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Mass Production + Mid-Century Modernism

By Linsibrownson @CleverSpark

In the past few years, we’ve seen the proliferation of modular structures, from shipping container shelters to pre-fabricated homes, but the mass production of products began decades ago, and the prolific use of these designs today is a testament to a high-quality of design and construction, as well as a visionary spirit.  I’m referring to the work of Charles and Ray Eames, pioneers of the concept of mass-produced furniture and icons of mid-century design.

Mass Production + Mid-Century Modernism

Husband and wife design teams are fairly prevalent these days (in fact, I’m half of one at MYD studio), but this wasn’t necessarily the case early in the twentieth century.  However, when partnerships were formed, they enabled women to participate in the modern design movement.  This was the case for the Eameses, who are considered by some to be the most influential American furniture designers of the century.

Mass Production + Mid-Century Modernism

Ray’s background was in painting and sculpture, while Charles was an architect and designer. Collaborating since their marriage in 1941 until Charles’ death in 1978, they produced designs still produced and widely used throughout the world today.

Mass Production + Mid-Century Modernism

The first to experiment with molded plywood, their interest in the material began with a contract from the U.S. Navy to produce splints during World War II, which led to the generation of furniture prototypes, later mass-produced by the Herman Miller Furniture Company, who continues to manufacture their designs today.  These plywood innovations won numerous awards from MoMA for lost-cost furniture and made good design accessible and available to a much greater demographic.

Mass Production + Mid-Century Modernism
In the late 1940′s, the couple created another game-changing innovation:  the molded fiberglass collection of furniture, also fabricated and distributed by Herman Miller, including the chaise (seen above), as well as chairs and rockers.

Things have certainly changed since then, and today, almost everything we use is mass-produced, which has spurred a recent movement back towards the handmade.  However, next time you see an Eames rocker, chaise, or plywood chair, consider the spirit of innovation and experimentation that led to its creation.  And make sure to have a seat; they are not only beautiful and iconic, but are some of the most comfortable pieces of mid-century design.

Mass Production + Mid-Century Modernism
So, keep on rocking!


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