But you can go beyond that and the guys that have not only means, but a certain amount of knowledge and understanding, go the next step and they eat off of a banana leaf. And I think that in these times when we fall back and regroup, that somehow or other, the banana leaf parable sort of got to get working there, because I'm not prepared to say that the banana leaf that one eats off of is the same as the other eats off of, but it's that process that has happened within the man that changes the banana leaf. And as we attack these problems—and I hope and I expect that the total amount of energy used in this world is going to go from high to medium to a little bit lower—the banana leaf idea might have a great part in it.— Charles Eames
A documentary about the couple titled Eames: The Architect and the Painter was released on November 18, 2011 as part of the American Masters series on PBS television and on YouTube from PBS as Cd1 and Cd2.
Charles Ormond Eames, Jr., (June 17, 1907 – August 21, 1978) was an American designer, Architect and film maker. In creative partnership with his spouse Ray Kaiser Eames he is responsible for groundbreaking contributions in the field of architecture, furniture design, industrial design, Manufacturing and the photographic arts. He briefly studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis on an architecture scholarship. After two years of study, he left the university. Many sources claim that he was dismissed for his advocacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and his interest in modern Architects. The university reportedly dropped him because of his "too modern" views. Other sources, less frequently cited, note that while a student, Charles Eames also was employed as an Architect at the firm of Trueblood and Graf. The demands on his time from this employment and from his classes led to sleep-deprivation and diminished performance at the university.
Ray-Bernice Alexandra Kaiser Eames, née Kaiser (December 15, 1912 – August 21, 1988), was an American Artist, designer, and filmmaker. In creative partnership with her spouse Charles Eames she was responsible for groundbreaking contributions in the field of architecture, furniture design, industrial design, Manufacturing and the photographic arts. She was born in Sacramento, California to Alexander and Edna Burr Kaiser, and had a brother named Maurice. She spent her early childhood years with her parents in their apartment, and then moved to a bungalow outside of the town. Her parents taught her the quality of enjoyment which later led to inventions in furniture design and toys. Her parents also instilled the value of enjoyment of nature. After having lived in a number of cities during her youth and after her father's death, in 1933 she graduated from Bennett Women's College in Millbrook, New York, and moved to New York City, where she studied abstract expressionist painting with Hans Hofmann. She was a founder of the American Abstract Artists group in 1936 and displayed paintings in their first show a year later in 1937 at Riverside Museum in Manhattan. One of her paintings is in the permanent collection of The Whitney Museum of American Art. Ray lived alone in New York City until she was called home to be with her ailing mother, who died in 1940.
While at Washington University, he met his first wife, Catherine Woermann, whom he married in 1929. A year later, they had a daughter, Lucia Jenkins.
In 1930, Charles began his own architectural practice in St. Louis with partner Charles Gray. They were later joined by a third partner, Walter Pauley.
Charles Eames was greatly influenced by the Finnish Architect Eliel Saarinen (whose son Eero, also an Architect, would become a partner and friend). At the elder Saarinen's invitation, Charles moved in 1938 with his wife Catherine and daughter Lucia to Michigan, to further study architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he would become a Teacher and head of the industrial design department. In order to apply for the Architecture and Urban Planning Program, Eames defined an area of focus—the St. Louis waterfront. Together with Eero Saarinen he designed prize-winning furniture for New York's Museum of Modern Art "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition. Their work displayed the new technique of wood moulding (originally developed by Alvar Aalto), that Eames would further develop in many moulded plywood products, including chairs and other furniture, splints and stretchers for the US Navy during World War II.
In the late 1940s, Ray Eames created several textile designs, two of which, "Crosspatch" and "Sea Things", were produced by Schiffer Prints, a company that also produced textiles by Salvador Dalí and Frank Lloyd Wright. Two of her textile patterns were distinguished with awards in a textile competition (organized by MoMa). She worked on graphics for advertising, magazine covers, posters, timelines, game boards, invitations and Business cards. Original examples of Ray Eames textiles can be found in many art museum collections. The Ray Eames textiles have been re-issued by Maharam as part of their Textiles of the Twentieth Century collection.
In 1941, Charles and Catherine divorced, and he married his Cranbrook colleague Bernice ("Ray") Kaiser, who was born in Sacramento, California. He then moved with her to Los Angeles, California, where they worked and lived until their deaths. In the late 1940s, as part of the Arts & Architecture magazine's "Case Study" program, the Eames designed and built the groundbreaking Eames House, Case Study House #8, as their home. Located upon a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and hand-constructed within a matter of days entirely of pre-fabricated steel parts intended for industrial construction, it remains a milestone of modern architecture.
The design process between Ray and Charles was strongly collaborative. After marriage the couple moved to California to continue their molded plywood furniture design and, in a later period, plastic. The graphic and commercial artwork can be clearly attributed to Ray, she designed twenty-six cover designs for the journal Arts & Architecture during 1942 to 1948, and a major part of the Eames furniture advertisements at Herman Miller (since 1948).
The design office of Charles and Ray Eames functioned for more than four decades (1943–1988) in the former Bay Cities Garage at 901 Washington Boulevard in Venice, Los Angeles, California. Through the years, its staff included many notable designers: Henry Beer and Richard Foy, now co-chairmen of CommArts, Inc.; Don Albinson; Deborah Sussman; Annette Del Zoppo; Peter Jon Pearce; Harry Bertoia; and Gregory Ain, who was Chief Engineer for the Eameses during World War II.
- Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Competition, 1947 (St. Louis Gateway Arch by Eero Saarinen won the competition)
- Entenza House, Case Study House 9, Pacific Palisades, California, 1949
- Herman Miller Showroom, Los Angeles, California, 1950
- Max and Esther De Pree House, Zeeland, Michigan, 1954
The Eameses also conceived and designed a number of exhibitions. The first of these, Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond (1961), was sponsored by IBM, and is the only one of their exhibitions still extant. The Mathematica exhibition is still considered a model for science popularization exhibitions. It was followed by A Computer Perspective: Background to the Computer Age (1971) and The World of Franklin and Jefferson (1975–1977), among others.
In 1970 and 1971, Charles Eames gave the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. At the lectures, the Eames viewpoint and philosophy are related through Charles' own telling of what he called "the Banana leaf parable", a Banana leaf being the most basic eating utensil in southern India. He related the progression of design and its process where the Banana leaf is transformed into something fantastically ornate. He explains the next step and ties it to the design process by finishing the parable with:
After Charles's death in 1978, the Eames Office was disbanded. Ray Eames worked on several unfinished projects (e.g. a German version of the Mathematica exhibition), was a consultant to IBM, published books, and administered the Eames archive and estate.
Ray Eames died in Los Angeles in 1988, ten years to the day after Charles. They are buried next to each other in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.
- St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Paragould, Arkansas, 1935