George Nakashima was one of the world’s greatest woodworkers and furniture designers. You can see his influence virtually everywhere. He was known for his innovate designs, exquisite craftsmanship, and meditative architectural interiors. His distinctive style was characterized by slabs of free-edge wood, unfinished natural edges. His designs feature the wood, rather than the other way around.
Nakashima was born in Spokane, Washington and graduated from M.I.T with a Master’s in architecture. Upon graduation, he sold his possessions and purchased a around-the-world steamship ticket. He lived in France then went to Japan where he worked for Antonin Raymond, an American architect who had collaborated with Frank Lloyd Wright. Thereafter, Nakashima and his wife opened a furniture workshop in Seattle when World World II began, and like other Japanese Americans they were interned in a camp. It is in this camp in Idaho where he met a man trained in traditional Japanese carpentry, and it was under him that Nakashima learned to master traditional Japanese hand tools and techniques.
It was amazing to see some of his original furniture pieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, as well as at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York. His pieces are superb and he continues to inspire new generations of woodworkers, like our friend in Hawaii Johnny. Nakashima has been Johnny’s inspiration, almost like a sensei he’s never met. And in fact, Johnny’s furniture pieces look quite similar to Nakashima’s, such as the coffee table above.
We took this below photo inside The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine of what is said to be Nakashima’s first peace altar dedicated to the cathedral in 1986. There are also peace tables in Moscow and India.
Check out the official George Nakashima website for much more photos and further information on his philosophy. If you appreciate woodworking and fine furniture, The Soul of a Tree and Nature Form & Spirit are worth checking out.