written by:
September 5, 2012

Dwell features Eames furniture often, and it can be all too easy to see Charles and Ray Eames as an indivisible unit: they worked together, dressed similarly, and by all accounts had a perfectly happy marriage. But, it is important to recognize both of them as independent minds and partners, here Dwell turns the spotlight on Ray.

 

Charles and Ray Eames.

Charles and Ray Eames were true collaborators. Photo from Herman Miller.

1 / 3
Charles, Ray, Dorothy Shaver, and Edgar Kaufmann Jr. at the Good Design exhibition in MoMA, New York.

Charles, Ray, Dorothy Shaver, and Edgar Kaufmann Jr. at the Good Design exhibition in MoMA, New York.

Courtesy of 
Leo Trachtenberg. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York.
2 / 3
Charles and Ray Eames at construction site in 1949

Charles and Ray on the steel frames of their home while it was under construction in 1949.

Courtesy of 
John Entenza
3 / 3
Charles and Ray Eames.

Charles and Ray Eames were true collaborators. Photo from Herman Miller.

Ray Eames was born in California and later moved to New York to study painting under Hans Hoffman. From there, she moved to Cranbook, Michigan, where she met Charles, fell in love, and married. At this point, despite her sharp design mind, in the eyes of some, Ray nearly disappeared under Charles’s “shadow.” 

According to Beatriz Colomina, in her essay “With, or Without You: The Ghosts of Modern Architecture,” even though Charles and Ray Eames were revolutionary by including her name in the brand as an equal partner, Ray didn’t always receive her fair share of credit. An editor from the New York Times once erased Ray’s name from an article on the Eameses, despite protests from the writer, Esther McCoy. McCoy was outraged, and wrote Ray an apology letter outlining her frustrations over the omission (and the editor’s insistence on calling the Eames lounge a casting couch), “This is sheer nonsense; the broad audience isn’t titillated by the phrase casting couch nor does it object to a woman being credited for work,” she wrote.
 
When MoMA held its first exhibition of their work, they referred to it as a “one-man” show—New Furniture Designed by Charles Eames—despite Ray and other members of the Eames’s office contributions (many of whom resigned as a result). Four years later when MoMA featured them again, they still declined to credit Ray’s work, despite the many photographs of her installing the exhibition. Repeatedly, publications referred to Ray as an assistant or dropped her name altogether, something that frustrated Charles.
 
According to the Eames Office, in 1952 Charles described their collaboration in a speech to the AIA like this: 
 
“My wife is a painter, and a very good one... and we’ve been working together for, oh, twelve years now, I guess... and at first I used to help and criticize things she was doing, and then she would help and criticize things I was doing, and we would … pitch in and do all the jiggering for each other and get it as people do...and then, gradually, things began to get shuffled, and pretty soon you didn’t know, sort of, where one started and the other ended, and anything that we’ve looked at or talked about here, you know, I say that I’m doing it, but actually, she’s doing it just as much as I am.” 
 
Like any true collaboration, it can often be difficult to separate which idea came from which brain. But it is precisely each person working as an individual that makes these couplings work, not the dissolution of two people into a mono-blob. 
 
We can most likely credit Ray for the Eames’ sense of playfulness. From lining the inside of her crisp jackets with purple polka dots, to handing out paper hearts to all who entered her home, it is difficult to find a recollection or photo without Ray’s cheery smile permeating through. Her background in painting and her excellent color sense undoubtedly benefitted the company’s design sensibility immensely. Of course, Ray also benefitted Charles’s famous style… After all, she designed his bow tie.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

