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George Nakashima (1905-1990) was an American Woodworker and Designer.

George Nakashima (1905-1990) was an American Woodworker and Designer.

Education

He studied architecture at the University of Washington, Seattle, to 1929. In 1929 he studied at École Americaine ded Beaux-Arts, Fountainbleau. He studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, to 1930.

Biography

In 1934, he worked in the Indian office of American architect Antonin Raymond. In 1937, in the Tokyo office, he studied Japanese carpentry techniques. In 1941, he set up his first workshop in Seattle. In 1942 in Idaho, Nakashima studied with an old Japanese carpenter until Antonin Raymond arranged his release.  

Raymond had a farm and office in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where Nakashima moved in 1943 and started a small furniture business. He regarded his work as fine art and seldom sold to manufacturers or retail clients. Most of his work was custom made and site-specific. Nakashima worked with untrimmed slabs of wood, particularly black walnut and redwood, leaving rough edges and knotholes in the final piece. He did most of the shaping and finishing by hand. His designs showed the influences of the Windsor chair, Shaker craftsmanship, Japanese woodworking, and contemporary forms. He made furniture and furnishings for Nelson A. Rockefeller’s Tarrytown, New York, home and designed interiors for International Paper and Columbia University, both in New York. 

From a piece of English walnut weighing 1,500 lbs (700kg), he executed the 1968 heart-shaped Altar for Peace at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York. At the time of his death, he worked to replace the 111-piece collection of furniture and furnishings in a Princeton, New Jersey, home destroyed by fire in 1989. His daughter Mira Yarnall-Nakashima became vice-president of George Nakashima Woodworker.

Recognition

He was awarded the 1952 gold medal for craftsmanship by the American Institute of Architects, made a fellow of the American Craft Council in 1979, and received the 1981 Hazlett Award. His work was shown at the New York Museum of Modern Art, Renwick Gallery in Washington, 1983—84 “Design Since 1945’ exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and 1989 one-person exhibition at the American Craft Museum in New York.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL

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