You likely have heard of the sleekly designed Eames lounge chair. Or at least seen it in photos, on TV shows, in museums. The name identified with that chair is a man: Charles Eames. But Charles had an artist wife, Ray, who was equally responsible for the chair’s iconic silhouette and materials but has never gotten full credit for her substantial role in designing products from the couple’s studio called Eames House. And as a new book makes clear, she’s not the only female product designer who has been overlooked.
The book focuses on functional objects that can be found in the home.
Released by Phaidon, Woman Made: Great Women Designers collects work from more than 200 designers hailing from over 50 countries around the world. The woman behind the project is Jane Hall, an architect with the design studio Assemble. She has written an A to Z-style book charting the work of both iconic and unknown women product designers over the last century.
Woman Made follows Hall’s 2019 title Breaking Ground: Architecture by Women, which unpacks various architecture designed by women over the last century in a similar format.
“In a really simplistic way these books are really important because they just literally make women more visible,” Hall told the design site DeZeen.
Female Product Designers Deliver the Goods
The book does not feature artists, fashion or graphic designers; rather, Hall explained that Woman Made focuses on functional objects that can be found in the home.
“The home is the site where you can, in a way, trace how women’s roles have changed throughout the 20th and 21st century,” said Hall. “So that was a nice tie-in to frame the narrative around women as designers.”
Maybe one day a book like this won’t be necessary because we’ll already know what the Ray Eames of the world have done.
In addition to the Eames’s famous 1956 Lounge Chair, the book includes the modernist furniture designer Eileen Gray’s 1926 Bibendum Chair, as well as a 1947 teapot by ceramicist Edith Heath and Dutch designer Hella Jongerius‘ Polder Sofa from 2005. Also featured are multidisciplinary designer Faye Toogood‘s 2014 Roly-Poly Chair and a bench from furniture designer Ilse Crawford’s 2009 collection Seating for Eating.
Woman Made also aims to celebrate lesser-known figures from previous years to the present day, highlighting how female creatives have always been active in the design world, regardless of whether they receive public recognition. And it seems she wasn’t short on material. Hall started out with 800 women designers and had to narrow it down to 200. Maybe one day a book like this won’t be necessary because we’ll already know what the Ray Eames of the world have done.