Lucia Eames: Seeing with the Heart

"Undiscovered legacy" of Lucia Eames showcased at Milan design week

The rarely seen graphic and furniture designs of Lucia Eames, daughter of midcentury icons Charles and Ray Eames, have been unveiled in an exhibition during Milan design week.

The late Lucia Eames produced creative work throughout her life. But her career was primarily focused on protecting the legacy of her father and stepmother, so her own designs took a backseat.

Lucia Eames: Seeing with the Heart
Lucia Eames: Seeing with the Heart was on show for Milan design week

This exhibition, Lucia Eames: Seeing with the Heart, marks the first in-depth display of her work.

Featuring drawings, drawings, cut-outs and metalwork, it shows her talent for reinterpreting the patterns, forms and lighting conditions she found in the natural world.

Lucia Eames: Seeing with the Heart
The exhibition presented the graphic and furniture designs of Lucia Eames

"She was a creator by nature," explained Lucia Eames' granddaughter, Jackie Cassael, who was one of the driving forces behind the exhibition. "But she never actively pursued fame."

Cassael told Dezeen that Lucia Eames wouldn't have felt comfortable riding on the coattails of her parents, whose works include the now-ubiquitous DSR Chair, the Eames Lounge Chair and the Eames House.

"Their work was so prolific and she very much felt that she was a different artist from them," she said.

"She did some shows on her own but she didn't do it to seek fame; she just loved creating and celebrating her work with others."

Lucia Eames: Seeing with the Heart
Silhouettes were a recurring theme through the exhibition

Lucia was particularly interested in silhouettes, which gives her a work a distinctly graphic style. She applied this to artworks, and also to furniture and homeware pieces.

Works on show include patterned textiles, plus benches, screens and tables made from cut steel and bronze.

These include the heart table that Lucia Eames made for Ray Eames, and which remains on display inside the Eames House.

"She was drawn to nature from an early age," said Cassael. "We would go on walks and she would always comment on light and shadow."

Lucia Eames: Seeing with the Heart
Cut steel and bronze tables feature graphic symbols

"She was drawn to the contrast, and you can really see it in her metalwork," she continued. "She would place things in strategic ways to be sure the light would shift at different times of day and it would be more dynamic."

The exhibition came about after the Eames family embarked on the process of archiving Lucia Eames' work, working with design heritage specialists Form Portfolios.

Carla Atwood Hartman – one of Lucia Eames' five children – described the process as a "treasure hunt".

They found around 150,000 photographs, charting Lucia Eames' inspirations across time, along with large-scale drawings and steno pads filled with over 70,000 pages of sketches and writings.

Lucia Eames: Seeing with the Heart
Lucia's photography and cutouts covered one wall

Much of Lucia Eames' work was focused on the forms of birds and butterflies. Celestial bodies – suns, stars and moons – were also a recurring theme.

"The continuity of intrigue with certain motifs and images is really quite interesting," said Hartman.

Lucia Eames butterflies
Much of Lucia Eames' work is focused on the forms of butterflies

While Lucia Eames' style is notably different from that of her parents, Hartman believes that it's possible to see the influence that Charles and Ray had on her creative approach.

"Just like in the movie Powers of Ten, she loved going into tiny details, and then zooming out as well," she said.

Lucia Eames heart stool
Also on display is a heart table, matching one that features in the Eames House

Lucia Eames passed away in 2014, 26 years after Ray Eames appointed her owner of the Eames Office. She established the Eames Foundation, which safeguards her parents' legacy into the future.

She spent most of her adult life living in San Francisco, where she raised her five children.

Lucia Eames
Lucia Eames passed away in 2014

Lucia Eames: Seeing with the Heart is set to become the first in a series of exhibitions aiming to share the designer's work with an international audience.

"We are honoured to bring forth the undiscovered legacy of Lucia Eames, an artist with a remarkable oeuvre that is rare and unique," said Mark Masiello, founder of Form Portfolios.

Lucia Eames: Seeing with the Heart was on show at Via Solferino 11, in the Brera Design District, from 6 to 10 June as part of Milan design week 2022. See our Milan design week 2022 guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks that took place.