Remembering Ray on Her Birthday Posted December 15, 2018 by Marlow Hoffman

We’re celebrating Ray’s Birthday by sharing her many talents and contributions to our world, as remembered by friends, colleagues, and former Eames Office staff members.

 

Ray’s Artistry and Perfect Taste

Ray was “bursting with enthusiasm about everything, particularly when it was that big [indicating the size of a dime with his forefinger pressed to his thumb]. . . . Certainly, during her whole life, she had this extraordinary sense about putting objects together and colors—and very unusual colors . . . sort of Mexican bright pink and red and this kind of thing. . . . But I think she always must have had that built in some way or other. . . . Whatever she put together around the house or the studio somehow was always right. And this was, I think, her extraordinary gift. I think that the combination of that with Charles, who tended to be more analytical. . . . The combination was an extraordinary one. I don’t know of any other one like it. – Ben Baldwin, friends with Ray from their days as students of painter Hans Hofmann

“Ray was able to “bring things into relation with one another,” and to “find the inner order in whatever she touched.” – Gregory Ain, Engineer for the Eameses from 1943-45

“For a long time, of course, people didn’t know what a contribution she made to the Eames product. The woman was a total artist. I remember this one suggestion she made for the work they did at the United States Pavilion at the Moscow World’s Fair with the seven screens. . . . At the end, the State Department wanted an American flag to be up there, of course. Well, Ray would have none of that; Ray would have none of that whatsoever. Seven different screens with the American flag—one would be overkill enough. And it was Ray who got the great idea . . . the picture ended with one frame, one screen, and one flower: the forget-me-not. Which of course was just right. And that was Ray’s marvelous little idea that was a big idea. You know, that was this woman; she was loaded with the gift of the right touch, taste, creativity.” Julian Blaustein, American Film Producer, and Eames friend

“Ray is the colors, the details, the quality. . . . I mean details in the types of small touches. . . . Ray epitomized them in a way. – Barbara Charles, former Eames Office staff member

“Ray is imbued with absolutely perfect taste. She is also a very good organizer—she’s much less of a dreamer than Charles is. I think she sort of holds things together.”  – Billy Wilder, American filmmaker, and Eames friend

“Ray has a very good sense of what gives an idea or form its character, of how its relationships are formed. She can see where there is a wrong mix of ideas or materials, when the division between two ideas isn’t clear. If this sounds like a structural or architectural idea—it is. But it has come to Ray through her painting.” – Charles Eames, Ray’s husband and partner in crime

 

Ray as Mentor and Trailblazer

“There wasn’t anything that Ray wasn’t involved in. I’m sure of that. . . . She knew what she did. She was a strong, strong woman.” – Elaine Sewell Jones, former public relations specialist for Herman Miller, and Eames friend

I think many women appreciated what she had done. I think very few men really got it.” – Jill Mitchell, Eames friend from Charles and Ray’s days at Cranbrook

“She made me very aware that if you are a woman, and you have serious contributions to give, that you must stand up for yourself and say, ‘You’re on my toe; please get off it.’ I mean I really think I learned a lot from her about how to say that. And in a nice way. Not in a crazy way. Politely but deliberately.” – Jeannine Oppewall, former Eames Office staff member 

 

Ray’s Penchant for Remembering, Recording, and Preserving

“With Ray, everything had to be recorded in one way or another. And so if there was a gift or an occasion of some kind, it was always recorded. Either with a Polaroid or the photographer in the office would take photos. But everything was recorded. Everything. You know, with Ray and gifts…I don’t know how she would do it, but it would look as though she never opened a gift. Because if she was really taken by the wrapping, the gift would stay there wrapped. Because then she would wanna take a photo of the wrapping. And then she would eventually open it. But I know that she herself took photos of everything that was given to her and Charles. Information and recording, again, was important to her.” Etsu Garfias, former Eames Office staff member

“All that sat in it [an unwrapped present] was this big long trail of ants coming out of this box and going out into the kitchen. And Ray says, ‘Maybe I’d better open that.’ And it was some kind of an Italian bread that somebody had sent her from Italy. It had been there for months, but finally, the ants found it.” – Johnny Johnson, former Eames Office staff member

“…she knew exactly where things were. Everything that she kept. And if anyone else were to go in there, they’d think that this was just chaos. But she knew where everything was in that room. And also her table, her graphics table, in the graphics room? She knew where everything was. And there was one time when I said, ‘Ray, I’m gonna clean that table off.’ And she was real worried about it. And I said ‘Don’t worry, I’m gonna do it very organized,’ and I took Polaroids of the entire table at different sections, and then I moved everything in sections, cleaned the table, and dusted and put everything back using the Polaroid as a guide. So that she wouldn’t lose anything. I think her fear was the loss of information.” – Etsu Garfias, former Eames Office staff member

 

Ray as Seeker of Perfection

“Ray would take a long time over things because she would—I think that was part of the original relationship: That they both had that extraordinary desire for perfection and accuracy, and they would not ever hurry anything.”  – Margaret Harris, a theatrical set designer who the Eameses knew from MGM

“…after Charles’s death…she had the mission to make certain that whatever went out of that office was up to the quality level that everybody had come to know. And she did it very well. And very insistent, I might add, you know? And she wasn’t accepting something that was second best. She just wasn’t.” – Michael Sullivan, Former Eames Office staff member

 

All quotes are from Eames Office Oral Histories, an extensive series of interviews with friends, colleagues, and former Eames Office employees, conducted by Eames Demetrios. © Eames Office, LLC

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