I knew it first as the “comfy chair,” which sits on the right side of my grandfather’s living room when you walk in the door. It has classic black leather with a wood exterior and a footrest. It is one of those pieces that was well-loved and well cared for; however, there are so many creases and worn spots—it was and still is in constant use. Whenever we visited my grandparents in New York, one of the things I most looked forward to was sinking into the cushions of that chair. At the time, my grandparents probably told me who designed it, but I just didn’t pay attention. I was in middle school and had plenty of other things on which to focus. Although, it was probably unusual for someone my age to have a favorite chair!
Having always been someone who learned by doing, I grew up loving art and creative projects. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I decided to pursue a path in art rather than my original plan to become a pastry chef. Around this time, I learned the name of my favorite chair: the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. I’m pretty sure it was in a conversation with my grandmother, as she was an industrial designer and had bought the chair as a gift for my architect grandfather’s birthday a few decades prior. The conversation evolved from this particular chair design to how much the chair cost. I originally was thinking about how lovely it would be to have one for myself—until I realized I would have to wait until I was at least my parents’ age to buy one.
I didn’t learn much more about the Eameses until junior year in my History of America class. I needed to select a topic to investigate, and because history is not my favorite subject, it was essential to find something I enjoyed learning about. This is where the Eameses came in: I wanted to learn more about their work beyond the chair I loved. During the research process, I discovered that I knew so much more of the Eameses’ work than I’d realized. I had seen Powers of Ten in my freshman science class; I’d sat on Eames Tandem Sling Seating at many airports. It was Charles and Ray that first created molded chairs, which inspired the creation of so many others that seem to be everywhere. I realized that they were a recurring presence in my everyday life, and they were the creators of things that I loved for their simplicity in appearance and their ease of use.
My interest didn’t just stop at the furniture they created: Learning about the Eameses’ ideology, outlook, and attitude regarding design stuck with me. Charles and Ray had an interdisciplinary approach to their work; they combined so many disparate areas into a career and business, which I had never seen others do. As someone interested in many different pursuits, who wants to one day bring together sustainability, product design, pastry making, and business, Charles and Ray are my role models. Their body of work made me realize that it is possible to be successful in producing work in a multitude of areas.
For that reason, I wanted to choose a college major that would lend itself to being interdisciplinary. The Eameses’ work in Industrial Design was a major catalyst in my decision to pursue a degree in this field. I found their ideas of design being something that addresses itself to a need, that solves a problem, and that is timeless particularly inspiring. To me, these ideas translate powerfully through a sustainability lens. My career goal is to focus on creating products with purpose and intention so that they won’t add to the ones ending up in landfills and the ocean.
I recently started on this new path. I now attend school at California College of the Arts. In my first semester Intro to Glass course, the final project was to create a piece inspired by our chosen artist or creative hero—a person that creates work that we personally “appreciate, respect, and enjoy.” I immediately thought of Charles and Ray Eames. My project took inspiration from The Toy. I love the playfulness and usability of it as well as the bold colors and simple lines. In my work, I not only wanted to capture the things that I see in The Toy but also what I love about the Eameses’ work as a whole.
The assignment was to create a mold to blow glass into. My need was for the object to be functional. I chose to make a geometric and angular shaped vase—something I could see myself using for a long time, even though it was very different from what I tend to create. It’s something that I can look at and hold in my hands, knowing the Eameses were the inspiration throughout the process. From concept to final piece, this vase is a little snippet of a longer journey in which Charles and Ray are all around me, inspiring me to continue making while having a bit of fun with it too.– Erin Chan
How to submit your own Eames story
Your Eames Story features stories by members of the community about their personal connection to the work of Charles and Ray Eames. To contribute a story of your own, please email at [email protected]. Perhaps your story relates to your Eames collection or to how Charles and Ray’s philosophies have impacted your life and work. Your Eames Story is yours to tell, and we’d love to hear all about it!