Charles’ famous and most recounted quotation ‘take your pleasure seriously’ can be no better attributed than to the designs he produced for the Eames children's range. Not only were the first furniture designs released made for children, but he spent great time and energy in producing toys and games as well as films with them in mind.
The toys and games were significant in the sense that although clearly aimed at inspiring play, they also stimulated creative thinking, building and model making. This is the very application of taking pleasure seriously and offering constructive purpose to what was essentially a playful and fun experience.
It is not altogether clear why the first furniture designs released by Charles and Ray Eames were made for children rather than adults. Perhaps it was a form of experimentation, could it even be that as the pieces were small it would take less raw materials to make that trial? A test of the market or the strength of the plywood? Or perhaps they were just ready first! Whatever the thinking behind this first release, the 1945 plywood furniture for children would be the catalyst of a golden career.
The series of Eames children’s furniture was released in a limited number of just 5000 pieces. It consisted of the nested chair, nested stool and matching nested table. There were a number of color options too including natural ply, aniline red, black and yellow dyed. The pieces were very small and suitable for children of a young toddler age. The pieces were manufactured by the Evans Plywood Company and they were the very first furniture pieces to ever be made in molded plywood. Evans lacked both the knowledge of the market and the distribution network required and it was therefore no surprise that the initial limited run of pieces was not followed up. It does however make the original Eames children's furniture one of the most sort after and valuable collector pieces today.
Charles Eames always maintained an interest in child’s play and this would result in a series of toys and games developed during the 1950’s being added to the Eames children's range. It is perhaps having a daughter of his own growing up that gave him the inspiration to create the range. All the toys and games had a key ingredient in their concept which ensured they were far from meaningless fun and it very much drew from Charles’ architectural roots. This key factor was that, in addition to being fun, all would involve direct creativity, building, imagination and physical involvement from the player. Looking back at these designs now, which sold modestly during the period, they were intelligent, thought provoking, absorbing and above all fun for multiple users.
The Toy was the first to be released to the marketplace in 1951, manufactured by Tigrett Enterprises. This ingenious set contained durable bright colored panels and dowels which enabled the user to build a construction of their choosing in any shape or size. The Toy was a great introduction to building sets and dens, houses or towers and all done with bright colors. The footprint size of the game led to a smaller version being released shortly after entitled the ‘Little Toy’. It was literally a smaller version but with the same process of building and construction. The sheer nature of ‘The Toy’ and ‘Little Toy’ meant that very few complete examples exist today and can be considered a rare piece of the Eames children's range.
The coloring toy, released in 1955, had the same principles as the toy in terms of the involvement of the player. It consisted of 8 boards of varying shapes, color crayons and pins. The idea was to push out the shapes, color them and build a model from the shapes in any combination desired. Once again it encouraged creativity and individualism. The Coloring Toy is very rare to find as it would need to be an example that has never been used due to its one-time nature.
Perhaps the most famous of Charles Eames Toy designs, and an iconic component of the Eames children's range, is the ‘House of Cards’. A deck of patterned and (later) pictured cards that had intelligent slits built into them to enable the player to construct a shape/building in whatever shape and combination they wish. This super popular concept was initially released as a one pack game and quickly doubled to two packs within a short time. An enlarged version called the ‘Giant House Of Cards’ was also released and even an IBM ‘Computer House Of Cards’ borrowed the concept as expo gifts later on.