“What I loved about my grandparents is that they didn’t ever consider something a failure, but merely a misconception,” says Llisa Demetrios – the founder, with Airbnb’s Joe Gebbia, of the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity. Demetrios is the youngest grandchild of Ray and Charles Eames, the iconic American designers, famous for their work across design disciplines: architecture, furniture design, graphic design, textile design, and more. The Institute aims to share their legacy, including pieces that weren’t acquired by the Library of Congress. Some of that work will hopefully be viewable at the Eames Ranch in California, which is now undergoing a multi-year renovation. In the meantime, the Institute’s findings are viewable online and via temporary installations, put up by partner organizations.
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Demetrios is more than a family historian, par excellence – she’s also, on her father’s side, a third-generation bronze sculptor. “I actually feel that they inform each other,” she says in this week’s Milkshake, when we asked her how her different roles – Eames activist, bronze artist – compete with each other for her attention. “I [appreciate] working with the [Eames] collection and looking at [its] history – the context [in which] something is made, the time that it was made, the materials that they were using at that time, fiberglass, wire rod, wood, aluminum; these were all new materials. They were exploring them and seeing what they could or could not do.” It’s a practice she’s carried on in her own work. “I’ve really focused on bronze and silicon bronze, which is the warmest of the bronzes, and to learn how to fabricate and build my own artworks – just like I saw them building the prototypes and making the first 5,000 of something, before them shipping off both the prototypes and the machines that made the prototypes to Herman Miller.” Charles Eames also taught her to master her tools and practices: “He said, ‘You need to use every tool as well if not better than the person you hire, or you won’t know if they’re doing a good job,’” she says. “That was just a great lesson. It meant you could control all the parts – you could do all the things and, and build it yourself. It means you’re making all the choices. It was just a really empowering lesson that I still value today.”
For more from Llisa – including her favorite pieces from the Eames archive, including one with a connection to director Billy Wilder – tune into this week’s Milkshake.
Diana Ostrom, who has written for Wallpaper, Interior Design, ID, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets, is also the author of Faraway Places, a newsletter about travel.
Milkshake, DMTV (Design Milk TV)’s first regular series, shakes up the traditional interview format by asking designers, creatives, educators and industry professionals to select interview questions at random from their favorite bowl or vessel. During their candid discussions, you’ll not only gain a peek into their personal homeware collections, but also valuable insights into their work, life and passions.