The San Francisco Airport Museum is currently exhibiting a collection of
over 300 vintage mid-century design items showcasing the creative
designs of Charles and Ray Eames, America's premiere designers of mid
century modern designs. The work of the Eames and the Eames Office is
highlighted by the current exhibition of over 150 early examples of the
Eames design efforts in the field of modern furniture, educational toys,
and graphic design. Exhibiting items by the Eames, which date from 1930
to 1969, the show features original artwork and photographs by Charles,
dozens of examples of their innovative furniture, including rare
prototypes, and early pre-production examples of the Eames storage unit
and the famous Eames molded plywood chairs with special emphasis on the
creative connections involved with their designs.
Not only is the innovative design connections of their products and
materials considered in this exhibition, but their connections to other
American designers are also explored. To this end, the exhibition
contains over 140 additional vintage examples of the work of other
creative designers who were connected to the Eames' through their shared
design ideals, materials and creative convictions. This section includes
the work of sculptor Isamu Noguchi, architect Eero Saarinen and designer
George Nelson, as well as, a display of the vintage work by dozens of
American mid-century craftsman in the field of wood turning and studio
craft jewelry including many of the craftspeople who worked in the San
Francisco Bay Area.
The design collection on display is part of a 20 year effort by
collector/design historian Steven Cabella to collect, document and
preserve the history and work of California's mid-century architects
and designers. Mr Cabella is also the owner of The Modern i 1950's
Shop, the oldest mid-century design shop in California, located in San
About the Cabella Collection of Eames Connections
That taught me to see; to look at how things are made, what they were made of, and why they were made. This, in turn, led me to who made these things and what led them to make these things. It was all connected.
The criteria of the collection became the connection. The connection represents a visual conversation with the designer. It is these vintage "conversations" that I collect.
I have been preserving and archiving the work of California's design communities for over twenty years and it all started with a conversation with a chair...
Together they set about creating the world of molded plywood. Their giant structural compound curves of molded plywood forms were designed to replace structures made of more scarce metal materials like steel during WW2. The work involving the plywood splint in 1943-44 led to the possibilities and development of the Eames' revolutionary plywood chair. Accepted immediately as a modern breakthrough in the field of home furnishings, the Eames' colorful and innovative furniture production soon occupied a great deal of time at the Eames Office. Amazingly, within their first creative decade, the team of Ray and Charles Eames had already designed and built several instantly famous houses, became important experimental filmmakers and photographers, designed toys and fabric, lectured, created an innovative graphic style, and created dozens and dozens of pieces of modern furniture. All of this formed a design wave that they would ride for over three decades together.
Lighting was an area of design that offered a unique visual opportunity for the designer. With the amazing amount of square feet now being made in a modern manner, it was an obvious fact that there was going to be a matching need for good modern lighting fixtures, designed to compliment the modern architecture it lighted. Lamps, created using similar design practices, often exercising art principles and sometimes physically articulated, offered a flexibility in lighting styles that allowed the modern styled consumer to go expressive with lighting their interior design ideas.
In Craft design, the expressive visual beauty of the turned wood bowls seemed only a natural in a state so willing to use native redwood as a major modern element in the new architecture.
Art expressions in modern studio jewelry was also a natural for California's many craftspeople and studio jewelers at work in the state. Wearable structures infused with elegant bohemian thought were produced for a small group of modern retailers who were promoting modern design, in all sizes.
From the design of the Eames' large and colorful storage unit down to the ring on your finger, it was all connected - A connection to the details and ideals of good modern design.
The plywood chairs, experimental in nature when they were first introduced in 1945, had progressed to the development of the unique and now much copied, one-piece fiberglass shell seating. Looking within California or across the nation, one can
easily see the influences the Eameses and their choice of materials were having on the design communities. For awhile other manufactures and designers including George Nelson, turned to molded plywood to produce some of their designs for consumers willing to have their postwar goods made from inexpensive plywood as America was rebuilding after WW2. Still other designers and manufacturers, using later Eames inspired technologies, created for consumers, products of truly good design. For instance, in the early fifties, fiberglass was also used as an indestructible material for Koch's new line of color fiberglass luggage - for a modern America on the move.
As the rebuilding of postwar America got under way and the domestic landscape was furnished with their designs, the Eameses turned to supplying the corporate world with well-designed furniture.
Now even more aware of the needs of consumers and having unlimited access to new materials, the Eameses set about to bring style and comfort to all phases of seating and influencing America's designers along the way....