The story of the Eames House Bird is less a story of Charles and Ray Eames and more one of Charles and Edna Perdew. This husband and wife team from Henry, Illinois, passed on their gun repair business to their son in the 1930s and dedicated themselves to carving and painting bird decoys for hunters. A simple black bird Perdew carved around 1910 became a highly sought-after model by quite a different audience in the 1950s, primarily for its minimal shape and dark color. It was popularized by Charles and Ray Eames, who acquired one on their travels in the Appalachian mountains. The wooden bird became a center piece of the Eames living room and soon started to make an appearance in many of their product photo-shoots. It can even be seen in a 1952 cover of the Architectural Review, a solid shape among a grid created by Eames chairs.
Realizing the broad appeal of this simple decorative piece, Vitra has recently started reproducing them by creating 3D scans of the original. However, unlike Perdew's versions, which were mostly carved out of pine, the Vitra version is made of solid alder with a black lacquer finish and steel wire legs. Its reappearance has brought the little black bird back to many mid-century inspired homes, where it often perches on top of furniture, elegant and unobtrusive at the same time.
Dora Vanette is a part time lecturer at Parsons The New School for Design. She holds MA degrees in 20th Century Art History and English from University of Zagreb, Croatia, as well as in Design Studies from Parsons The New School for Design. She has written about art and design for a variety of print and online publications. firstname.lastname@example.org
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