Ray Kaiser moved from her hometown of Sacramento to New York in 1933 where she studied painting for Hans Hoffman until 1939. In 1936 she became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group. While attending classes at Cranbrook Academy in 1940, Ray met Charles Eames with whom she married the following year and together they moved to Los Angeles.
In the early 1940’s the Eames-couple designed children furniture for Evan Products. In 1942 Ray Eames designed twenty-seven covers for the magazine Arts & Architecture while also experimented with Charles in three-dimensional plywood molding and developed an industrialized production process. Their first successful product was a plywood leg splint for the US Navy in 1942 and two years later the couple started designing and producing an extensive collection of plywood furniture, sculptures and other products that were exhibited in Design for Life at MoMA in 1944.
In 1946 Ray and Charles Eames begun a collaboration with the Herman Miller Furniture Company in Michigan, that among others produced the CTW Coffee Table and the DCM Chair. Two years later they created an entry for MoMA’s international competition Low-Cost Furniture featuring chairs made of pressed sheet steel and sheet aluminum, that became forerunners of the Plastic armchair and Plastic side chair that were designed in 1950-53.
In 1949 the Eames office and home in Santa Monica, California was constructed, followed by the Entenza House, designed together with Eero Saarinen, in 1950. The same year Ray and Charles Eames curated the MoMA’s first Good Design exhibitions and released a collection of storage units and desks for the Herman Miller company.
From 1951 until 1953 the Eames’ developed furniture made of wire such as the Wire chair. In 1956 the Lounge Chair and the Ottoman were launched. During the 1950’s Ray and Charles Eames also worked with film and photography and in 1959 they participated in the American National Exhibition in Moscow with their multiscreen presentation Glimpses of the U.S.A.
In the 1960’s and 70’s the Eames’ made several exhibitions such as the IBM Pavilion for the New York World’s Fair together with Eero Saarinen (1964-65), the traveling exhibitions Copernicus (1972) and The World of Franklin and Jefferson (1976). Ray Eames also made textile patterns such as Crosspatch and Seathings made for a competition at the MoMA in 1947 and was later produced by Schiffer Prints.
After Charles Eames passed away in 1978, Ray continued to work with the Eames Office for a few years but later closed it and focused on securing the legacy. She did this by donating 1.5 million two-dimensional objects (including 750,000 prints and photographs) to the Library of Congress, wrote an encyclopedic volume of the Eames Office’s varied projects, lectured and continued to welcome visitors to the Eames House.
She died in 1988 at the age of 76. The production rights to the Eames furniture in Europe and in the Middle East are held by Vitra, while the rights in the rest of the world are held by Herman Miller. Ray Eames RAR rocking chair was a part of the Female Traces exhibition at the Museum of Furniture Studies in 2019/2020.