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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 Anselmo, California.

About the Cabella Collection of Eames Connections
The six most important design words that I ever heard spoken were by Charles Eames who said that design was about " the connection, the connection, the connection".

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...



Introduction: Early Eames Years
In the late 1930's, Ray and Charles Eames were artists even before they met at the Michigan Cranbrook School of Art. While Ray was studying art with painter Hans Hoffman, Charles, already a practicing architect was also an accomplished painter and etcher. Having met at Cranbrook, the two married and came to Santa Monica, California in 1941, setting up their long-term design office at 901 Washington Boulevard. From there they worked as the pioneering design team of Ray and Charles Eames.

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.


California Design Connections
The Eameses, California's most productive design team, was but one of the many thousands of designers and architects at work in the state in the 1950's. California's Design climate was boosted by its post-war building boom and year-round outdoor weather. In a state filled with outdoor arts and crafts festivals and where modern architecture and shops featuring good design could be found everywhere, a climate was created where design was accepted by the masses instead of being the minority thought. Good Design shops and galleries offering a variety of "form meets function" objects and affordable handmade modern crafts, sprang up in almost every town promoting the modern lifestyle.

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.


Eames Chair Section
Chairs. Seating. This is what the famous West Coast husband and wife design team of Ray and Charles Eames are best known for. From Charles' earliest chair designing efforts with Eero Saarinen for the 1940 Organic Design competition at MOMA, Ray and Charles continued for almost half a century designing some of America's most ubiquitous and beautiful seating. Theirs were new, comfortable and lightweight modern looking chairs, designed at low cost to both the consumer and the manufacturer

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....


U.S.A. Design Connections
Many who worked with the Eameses went on to become another successful artist, architect, or designer. Having learned or shared a visual language with the Eameses, still more designers went about continuing the Eames "conversation of modernism" by producing modern styled furniture, household goods and decorative objects for the home or individual. Whether it was George Nelson doing abstract clock designs or craftspeople and designers seeking to produce contemporary forms that fit with the new Eames inspired interiors, America was in a new modern mode.

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