The Eames Splint and the Costume Designer Posted November 13, 2014 by Marlow Hoffman
Discover how a Hollywood costume maker played an important role in the development of the Eames Leg Splint.
When the Eameses moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 1941, Charles took a job as a carpenter and set designer at MGM Studios. It was there that he met Margaret “Percy” Harris, who was starting out in the movie costume trade. She later went on to great success in the film and theater industries. When she died in 2000, The Guardian lamented her passing, explaining that it “leaves a large hole in the tapestry of the English theatre.”
Harris also played a role in the development of the Eames Leg Splint. Before meeting her, Charles and Ray had been working on methods of molding plywood to make a strong, lightweight, and very comfortable chair out of hard, flat plywood. With the advent of World War II, they, along with millions of Americans, turned their attention to the war effort. In Charles and Ray’s case, their goal was to assist the U.S. Navy by developing improved emergency transport splints for injured soldiers. Little more than one year passed from the inception of their idea to the start of splint production.
In assembling a team to work on the plywood leg splint, it was a feat of inductive reasoning that led the Eameses to recruit a woman skilled as a seamstress. They realized that Harris employed compound curves in her own work; she transformed cloth—another flat material—into blouses for women. Charles and Ray thought her prowess could help their process.
Making well-shaped clothing required the use of “darts.” If you look closely, you can see how important “darts” were to the leg splint. They facilitated the molding of the wood, and they also served as gaps through which bandages could be wound, ensuring that the splint would stay on the leg.
Charles and Ray had a great appreciation for traditional crafts and worked with many great craftsmen and women. That’s how a Hollywood costume maker played an important role in the development of the first molded plywood product with compound curves.
By Daniel Ostroff