In 1988, filmmaker Eames Demetrios made the film, 901: After 45 Years of Working, a family record of the closing of the Eames Office shortly after the death of Ray. It was an objective attempt to capture the essence of the studio and design work created by Charles and Ray Eames and their multi-talented staff. Now more than ten years later, Demetrios has again recorded the studio and work in the book, An Eames Primer. The modest title implies an introduction and starting point to all the work of his grandparents but it is much more informative. What makes this book essential reading is the personal nature of the writing, connections, and the concept of "design addressing itself to the need."
Much of this personal nature is expressed in the chapter on the life of Charles Eames and Ray Kaiser before their meeting at Cranbrook, including extensive writing on each family history. This early period of their lives is illustrated by several drawings and paintings by Charles and Ray with each piece exhibiting a pleasing combination of color and form that would later become the hallmark of their work.
Demetrios devotes two pages on the issue of the Eameses signing with either Knoll or Herman Miller for the plywood group. This analysis, which isn't really dealt with in other books, is a rational and logical explanation of Charles and Ray's principles and their main concern about simply marketing a "good chair". For anyone interested in this crucial choice the author has formulated an essential case for the decision to go with Herman Miller.
One of the many highlights of the book is a wonderful collection of color photographs of different objects hanging from the ceiling of the Eames House that is pure aesthetic delight. Also, the bottom right corner of each page serves as a flipbook tour of the expansive 901 Studio.
What must have been an amazing event in film exhibition is Glimpses of the USA at the American Pavilion in Moscow in 1959. The seven-screen presentation of life in the United States shows a cultural identity of amazing diversity and Demetrios explains the process behind the production of this film. In an unbelievable set of circumstances, the American government had given Charles and Ray complete freedom to produce this film at the height of the Cold War with no "final cut" approval from Washington. Several pages also describe the production of the two versions of Powers of Ten. These films required experiments in film technology and camera work and Demetrios fully describes the process. The many contributions of staff members and outside consultants are thoroughly explained.
Throughout the book, many former Eames Office members and consultants describe their experience of working in the studio on the amazing variety of projects. Issues of design attribution are commented upon and examined for several projects.
Two days after finishing the book I retrieved Eames Design and several other excellent books and realized that everything now seemed much clearer after reading Primer. Perhaps Demetrios is correct in giving his work that modest title. The clean and clear connection has been analyzed and described so that it all seems so perfectly obvious. This is an informative educational book written in a casual but serious style and a worthy addition to a personal library.