meet the makers | Feb 9, 2023 |
Llisa Demetrios is on a mission to keep her family’s fabled design history alive
Llisa Demetrios is on a mission to keep her family’s fabled design history alive
Llisa DemetriosSteve Burns

Llisa Demetrios comes from a long line of makers. Not only did she grow up surrounded by art, design, architecture and film, but the youngest granddaughter of Ray and Charles Eames—her mother, Lucia, was Charles’s only child—is also a third-generation sculptor. “By the time I was 10 years old, I knew that I wanted to be a sculptor,” she tells Business of Home. “I was inspired by the fact that no one in my family ever stopped making. Whether for a client, family or oneself—there was no on or off switch—they were just always making.”

As a child, Demetrios grew up watching Ray and Charles make scale models and prototypes at the office. Over time, she began fashioning her own from discarded scraps of wood she found around the house. “Charles taught me that the beauty of being hands-on is that you get to make all the choices and move at your own pace,” she says. “[He and Ray] also ingrained in me that it’s better to pick one material and learn everything about it than to try to work loosely with lots of different media.”

Llisa Demetrios is on a mission to keep her family’s fabled design history alive
Demetrios at work Courtesy of Llisa Demetrios

As a result, she began focusing her attention on bronze in the early 1990s, crafting monolithic pieces that could be employed both in and out of doors. Her first series, Lunar Asparagus People, was an homage to surrealist painter Max Ernst and featured slender sculptures with heights ranging from 1 foot to 10 feet. “I like that one couldn’t see a sculpture from just one viewpoint,” she says. “In order to engage with the work, one had to participate by walking around it, stepping back or stepping forward.”

All of Demetrios’s sculptures begin as hand-carved wood pieces that are eventually finished in bronze. Using a hand-held band saw, she carves small maquettes out of blocks of wood that become the prototypes for large-scale designs. “Sometimes I make a cardboard mock-up for a client so I can show them the scale of the sculpture in the space,” she says. “I am always thinking about how the form of the sculpture will be when it is finished in bronze.”

In addition to bronze artworks, Demetrios also designs utilitarian home and garden furnishings including stools and benches. “I realized that my sculptures could be functional, too,” she says. “So I bandsawed a prototype of a bench in two forms—a cube and a rectangle—that could sit flat on the ground for seating but easily stand on its own as a sculpture.”

Llisa Demetrios is on a mission to keep her family’s fabled design history alive
Queen and Consort by Llisa Demetrios Courtesy of Llisa Demetrios

In 2018, she was named chief curator of the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity, a nonprofit based out of the historic Eames Ranch in Petaluma, California, that educates the public about the designs of her late, legendary grandparents. “The overarching mission of the organization is to unpack the way that the Eameses worked, the way they infused their designs and lives with curiosity and discovery at every turn,” she says. “In addition to providing digital access to archival materials, we participate in everything from pop-up exhibitions to talk panels that give people the ability to participate more personally.”

Looking ahead, Demetrios hopes to expand her portfolio with furniture pieces crafted from plant-based materials. She’s also hard at work on programming for the Eames Institute, which plans to open a physical location at the ranch sometime in the not-so-distant future. “The Eames Ranch is currently undergoing renovations to make it more accessible to the broader community,” she says. “Eventually, the institute hopes to have a physical home, with enough space to store and lovingly display the collection that it is stewarding.”

If you want to learn more about Llisa Demetrios, visit the Eames Institute’s website or Instagram.

Homepage photo: Llisa Demetrios’s studio in Petaluma, California | Courtesy of Llisa Demetrios

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