Born Bernice Alexandra Kaiser on December 15th, 1912 in Sacramento CA to Alexander and Edna Burr Kaiser, Ray was given the nickname “Ray Ray”. Her artistic talent was recognized early on and after high school, she moved to Millbrook, New York with her widowed mother to attend Bennett Women's College. After graduation, Ray would study under German Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann in New York City where she became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists. She would first exhibit her paintings in 1937 at the Riverside Museum in Manhattan.
After her mother’s death, Ray moved to Cranbrook MI to further her studies in art. This is where Ray would meet Charles. Charles Eames was a professor and mentor to Ray during her time at the Art Academy in Cranbrook. Ray and Charles were married in Chicago in 1941 and soon after the couple headed to Southern California to start their own design office.
Sharing an extraordinary creative partnership, they collaborated on innovative designs for furniture, toys, houses, and exhibitions. Aiming to use new materials and technology of their time, the two produced high-quality objects that could be made for a reasonable cost. Though the two worked together on most projects, it is Charles who received most of the accolades. Being charismatic and likable, Charles was the “face” of Eames. But Ray’s talent was never overlooked. Charles would often say things like; “anything I can do, Ray can do better.”
Ray was known for her aesthetic eye and keen memory, obsessing over every detail such as color, material, the feel and the form of an object. Each of these aspects had to be equally as pleasing as the next to make the piece perfect. Creating pieces that were functional as well as beautiful. A lover of found objects, Ray was passionate about displaying said objects in such a way as to create a specific visual effect.
Charles passed suddenly in 1978 and the Eames office, nicknamed “the shop” by Ray, was dissolved. Ray completed a handful of projects that were already underway, and she would later become the chief archivist of their legacy. Recognized as an artist, filmmaker, and designer, Ray would seem to have been so intertwined creatively with her partner Charles that she would pass on the same day, exactly ten years later. She was 75 years old.
In 2013, “Ray Eames: A Century of Modern Design” opened in the Sacramento, California Museum. The 3,300 square foot exhibition ran for one year and showcased work produced by Ray before she met Charles in addition to the work of the Eames Office. - Traci Bunkelman
Photo Credit : Eames Office, LLC