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An Eames chair in front of a wall of colored paper.

Samples from the Eames Paper Collection at the back of the iconic Lounge Chair Wood or Plywood Lounge Chair, designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1946.

At the Goldstein: making of the Eames paper

Design students try new Eames paper in class assignments

By Pauline Oo

March 6, 2007

Anything can inspire paper texture and color, according to the current exhibit at the University of Minnesota's Goldstein Museum of Design. For Neenah Paper Inc.'s new Eames Paper Collection, the inspirations were a house, an abstract painting and a chair.

"Design Redux: Eames on Paper," which runs through April 1, traces how a Minneapolis design firm, Design Guys, Inc., came up with a new line of paper for the centuries-old paper behemoth Neenah Paper.

Visitors will learn about papermaking and gain insight into Charles and Ray Eames, the couple who inspired the Design Guys in this project and who were responsible for the iconic Lounge Chair Wood, hailed by Time magazine as "Best Design of the 20th Century."

"[We brought this exhibition to campus because it] tells the story of several elements important to the College of Design--design process, design history or legacy, collaboration or partnership and product design," says Lin Nelson-Mayson, museum director. "Since Design Guys are [local], they also spoke at the opening and at [Charles and Ray Eames' grandson] Eames Demetrios' lecture about this project, providing the graphic design students in particular with an applied perspective on the profession."

Last fall, while developing the exhibition, the museum requested a donation of Eames paper from the Georgia-based Neenah Paper. The goal was to incorporate examples of the students' work into the exhibit.

"We sent out an invitation to the graphic design faculty, and several expressed interest in using the paper in their classes," says Nelson-Mayson. "Neenah responded with a generous donation that reflected a range of weights, colors and textures from the Eames paper line."

The paper company also donated more than 1,700 pounds of paper toward the exhibit. (The paper has proven so popular that the museum is requesting that visitors limit their take-away to a piece each of the 19 available samples.)

Charles and Ray Eames
Ray and Charles Eames in 1960. --Photo courtesy of the Eames Office

There are 19 colors and three surface textures in the Eames Paper Collection, developed specifically for graphic designers and paper enthusiasts. The Architecture Palette has a rippled texture reminiscent of the movable panels in the Eameses' home and colors like Case Study Red, Palisades Gold and Cobalt Blue. The Painting Palette, born of For C in Limited Palette, a painting by Ray for Charles, has a painter's canvas finish and colors such as Brushwork Beige and Provincetown Blue. And the Furniture Palette, inspired by the 1950s Eames Molded Plastic Chairs, has a woven texture and colors include Tivoli Green, India Pink and Kaleidoscope Purple.

Both the Furniture and Painting Palettes are made with 30 percent post-consumer recycled content. All three palettes are made with renewable energy--steam is used at the paper mill during the manufacturing process. "My initial reaction was [that] the colors were amazing," says Andrew Buck, a pre-graphic design major. Buck and his classmates in Drawing and Design in 2 and 3 Dimensions (DHA 1311) were challenged by lecturer Monica Fogg to design and construct a container using the Eames paper.

Dynamic duo

Charles and Ray Kaiser Eames were commissioned by the Navy during World War II to produce molded plywood splints, stretchers and experimental glider shells. In 1949, the husband and wife designed and built their California home--considered one of the most important post-war residences in the world.

The Eameses continued to create new furniture designs into the 1970s. Their work includes the lounge chair and ottoman and the Tandem Sling Seating (still in use at airports around the world). Charles died in 1978; Ray ten years. Daughter Lucia Eames and one of her sons, Eames Demetrios, currently run the Eames Office.

"I enjoyed the grain [and] texture on the paper because it presented a very tactile feel, which also made it very durable so I could score or bend it without too much damage or resistance," says Buck. His box, along with work by students Mae Rogers and Kelley Street, are featured in the exhibit.

For graphic design senior Sheila Brueggeman, her uncertainty in using textured paper for a project in her Design Process: Bookmaking (DHA 4352) class soon gave way to enthusiasm.

"I used it for screen printing and also printed on it using just my home ink jet printer, and couldn't have been happier with the results," she says. "I was really impressed at how versatile each [palette] is. As college kids, just the opportunity to have access to this line of paper was fantastic, something I think we were all appreciative of."

The Goldstein Museum of Design is located in 241 McNeal Hall on the Twin Cities campus in St. Paul. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays (10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday) and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekends. Admission is free.

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