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Things from the Sea by Ray Eames

A Vitra Anecdote

© Eames Office, LLC

Writings about Charles and Ray Eames often begin by mentioning Charles’s trained eye as an architect and Ray’s education as a painter and describe how these roles influenced their work, but they can ultimately be described as dedicated designers, business partners and lovers with blurred lines between their areas of expertise.

Charles and Ray Eames were like yin and yang – they each complemented and completed the distinctive nature of the other. Their persistent curiosity about the world around them led to a diverse range of design solutions on all scales, from architecture and furniture to films, graphic art and repeating patterns.

© Eames Office, LLC

After marrying in the early 1940s, Charles and Ray Eames settled in Los Angeles. They would frequently head to the dunes of the Pacific Ocean to collect things in the sand that inspired them, like stones, fossils and shells. In their home the objects were displayed out of their usual context to enrich the interior with visual surprises – for the couple’s own pleasure and that of their guests.

© Eames Office, LLC

The Sea Things motif is one of a few examples where Ray Eames can take sole credit. The pattern was designed by Ray Eames in 1945 and later submitted to the ‘Competition for Printed Fabrics’ organised by the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1947. It later received an honourable mention and was included in the exhibition ‘Printed Textiles for the Home’.

© Eames Office, LLC

The Sea Things pattern is a frolicsome delight revealing new creatures with every glance. The whimsical shapes inhabit a sparkling marine landscape that seems to come alive before one’s very eyes. Sea Things perfectly captures Ray Eames’s curiosity about nature, illustrating how living plants and animals caught her attention and sparked her creativity during her walks on the beach.

© Eames Office, LLC

Ray Eames said: ‘I never gave up painting, I just changed my palette’ – and with the Sea Things pattern she demonstrates how her creative skills as a painter can be used for other purposes than ‘one-off’ artworks by conceiving an organic underwater universe that can be repeated vertically or horizontally and applied to different surfaces and mediums – in this case, table runners, napkins and trays.


Publication date: 5.3.2020
Author: Stine Liv Buur
Images: Lorenz Cugini, © Eames Office, LLC