Charles Eames says “To hell with the seats” Posted June 26, 2019 by Daniel Ostroff

This is one of a series of blogs about An Eames Anthology. Here I highlight an Eames text that is not included in the book.

Eames Tandem Seating. Photograph for a promotional brochure by Charles and Ray Eames.

As the editor of An Eames Anthology, I had to make various decisions about what to include. There is an overwhelming amount of written material in the Eames archives at the Library of Congress (hundreds of feet of files), so I applied the Eames principle of identifying constraints. The Complete Film Scripts of Charles and Ray Eames alone would take up two volumes. The Complete Writings of Charles and Ray Eames could easily fill up 20 volumes. Limiting the book to one volume of Eames writings would make the information more accessible to most readers. The first constraint was to make it a one-volume book.

When Yale University Press first accepted the manuscript for An Eames Anthology, they asked me to cut it down what was a 275,000 word manuscript to 150,000 words. Shortly before the book was to go to print, I discovered one text that Yale and I both agreed was a “must include” (to be featured in a future blog). By adding in this text, the final book as published has 157,500 words.

To guide the editing process, I identified a second constraint: I only included a text if I felt that readers could learn something from it to apply to their own creative problem-solving.

What follows is an example of a text that didn’t make the cut for this reason. The advantage of working with a press like Yale is that you get feedback from six independent, anonymous scholars. All of them recommended the manuscript for publication, and some had specific feedback. One suggested that the only reason I had included one particular text, a note from Charles Eames to renowned architect Philip Johnson that is the subject of this blog, was because I was “name dropping.”

I agreed with the feedback from the Yale scholar/reader and omitted it from the final book. Here you can see scans of the actual correspondence: the original letterhead document from Philip Johnson, inquiring about the Eames Tandem Seating for his Lincoln Center in New York, and the carbon copy of Charles Eames’s reply. Click on the images to see them at a larger size.

“To hell with the seats!” Charles wrote. “Just fill that great terraced orchestra with cushions from a thousand Turkish corners.” The main lessons that readers can get from this are that Charles knew Philip Johnson, that Philip Johnson respected Charles and Ray as furniture designers, and that Charles could be self-effacing. However, I didn’t feel that this particular text would help someone solve their own creative problems.

 In the gallery below is the entire ETS brochure by Charles and Ray Eames.