Charles Eames, Jr (June 17, 1907 – August 21, 1978) was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Charles was the nephew of St. Louis architect William S. Eames. By the age of 14, while attending Yeatman high school, Charles worked at the Laclede Steel Company as a part-time laborer, where he learned about engineering, drawing, and architecture (and also first entertained the idea of one day becoming an architect).
In 1930, Charles began his own architectural practice in St. Louis with partner Charles Gray. They were later joined by a third partner, Walter Pauley.
Charles Eames was greatly influenced by the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen (whose son Eero, also an architect, would become a partner and friend). At the elder Saarinen’s invitation, Charles moved in 1938, to further study architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he would become a teacher and head of the industrial design department. In order to apply for the Architecture and Urban Planning Program, Eames defined an area of focus—the St. Louis waterfront. Together with Eero Saarinen he designed prize-winning furniture for New York’s Museum of Modern Art “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition. Their work displayed the new technique of wood molding (originally developed by Alvar Aalto), that Eames would further develop in many molded plywood products, including chairs and other furniture, splints and stretchers for the US Navy during World War II.
In 1941, he married his Cranbrook colleague Ray Kaiser, who was born in Sacramento, California. He then moved with her to Los Angeles, California, where they would work and live until their deaths. In the late 1940s, as part of the Arts & Architecture magazine’s “Case Study” program, Charles and Ray designed and built the groundbreaking Eames House, Case Study House #8, as their home. Located upon a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and hand-constructed within a matter of days entirely of pre-fabricated steel parts intended for industrial construction, it remains a milestone of modern architecture.
Charles Eames died of a heart attack on August 21, 1978 while on a consulting trip in his native Saint Louis, and was buried in the Calvary Cemetery there. He now has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Ray-Bernice Alexandra Kaiser Eames (December 15, 1912 – August 21, 1988) was born in Sacramento, California to Alexander and Edna Burr Kaiser. After having lived in a number of cities during her youth, she graduated from Bennett Women’s College in Millbrook, New York, in 1933 and moved to New York City, where she studied abstract expressionist painting with Hans Hofmann.
In September 1940, she began studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She met Charles Eames while preparing drawings and models for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition and they were married the following year. Settling in Los Angeles, California, Charles and Ray Eames would lead an outstanding career in design and architecture. 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. 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.
Ray Eames died in Los Angeles in 1988, ten years to the day after Charles. They are buried next to each other in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.
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