Bob Rossney (rbr) Sat 4 May 02 16:59
Something I've been wondering at as I've been thinking about the Eameses -- and this may have something to do with the closed-in atmosphere of 901 -- is how little of a sense of place you can derive from their work. They did nearly all of their work together in southern California from the war to 1970, and yet there's very little that is specifically Californian that can be found in their work. Those 750,000 images we talked about before: how many of them would you look at and say "oh, that's southern California?" I grew up in southern California myself -- in fact, I grew up in Pacific Palisades. And nothing I've seen in their work, with the exception of "Blacktop," says to me "oh, that looks just like where I grew up." The only other thing I can think of is the crank-operated louvered windows that you can see in some photographs of the house, which seem to have been part of most every house built in west LA during the 1950s.
(fom) Sat 4 May 02 20:31
Very interesting point, Bob. I was thinking along those lines the other day -- about how I always forget that they were based in LA, and how weird that seems, somehow. I mean, I don't literally forget it, but I don't think of them in an LA context. That's part of why Steve Cabella's movie "The Hollywood Connection" was such a surprising revelation.
Eames Demetrios (eamesdemetrios) Thu 9 May 02 06:25
Well, I think part of it goes back to their desire to universalize. Very few of their films even have alot of "contemporary" cars in them--a sure fire way to date things. Although the Computer Landscape film does have some guys with incredible 60s/70s sideburns.
(fom) Thu 9 May 02 08:34
They universalized very successfully. Just the way their stuff doesn't seem "Californian," it doesn't seem "New York" or "Midwest" either. I guess this relates closely to the principle about honing off the idiosyncrasies until you've arrived at the essential design. Eames -- as we very briefly discussed at the Exploratorium, I for one (I haven't discussed this with rbr but I think he may agree) would like to see this topic/interview continue, on an ongoing basis, as a resource and a forum for discussion of the Eames work. If you think you could drop by once in a while, that'd be great. There are so many things we haven't touched on yet -- for example, the Eameses in India. And many more rich topics.
Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 9 May 02 10:07
That would be great!
Eames Demetrios (eamesdemetrios) Sun 12 May 02 22:45
Well, I am up for it. I look forward to the comments and if there are questions for me, I'll see if I can answer them. There have been alot interesting insights and we have only scratched the surface. It has been a real pleasure--let's keep going.
(fom) Sun 12 May 02 23:04
Yay!! I hear you'll be speaking at IDEO this week. I'm hoping to be there. My son might be able to make it, too. He was sorry to have had to miss the Explo event.
Eames Demetrios (eamesdemetrios) Tue 14 May 02 20:38
I look forward to seeing you there! I hope your son can make his way there. It should be fun.
(fom) Fri 17 May 02 14:07
Damn! I can't believe I had the date wrong in my book and missed it. (I had it down for tonight. Grrr.) How did it go?
Scott Underwood (esau) Fri 17 May 02 22:12
Oh, it went very well--thank you, Eames, for coming by. We had a very appreciative audience, and I was able to show a few shorts before he showed up. Eames ended with "Design Q & A," which gets more perfect everytime I see it. As we discussed over dinner, the CD-ROM "Powers of 10 Interactive" is incredibly rich. There is so much material there that the title is incredibly misleading. In addition to "Design Q & A," there is "Goods," and many other pieces. Eames said it contains over 3000 pages of text, much of it not available elsewhere. (Please correct me if I misrepresent this. I was also very interested to learn about Eames's own work, and you have a ready audience if you'd like to describe it here.
(fom) Sat 18 May 02 00:06
I'm glad it went well. Was anyone else from here there? And I agree, it'd be great to hear about Eames's work here.
Scott Underwood (esau) Sat 18 May 02 18:36
No other Wellians but me, I'm afraid.
Eames Demetrios (eamesdemetrios) Thu 23 May 02 07:37
That's very kind of you to ask, Scott, and, since no one can resist a platform to mention their own work, I'll be happy to say that I have been working on a kind of alternative universe called Parallel California. I have published one book based on it called Wartime California. This is the script of a movie which was ruthlessly surpressed for inconveniently portraying the conquest of San Francisco by Los Angeles. You can subscribe to the monthly newsletter (or order that book) by visiting www.parallelcalifornia.com. Because it is more than just that one battle, but a world where each county is its own nation. So all sorts of cultures and societies come into contact with one another. There is even one based on that book Flatland. All sorts of cool stuff. The map at that website is interactive and gives you a bit of the flavor of those nations. Through the Eames Office I have been able to do some projects that are creatively mine, including one called 77 Steps about the Emeco chair. You can watch it online at: http://www.eamesoffice.com/contact/emeco.html Let me know what you all think.
Chris Spurgeon (ces) Thu 23 May 02 09:24
I love that film! I saw it at the "Aluminum" show at the Cooper-Hewitt and watched 5 or 6 times in a row.
Eames Demetrios (eamesdemetrios) Mon 27 May 02 11:46
Glad you dug it! There are a few other clips of mine at www.edemetrios.com if you want to check them out. Some old, some new.
