Post WWII was characterized by a belief in progress, anything was possible and everybody wanted to be modern. Enter George Nelson, one of the fathers of the industrial design movement known as American Modernism.
Nelson studied at Yale in 1924; he said he had no idea what he wanted to be. During a rainstorm he entered the architecture building for shelter which was clearly fated. He graduated with a degree in architecture and went on to become a great writer and designer.
Nelson’s Ball Clock became an iconic part of the 1950’s atomic era. This whimsical clock symbolizes mid-century modernism with its forward-looking design, a refreshing change from the traditional styles of the time. The ball and stick design is reminiscent of the models used in chemistry, Nelson was influenced by scientific knowledge and technical advancements.
The “Marshmellow Sofa” made entirely out of identically shaped circles exemplifies decomposition of large forms into smaller parts. Supported by a minimalist steel frame it reaches the heights of pop playfulness, one of Nelson’s iconic pieces.
Part of the permanent collection at MOMA, NY, NY, the Nelson Bubble Lamp is constructed of plastic membranes over wire-forms. Ever popular still, they adorn many a commercial set and can be found for sale online.
The designs he wrought from the English language could be his greatest designs of all. With his eloquent style of writing and sense of humor, George Nelson brought a wonderfully bearable lightness of being.
Have you ever seen the chair that looks like a potato chip? or thought that a molded fiberglass rockers would be comfortable? Then you have experienced a couple of the many pieces this prolific couple has designed. Thes Eameses vision of modern design was a catalyst for social change; they achieved their goal with elegance, beauty and wit.
“One of the best kept secrets in science is how unpompous scientists are at their science, and the amount of honest fun that for them is part of it,” Charles Eames once wrote. You can see the whimsy in their pieces; feel the spirit of their designs as they adorn your home.
Charles got into the practice of molding plywood, a signature trademark of his furniture, in a most interesting way. He and Eero Saarinen designed furniture for New York’s MOMA “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition. Using a new technique of wood molding they won first place.
This win led to a contract to design leg splints and airplane parts for the military. Studying the shape of the human body they designed the curves of the splints to fit perfectly. With access to military technology and manufacturing facilities they equipped Eames with the know-how he needed to perfect the technique he employed for molding plywood and mass producing it.
Through the study of the human body and prototyping in plaster the Eames’ team began to create furniture that is both ergonomic and comfortable. Using unexpected materials they figured out how to mold it to the the human body. Their furniture was both affordable and multifunctional. Today Eames pieces are highly desirable and quite expensive but worth every cent.
Good design was a way to improve people’s lives according to the Eameses; they believed they were helping others understand the world around them. I know how I feel when I look at an Eames chair; sit in it, like I understand.