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George Nakashima

George Nakashima

George Nakashima making some technical drawings inside his workshop in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Reference: “From the Archives: George Nakashima in Conversation with Legendary Interviewer, Studs Terkel.” Archinect, https://archinect.com/news/article/147205338/from-the-archives-george-nakashima-in-conversation-with-legendary-interviewer-studs-terkel. Accessed 10 June 2018.

Information

Birth date: 05-23-1905
Date of death: 06-15-1990
Country of origin: United States United States
Primary Occupation: Woodworker
Secondary Occupation: Architect
Spouse(s): Marion Okajima 1939-1990
Birth place:
 

Early Life

Nakashima was born in 1905 in Spokane, Washington, to Katsuharu and Suzu Nakashima. He enrolled in the University of Washington program in architecture, graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) about 1929. In 1931, after earning a master's degree in architecture from M.I.T.,Nakashima sold his car and purchased a round-the-world tramp steamship ticket. He spent a year in France living the life of a bohemian, and then went on to North Africa and eventually to Japan.

Later Life

While in Japan, Nakashima went to work for Antonin Raymond, an American architect who had collaborated with Frank Lloyd Wright on the Imperial Hotel. While working for Raymond, Nakashima toured Japan extensively, studying the subtleties of Japanese architecture and design. He also met Marion Okajima, who would become his wife.

Career

In 1937, Raymond's company was commissioned to build a dormitory at an ashram in Puducherry, India for which Nakashima was the primary construction consultant. It was here that Nakashima made his first furniture.

In 1940 Nakashima returned to America, and began to make furniture and teach woodworking in Seattle. Like others of Japanese ancestry, he was interned during the Second World War and sent to Camp Minidoka in Hunt, Idaho, in March 1942. At the camp he met Gentaro (sometimes spelled Gentauro) Hikogawa, a man trained in traditional Japanese carpentry. Under his tutelage, Nakashima learned to master traditional Japanese hand tools and joinery techniques. Perhaps more significant, he began to approach woodworking with discipline and patience, striving for perfection in every stage of construction.

Nakashima's signature woodworking design was his large-scale tables made of large wood slabs with smooth tops but unfinished natural edges, consisting of multiple slabs connected with butterfly joints.

Legacy

Nakashima's home, studio, and workshop near New Hope, Pennsylvania, was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in August 2008; six years later the property was also designated a National Historic Landmark. In June 2015, the site received a "Keeping It Modern" grant from the Getty Foundation to create a solid conservation plan as a model approach for the preservation of historic properties. One of Nakashima's workshops, located in Takamatsu City, Japan, currently houses a museum and gallery of his works. The Nakashima Foundation for Peace, currently housed in the Minguren Museum in New Hope, had its beginnings in 1984. In 1984, George Nakashima had the opportunity to purchase the largest and finest walnut log he had ever seen and sought to use the immense planks to their fullest potential. He dreamed then that if Altars for Peace were made for each continent of the world, as centers for meditation, prayer, and activities for peace, the world would be a better place. Over the past decade, his furniture has become ultra-collectible and his legacy of what became known as the "free-edge" aesthetic influential. Today the Nakashima business makes standard wooden furniture and continues to create more peace altars, soon to complete Nakashima's legacy. To do so the company has procured yet another extremely valuable walnut log that almost matches the size and magnificence of the original.

Image Gallery

George Nakashima working with his worker.

Attribution: Conoid walnut slab table by George Nakashima

Reference: 1stdibs: Antique and Modern Furniture, Jewelry, Fashion & Art. https://www.1stdibs.com/search/?q=nakashima. Accessed 12 June 2018. The face of George Nakashima, image taken during the Time Life interview of 1970

Reference: Inc, Time. LIFE. Time Inc, 1970.
Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=3FUEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PA74#v=onepage&q&f=true
Conoid Chairs by George Nakashima

Reference: 1stdibs: Antique and Modern Furniture, Jewelry, Fashion & Art. https://www.1stdibs.com/search/?q=nakashima. Accessed 12 June 2018.
George Nakashima standing next to his Walnut slabs that made most of his work, along with a carpenters power saw, image taken during the Time Life interview of 1970

Reference: Inc, Time. LIFE. Time Inc, 1970.
Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=3FUEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PA74#v=onepage&q&f=true Conoid Walnut Dining Set by George Nakashima

Reference: 1stdibs: Antique and Modern Furniture, Jewelry, Fashion & Art. https://www.1stdibs.com/search/?q=nakashima. Accessed 12 June 2018. Table by George Nakashima

Reference: Inc, Time. LIFE. Time Inc, 1970.
Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=3FUEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PA74#v=onepage&q&f=true

Quotes

Each flitch, each board, each plank can have only one ideal use. The woodworker, applying a thousand skills, must find that ideal use and then shape the wood to realize its true potential.

There must be a union between the spirit in wood and the spirit in man. The grain of the wood must relate closely to its function. The abutment of the edge of one board to an adjoining board can mean the success or failure of a piece. () Gradually a form evolves, much as nature produces the tree in the first place. The object created can live forever. The tree lives on in its new form. The object cannot follow a transitory “style”, here for a moment, discarded the next. Its appeal must be universal. Cordial and receptive, it should invite a meeting with man

After a year of doing general farm work, it was quite clear to me that chickens and I were not compatible.

Media

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Further Reading

External Links

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Bibliography

 

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Page last modified on Monday June 11, 2018 20:41:32 PDT by admin.