A Sit Down With Eames Demetrios

Eames Demetrios—artist, filmmaker, writer, and grandson to one of the 20th century’s most influential design duos—sits down with Rogue (on an original Eames chair, of course)

by Mano Gonzales, photo by Everywhere We Shoot
Your grandparents, Charles and Ray Eames, were such huge influences in your life. Aside from the way you see and approach design, what else have you learned from them?

First of all, it’s hard to know how people influence you because you’re in the middle of it. But the thing that I’m very conscious of is that I’ve always been inspired by the way they approach their work, which was to explore things and try out ideas the best way they could to see if it worked. That is something I’ve done in my own work—to push the limits of my time and resources to make something. Because you always learn when you make something. If you wait for the perfect moment to try your ideas, you can wait a long time. I also think Charles and Ray did hold themselves to very high standards of excellence but at the same time, they also weren’t afraid to make mistakes and to struggle. I’ve tried to embrace that trait. I always had an intuition that that was something I’ve learned from looking at Charles and Ray’s work, and their approach and the energy they had when I was growing up.

There have been countless books written about them and their creations. How is Eames Essentials different?

The idea with this book is to show that they had so many great ideas, which they expressed in different ways, and to explore how to get these ideas in front of people. A fun challenge for us was to match words and images that give the readers a different experience as they go through it. The other thing we did was in the back half of the book—you’ll see that there are end notes for each of the quotes and we really made them extensive. We wanted a bridge between reading the quote and going online. Because these days, when you see something interesting, you immediately Google it. The point was to have the first stage happen in the book; you have this nice moment where you get to read the whole thing. On one sense it’s this simple book, you read the quotes and see the images, but then we add this extra layer where the person who gets turned on by it could dive deeper. The purpose is to create a place to make people go through ideas that aren’t necessarily related to furniture.

 

So it’s not as though you’re studying the Eameses, but instead you become a part of the whole experience.

Exactly. There are books that are more narrative and ones that have tons of pictures, but this is different. When you talk about guest-host relationship, I can tell you how that relates to chairs. But you could be running a rent-a-car company, for example, and it would help that concept of how you run your business because everyone who goes through your doors is a guest. Because these are human ideas; everyone can relate to it.

 

“The point is if you dive into any topic in a deep way, you often reveal things that are universal.”

 

The Eameses’ work has been known to push design forward, but at the same time also follow and improve the way people live. Where is the midpoint in all of this?

There’s a quote in a book where Charles was asked, “Which is more important: form or function?” And his answer was, “How can I choose between my head and my heart?” The point is that you shouldn’t choose. You have to satisfy both. They believed that when they found good solutions for the function, it would turn out to be a good aesthetic solution. An example for that is when they use old power stations and turn them into museums.

 

Like the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

That is a great example. That building was not designed to be a museum, but there’s such integrity to the way it was designed to be a really good train station that those qualities come through and resonate with having the artworks there. The point is if you dive into any topic in a deep way, you often reveal things that are universal. That’s the thrust that Charles and Ray had in their designing journey—if you dive in and you go far, you really get some understanding, and chances are you will create something beautiful. If your only goal is to make something beautiful, you might only create something that’s good to look at, but doesn’t function.

 

Your grandparents’ designs have been around for decades. Are there changes that have been done to original Eames pieces for improvement?

Charles and Ray have always improved their designs. And today, we have been improving designs because of considerations like the environment. The glues we use today are much less toxic than the glues they used back then. Also, in the 1970s, Charles and Ray worked on chairs with plastics that eliminated the fiberglass. They always wanted to improve the way things were made.

 

How can I choose between my head and my heart?” The point is that you shouldn’t choose. You have to satisfy both.

 

What do you think about knockoff pieces?

For me, the only thing that can make things cheaper is to make them worse. Although it’s not up to me or anyone else to decide what you can afford, because everybody makes choices and everyone has limitations. The point is, if you think the Eames chairs are expensive, then buy an authentic chair by somebody else. Support a local designer.

 

What is your favorite Eames chair?

I would say the EA 104. In a way it’s almost anonymous and yet distinctive. It has this quality of making things that they figured out in advance.

 

The 411 on the 104: The Aluminium Chair EA 104 by Charles and Ray Eames is ideal for active sitting in combination with tables and offers a slightly reclined seating position.

 

You are in an industry that revolves around how people live. What, to you, is good living?

Living in one’s space is the ability to have a certain level of comfort and access to the things that have special meaning to you, whether they’re books, or artworks, or even the dining room table where you eat. Just to have those things in an environment that reinforces the best parts of your life, or helps you go through the toughest parts of it.

 

Vitra Furniture is available at CWC Interiors Philippines, W Global Center, 30th Street cor. 9th Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; cwc.com.ph

This article was originally published in the December 2017-January 2018 issue of Rogue.