So, we of course have the obligatory Eames chairs at home and this documentary by Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey celebrates a unique kind of American creativity, so as we sat down to watch it expectations were high!
The documentary explores the powerhouse of a design studio Eames created in California in the mid-20th century. They explored everything from art, design and architecture – it really wasn’t just about a chair!
Undoubtably their success was in their partnership – Charles Eames and his lesser-credited wife Ray Eames. Their spirit of creativity and ability to see beyond traditional boundaries is inspirational to say the least but for them it was a risk they just couldn’t bear not taking. The Eames’ animation Powers of Ten (1968) about relative scale is basically an early Google Earth which just shows how forward-thinking they were. For us it was a powerful reminder of the importance in keeping your mind open and letting everything influence your growth and drive. Open collaboration is something not to be feared as much as we’re told to protect our own.
Still, as visually exciting as this documentary is with an unbelievable amount of archive footage and access to ex-employee interviews, there is a fair amount of sexism to contend with and Charles was obviously a charismatic charmer – some of the ex-employees seem to still be under his spell! After the film there was a Q&A session with Sir Christopher Grayling and there was a general sense in the audience that the studios success was very much of its time – but then this is always said until the next case. But why SO many photos and films of behind the scenes working and why label and store prototypes of every project within that formidably productive time? Did they know they were building a living archive – was that their vision for it or did they recognise the importance of their contribution from the outset?
Our favourite part of the film however had to be the horror from a guest at being served a ‘visual dessert’ – a flower display to look at and feast upon with the eyes – we would have shared his horror! Although edible flowers are mainstream now so maybe they were onto something there… and hanging canvases from the ceiling for a different perspective? – something about them is so fresh! OK they were genius and we’re off to watch it again…