Furniture design has always been a male dominated profession and most people are aware of designers such as; Charles Eames, Isamu Noguchi and Eero Saarinen. Women have been largely excluded because furniture design is considered to be a microcosm of the macrocosm of 20thcentury design – in which males dominated.
Against this trend, female influence has sprouted from a variety of design roots across the world. Shaker women for example are deemed an important link between women and design. They not only worked as design directors on various projects but also on the manufacturing. With a heavy influence from the Christian faith – they viewed furniture building as ‘an act of prayer’. Shakers are also renowned for their ‘equality of the sexes’ model that institutionalised their society over 200 years ago.
In the 20th century females slowly began to be taken seriously in the design world – heroines such as Eileen Gray, Florence Knoll and Ray Eames all worked alongside their husbands creating influential designs that are still sought after today.
Eileen Gray was a pioneer of the ‘Modern Movement’ in architecture who worked with lacquer until she got lacquer disease in her hands. Her most famous piece ‘the Bibendum chair’ (based on ‘The Michelin Man) was one of the 20th centurys most recognisable pieces of furniture.
Florence Knoll studied under Mies van der Rohe and Eliel Saarinen and encouraged her husband Hans Knoll to focus his design intentions on interiors and furniture. She applied her minimalist theories to their work with woods, metals and laminates designing classic pieces along the way.
Ray Eames is perhaps the most over looked, as all of the Eames designs were collaborative with her husband Charles. Ray designed most of the fabrics and they worked together on the Eames Lounge Chair and many more products. In the mid century The Herman Miller bound catalogues detailed only Charles’ name perhaps as a response to public opinion.
All three of these women helped aid the changes that were soon to come in society – they showed that a woman could achieve respect and notoriety in a male dominated field.
Read this fascinating interview with Tim Kobe – Founder and CEO of Singapore based Eight Inc. He states that design has been targeting a male market for many years and is viewing design is focusing more on the female market now.
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See our full replica Ray and Charles Eames Collection