The Plywood Elephant holds a prominent place among the plywood pieces designed by the Eameses. In the early 1940s Charles and Ray Eames successfully developed an innovative method for moulding plywood into three-dimensional shapes, which they used to produce a wide range of furniture and sculptural objects. Among the early plywood designs, the Elephant is one of the most difficult to produce. Tight angles and compound curves require a sophisticated mastery of plywood technology.
Designed at the same time as their children's furniture, the Plywood Elephant can also be seen as a playful counterpart to the leg splints developed by the Eameses for military applications ? which were the very first mass-produced objects made of threedimensionally moulded plywood. Requiring complex fabrication methods, the Plywood Elephant never went into production. Only two prototypes were made, both of which were displayed at the New York Museumof Modern Art in 1945-46. Today only one known model remains in the possession of the Eames Family. In 2007 Vitra produced the first commercial production of the legendary Eames Plywood Elephant as a limited Collector's Edition.
- Three-dimensionally Moulded Plywood, Natural Maple, Nickle Plated Screw
- Height: 6.9 cm / 2 3/4 inch
- Width: 6.9 cm / 2 3/4 inch
- Depth: 13 cm / 5 1/8 inch
- Each miniature is packaged in a wooden box, accompanied by an informational booklet.
- Each of the delicate objects are made by hand; on average, each miniature requires five hours of careful manual work. Ongoing quality control ensures that every miniature corresponds to its larger original in terms of finishing, details and materials.
Twenty years ago the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein began making miniature replicas of the great milestones in furniture design housed in its collection. A summary of the history of industrial furniture design – moving from the historic and art nouveau to the new Bauhaus’ radical design, and from postmodernism all the way up until the present day – the collection has grown to include more than 100 pieces. The chairs are all one sixth of the size of the originals. They are all true to scale and replicate the originals right down to the smallest details in construction, material and color.
Vitra Miniatures Plywood Elephant Chair Designed by:
- Charles & Ray Eames , 1945
Charles and Ray Eames
Charles, 1907 – 1978 / Ray, 1912-1988
The prolific body of work of Charles and Ray Eames, which spanned from 1941 to 1978, extended well beyond their major achievements in furniture design, graphic design, architecture and film. Their influence on the aesthetic and social aspects of design made them two of the greatest industrial designers of our time.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Charles Eames grew up in America’s industrial heartland. As a young man he worked for engineers and manufacturers, anticipating his lifelong interest in mechanics and the complex working of things. Ray Kaiser, born in Sacramento, California, spent her formative years in New York’s modern art movements and participated in the first wave of American-born abstract artists. They met at the Cranbrook Academy of Art near Detroit in 1940. Cranbrook’s creed of better living through better design shaped their sensibilities and their shared agenda. They married in 1941 and moved to Los Angeles as the city was gearing up for World War II. Wartime experiments with new materials and technologies inspired the Eames’ low-cost furniture for Herman Miller and expanded ways for designers to work with industry.
In LA, they conducted plywood experiments in their apartment. The US Navy order enabled the Eames to rent an office on Santa Monica Boulevard in 1942 and to gather a group of collaborators including Harry Bertoia. They produced sculpture, chairs, screens, and tables in plywood. Herman Miller, the US furniture group, was persuaded to put some of these pieces into production by George Nelson, its head of design. All the Eames’ plywood furniture combined an elegant organic aesthetic with a love of materials and technical ingenuity. After the success of the plywood pieces, the Eames focused on other materials, creating furniture in fiberglass, plastic, aluminum and, for the 1956 lounge chair, leather and rosewood. The Lounge Chair became an icon of the 1960s and 1970s, becoming a must-have for all hip executives.
Their collaboration with Herman Miller continued and extended to Vitra, its European partner. Charles and Ray were equally influential at making respectable the then-neglected folk crafts not only in the US but also in India. These concerns dominated their later work in the 1970s when, able to live comfortably on their Herman Miller and Vitra royalties, they concentrated their creative energy on propagating their ideas in exhibitions, books and films.
Charles died in 1978 and Ray worked hard to complete any unfinished projects but having done so, did not seek new ones. She devoted the rest of her life to communicating their ideas through talks and writing. Ray Eames died in 1988, ten years to the day after Charles.