space delineation, and storage for any room—a clever solution for a culture enamored of the ephemera of the home.
It’s a solution that’s also timeless. The Storagewall concept could easily apply to current design challenges, like the increasing overlap between our work and personal lives. And the influence of Storagewall on contemporary storage designs is clear. Consider Herman Miller’s Meridian Storage, designed to offer more than just a place to keep files, paperclips, and rubber bands. The modular pieces function as seating, collaboration spaces, and power sources—a versatility reminiscent of Nelson and Wright’s pioneering design.
You can see Storagewall and other Nelson designs on display at the Yale School of Architecture Gallery until January 26, 2013, in an exhibit titled “George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher.”
A Ray Eames biography would be better expressed through pictures—with the soft, delicate arcs of charcoal from her early sketches, and the bold blocks of yellow, blue, and red of her paintings.
Throughout her life, Ray used pictures, and later, objects, as a means of communication and expression. A study of correspondence between Charles and Ray hints at their reliance on a transcendent, pictographic language. It was as if their ideas were too brilliant and beautiful to capture in the strict confines of a word or phrase, so pictures became their favored form of ideation.
It’s clear that color was the defining parlance of Ray’s unique visual language. Influenced by her study with Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann, Ray’s love of bold, primary color is evident in every facet of her life and work—the exterior panels of the Pacific Palisades home she shared with Charles, her Arts and Architecture magazine covers, and her dress designs and textile patterns.
Ray’s visual language colored her design partnerships with Charles; her aesthetic imprint is unmistakable on collaborations like the Eames Wire Base Low Table. It’s now being offered for a limited time in a Select Edition, in three Ray-inspired colors—cobalt blue, red-orange, and yellow-gold.
Let’s be honest. For a time, you might enjoy the quiet and manage to get lot of work done. But after awhile, your work might start to suffer from a lack of collaboration—the unique human ability to turn connection, cooperation, and ideation into tangible products and solutions.
A recent outdoor installation by Montreal artist Nicolas Baier explores the concept of a workplace devoid of humans. The piece, on display in front of Place Ville-Marie in Montreal, is housed in one-sided glass and features ten Eames Aluminum Group Chairs surrounding a conference table—all rendered inert by reflective nickel. Baier encases the stereotypical artifacts of a meeting—a water bottle, a coffee cup, a pair of glasses—in mirrors.
You may wonder how such a lifeless sculpture commemorates the anniversary of a community icon like Place Ville-Marie, a place populated by people for the past fifty years. But Baier’s piece achieves just this; it reminds us just how important human connection is.