Eames Elephant (Plywood)
Charles and Ray Eames developed a toy elephant made of plywood in 1945; however, this piece never went into production. One prototype was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1946 and still survives in the Eames family archives today. After a limited edition in 2007, Vitra has now launched serial production of the Eames Elephant in plywood for the very first time. The Eames Elephant is also available in plastic, ideal for children, as well as in a smaller version, Eames Elephant (small), which comes in a variety of colours and is also made of plastic.
In the early 1940s, Charles and Ray Eames spent several years developing and refining a technique for moulding plywood into three-dimensional shapes, creating a series of furniture items and sculptures in the process. Among these initial designs, the two-part elephant proved to be the most technically challenging due to its tight compound curves, and the piece never went into serial production. One prototype, which was given to Charles's 14-year-old daughter Lucia Eames, was loaned to the Museum of Modern Art in New York for a 1946 exhibition. It is still in the possession of the Eames family today.
After a limited edition in 2007, Vitra has now added a plywood version of
the legendary Eames Elephant to its standard portfolio. The sculptural
decorative figure with a high-quality face veneer in American cherry has been
available since 2017.
Several years ago, the Eames Elephant was also launched in plastic, making it available to the target group for which it was originally intended: children. And a smaller version – with an identical design but reduced in scale – likewise comes in plastic in a choice of colours.
Whether selected as an elegant wooden object for the living room, as a robust plastic toy for a child's bedroom or outdoor use, or as a small decorative animal figure – the friendly animal with its proudly prominent ears will bring delight to children and parents alike.
|Charles & Ray Eames
Charles Eames, born 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri, studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis and designed a number of houses and churches in collaboration with various partners. His work caught the attention of Eliel Saarinen, who offered him a fellowship at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan in 1938. In 1940, he and Eero Saarinen won first prize in the 'Industrial Design Competition for the 21 American Republics' - also known as 'Organic Design in Home Furnishings' – organised by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Eames was appointed head of the industrial design department at Cranbrook the same year.
Ray Eames was born as Bernice Alexandra Kaiser in Sacramento, California, in 1912. She attended Bennett College in Millbrook, New York, and continued her studies in painting at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts until 1937. During this year she exhibited her work in the first exhibition of the American Abstract Artists group at the Riverside Museum in New York. She matriculated at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1940.
Charles and Ray Eames married in 1941 and moved to Los Angeles, where together they began experimenting with techniques for the three-dimensional moulding of plywood. The aim was to create comfortable chairs that were affordable. However, the war interrupted their work, and Charles and Ray turned instead to the design and development of leg splints made of plywood, which were manufactured in large quantities for the US Navy. In 1946, they exhibited their experimental furniture designs at MoMA. The Herman Miller Company in Zeeland, Michigan, subsequently began to produce Eames furniture. Charles and Ray participated in the 1948 'Low-Cost Furniture' competition at MoMA, and they built the Eames House in 1949 as their own private residence. In addition to their work in furniture design and architecture, they also regularly turned their hand to graphic design, photography, film and exhibition design.
In 1957 Vitra signed a licence agreement with Herman Miller and began producing the Eameses' designs for Europe and the Middle East. Charles and Ray Eames have had a profound and lasting influence on Vitra. It was the encounter with their work that spurred the company's beginnings as a furniture manufacturer. Yet it is not just the products of Charles and Ray Eames that have left a mark on Vitra. Even today, their design philosophy continues to significantly shape the company's values, orientation and goals.
This seminal influence is most clearly reflected in
the question that is always asked at Vitra when making important design
decisions: What would Charles and Ray say? Over the course of their shared
lifetime, the couple gave their answers during trips to Europe and return
visits to California. Since the death of Charles (1978) and Ray (1988), Vitra
has remained in close contact with the Eames family, which now runs the Eames
Office, regarding all matters concerning the preservation, further development
and production of Eames designs. Vitra is the sole authorised manufacturer of
Eames products for Europe and the Middle East. When you own an Eames product
made by Vitra, you know it is an original.