by Tess McCabe
If you’ve been within 10 feet of any design blog in 2008 you’ve probably read that its Charles Eames’ centennial year. That is, 100 years since Charles Eames was born. Now, while I’m sure he wasn’t thinking about revolutionising modern furniture design as a bub, it’s still a milestone worth celebrating. And the international design community is celebrating in a number of ways.
The United States Postal Service have issued a series of seriously cool stamps. There is also a limited edition Molded Plywood Elephant up for grabs. Australians, however, get the opportunity to view an exhibition of 100 rarely seen photos from the Eames family collection! For any design-lover, this is an opportunity to get an insight into the icons behind the iconic furniture pieces.
The exhibition was created by The Eames Office and Herman Miller and will be at Living Edge in Richmond during the design festival. Aidan Mawhinney, chief executive officer at Living Edge Australia (who’s favourite Eames’ piece is the LCW moulded plywood chair), has a few insights into why he thinks the work of Charles and Ray Eames has lasted the test of time, and why people will be interested in the simple and subtle everyday items that influenced the design team, evidenced through the photography exhibition.
“Charles and Ray Eames contributed to so many aspects of design – from the idea of perfecting a technique which enabled quality furniture to be mass produced – to film and large scale architecture projects. But more than that they believed that the role of the designer was essentially that of a good host, anticipating the needs of the guest. That guest/host relationship is present in every aspect of their design: the comfort of the chair, it’s quality, it’s look, it’s feel. Whenever you sit on one of their chairs, you are their guest. Because one of the things they were trying to achieve was a way to give the same guest/host experience again and again, they weren’t just designing an object, they were designing a system for making a special object. In that way their contribution to design will remain timeless. I think that a lot of today’s designers from all over the world have taken cues from the forms of mid-century design.”
While the Eames exhibition at Living Edge reflects their support of international designers, they are also very supportive of both established and up-and-coming Australian design talent.
“I think there is a wealth of talent in Australian design but to date the tyranny of distance has worked against us,” says Aidan. “That is why we have recently opened our first showroom in the USA. We only showcase our Australian designers in our Los Angeles showroom. Its unique in that we are the first to have the designs manufactured in the States – effectively removing the barriers of price, lead time and environmental concerns regarding shipping from the equation. It allows the designs to compete on a level playing field and opens them to a much wider audience. So far the response has been extremely positive”.