Eames Demetrios (eamesdemetrios) Thu 27 Jun 02 23:08
Let me also take the liberty of adding a link to a column I've started in a local (Greater Mar Vista) paper: http://www.smmirror.com/volume4/issue2/stories_from_parallel.asp concerning the history of Parallel California. Northern Californians will be particularly interested. Also: it seems very likely that the Powers of Ten show will open at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park by the fourth of July. I'll confirm that as soon as I know for sure.
(fom) Thu 27 Jun 02 23:17
Oh, that's excellent.
Eames Demetrios (eamesdemetrios) Sat 29 Jun 02 09:50
Yes, confirmed. The inspection of Hohfeld Hall is complete and today (Saturday 6/29/02) will be the first day of Powers of Ten at the Academy. Enjoy!
(fom) Sat 29 Jun 02 13:44
Cool! Are you going to be speaking there at some point?
Eames Demetrios (eamesdemetrios) Fri 12 Jul 02 09:33
Yes, the plan is to do it sometime in the fall. Most likely September. I'll post it as soon as I know.
(fom) Wed 31 Jul 02 18:39
Thanks! I have a question. It's sort of a long story, though. The other day I was in a midcentury furniture shop yacking with the owner and I mentioned that I'd seen some fake Eames chairs with a terrible, oily-looking, thick refinish job on the shells. He said, Well, you know they're reproducing the actual shells now. I said Oh, I did not know that. He went on to say that Modernica had "bought all the molds and machinery" from Herman Miller and was "reissuing" the fiberglass chairs. I said, You mean this is with Herman Miller's knowledge? He said Oh yes, they're licensed by Herman Miller. I expressed incredulity. He couldn't remember where he had read about this. He told me the name of the shop in SF that carries these "authentic," "reissued" chairs and it turned out to be the place I'd seen what I'd thought were badly refinished (real) shells on Modernica bases. I pressed for more details. I said I found it hard, maybe impossible to believe that Herman Miller had authorized Modernica to sell "authentic" fiberglass chairs, given the long relationship between HM and the Eames office, etc., and then he said "Oh, that was in the article, it said these chairs were being made by special arrangement with the Eames Office." I said I would ask Eames Demetrios about this, because I didn't believe it. He said Hey, I'm just selling furniture, ya know? and changed the subject quickly. The chairs aren't being sold as authentic Eames chairs, as far as I could tell. That is, the little tags don't say Eames. If what that dealer said was true, they would have tags saying they were authentic, licensed Eames reissues, I'm sure. So, is there any truth to the story about Herman Miller and the Eames Office approving these "reissues"? I guess that's my main question. (I have more questions, but they depend on the answer.) Thanks...
Chris Carroll (marvy) Thu 1 Aug 02 05:04
I have an Eames chair and ottoman given to me by my Dad. He bought it in 1962, the year of my birth. Some time in the mid seventies he sat down rather hard and broke it right in two. He called up Herman Miller to get it repaired and they expressed shock and disgust that it had broken, and immediately replaced the broken part (which was the entire seat). Pretty cool for a fifteen year old chair. Fast forward to 1993 or so. I sat down hard and broke the chair right in two. I wanted to repair it so I could still have the heirloom. Again, they expressed shock that it had broken and immediately replaced it. It's incredible to me that a company would stand by their products for thirty some years. The only bad news is that the chair doesn't exactly match the ottoman, and isn't really a valuable antique anymore. But I still have it in the living room. I don't use it much but I'm looking forward to passing it on to my kids.
(fom) Thu 1 Aug 02 10:07
What a great testimonial to Herman Miller's customer service. I think the story about why the chair and ottoman don't quite match is almost worth losing the antiquity of the chair. And after all, eventually it'll be an antique heirloom anyway.
(fom) Thu 1 Aug 02 22:20
I found out more about the new fiberglass shells, and I think my questions have been answered. Apparently the dealer who told me about the alleged licensing had it all wrong. It's still a little weird, though. According to a source I pretty much believe to be reliable, the shells are manufactured by Zenith in LA, which is still run by the same man who made the original shells ~50 years ago. A new mold was made from a rope-edge DAX shell, and the edge was reshaped to eliminate the rope shape but leave a bit of a ridge around the edge for strength; and the new shells have the Modernica logo molded into the bottom. According to my source (this part I wonder about) "the design patents have run out, and the Zenith guy holds the engineering patents." Another interesting thing I saw today in my little fact-finding expedition: some chairs that I strongly suspect were new, Modernica dowel-base and rocking chairs, but carefully aged (like the fake antiques you sometimes see in shady antiques stores) to resemble originals.
Eames Demetrios (eamesdemetrios) Tue 13 Aug 02 01:09
Good detective work, fom. Modernica's chairs are not authorized in any way by the Eames Office or Herman Miller. I am certainly disappointed that anyone associated with Zenith would work on unauthorized chairs. The real victims are people who think they are getting something authentic. BTW: My talk at the Academy of Sciences will be at 7:30 PM on Thursday September 26th in the Morrison Auditorium. And you can check out the Powers of Ten exhibit out at the same time. There's a 360 degree quicktime VR at http://www.calacademy.org/exhibits/powers_of_ten/#intro if you want to see something of the exhibit online.
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