gpphoto44
A home and community celebrate natural remove in equal measure.
May 24, 2016
With our annual issue devoted to the outdoors on newsstands, we did a lap of Instagram for some extra inspiration.
May 23, 2016
forest for the trees english prefab mobile home facade chesnut cladding
On the edge of a historic park in an English shire, a prefabricated home sets a new design standard.
May 23, 2016
tread lightly australia
A family home on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula is built to blend in with its lakeside setting.
May 23, 2016
jardins party dining room hay chairs local wood floor
A pair of architects help a client carve out an oasis of calm amid São Paulo’s bustle.
May 23, 2016
hwm6zf 1
No matter where you're located or what time of the year it is, having a fireplace in your home is a treasure that’s continuously sought after. Besides the obvious benefits of keeping a fire going through the cold winter months, it can also be a cherished asset that provides an extra level of year-round comfort—not to mention how it can help define the layout of a space by acting as a sculptural element.
May 23, 2016
An office Crosby Studios designed for NGRS in Moscow
Crosby Studios just cares about the essentials.
May 22, 2016
cold sweat seattle floating sauna gocstudio
A cadre of designers let off steam after hours by building and sailing a seaworthy sauna.
May 22, 2016
in the swim off the grid campsite healdsburg california swimming pool solar heat lap pool ipe deck loll designs lounge chairs
An off-the-grid house that is little more than a decked campsite—albeit with a roof—includes a swimming pool for a family that loves to enjoy the elements.
May 21, 2016
A print by Kristina Krogh
From flat to physical, Kristina Krogh masters every dimension.
May 21, 2016
scifi
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 21, 2016
beverly hills living room piano view
Architect Noah Walker, principal of Los Angeles–based studio Walker Workshop, shares completed and work-in-progress residential designs on his Instagram page (@noah_walker). Take a peek at some of the striking modern houses here, and tour the Venice House on the Dwell Home Tours on June 26.
May 20, 2016
ripple effect san fancisco small space yard outdoor monica viarengo pebble mosiac artificial turf slide
A San Francisco landscape designer finds a small-space solution that’s anything but narrow-minded.
May 20, 2016
Oslo living room with light wood floors and wood slab table
A pair of designers in Oslo, armed with tricks for introducing color and daylight, remake their compact late-19th-century apartment.
May 20, 2016
family affair backyard addition portrait
In coastal Massachusetts, a resourceful couple and their equally enterprising children use reclaimed materials to create a versatile 168-square-foot backyard building.
May 20, 2016
speed machine australian beachside prefab archiblox facade colorbond ultra steel cladding queensland blue gum wood
With little time to waste, an Australian firm erects an efficient prefab overlooking the ocean.
May 20, 2016
Christian Benimana at Design Indaba
When he was younger, there wasn't a single architecture school in his country. Now, as part of MASS Design Group, Christian Benimana shares how architecture can heal and inspire Africa.
May 19, 2016
01 1
This Italian villa is serenity incarnate.
May 19, 2016
michael cobb interior
Alternative materials help a house in California’s wine country tread lightly on the land.
May 18, 2016
13266797 1799532953608317 1984666518 n 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 18, 2016
Industrial kitchen built on a budget.
In Austin, Texas, architect Sean Guess forges an inventive industrial kitchen for a cost-conscious couple.
May 18, 2016
great danes dining area
In an up-and-coming area of Copenhagen, a pair of designers and their twin girls inhabit a converted loft, filling it with serious design savvy and a hefty dose of creativity.
May 18, 2016
25687 preview low 1633 2 25687 sc v2com
An 1885 house in Montreal dips a little into its backyard for spare space.
May 17, 2016
modern ecoconscious pavilion walkway roof
A couple’s retirement home on a nature preserve in Carmel, California, emerges as a series of eco-conscious pavilions that rest lightly on the land.
May 17, 2016
Formafantasma's designs for Alcantara's Touching Tales
In a 17-century palazzo, two young design studios explore a very modern material.
May 17, 2016
25104 preview low 567 9 25104 sc v2com
An extended clan, separated by business, gathers for holidays at a forested getaway near Sutton, Quebec.
May 16, 2016
it takes a village exterior
A family matriarch enlisted an architect, an interior designer, a builder, and a landscape architect to help realize her vision for a diminutive, low-key lakeside getaway.
May 16, 2016
starry night light installation
A celestial light installation illuminates the garage door of a recently renovated Toronto house.
May 16, 2016
kiwis big adventure facade
Three designers jump-start their practice with an affordably built abode in New Zealand.
May 16, 2016
Once a horse stable, this Chicago house first got a superficial makeover from Oprah (we wonder whether Stedman likes modern) before architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang was called in for a more substantial renovation and a dazzlingly porous brick screen.
We catch up with the creative couple living in Studio Gang's Brick Weave House.
May 16, 2016