Nakashima: ‘There’s a spirit in trees that’s very deep.’

For anyone feeling flat and uninspired at this moment, give the video embedded in this post 10 minutes. You will come away uplifted by the late George Nakashima and possibly inspired to know a lot more about him and his family and their work.

“There’s a spirit in trees that’s very deep,” Nakashima says in the video from the PBS series Craft in America. “In order to produce a fine piece of furniture, the sprit of a tree lives on. ”

Nakashima, 1905-1990, was a pioneering innovator in his approach to woodworking.

“George Nakashima is one of the formative designers of the 20th century,” says Robert Aible, an art dealer and proprietor of the Moderne Gallery in Philadelphia. “He was influenced by traditional Japanese design, by American Shaker design and country design. So there are influences. But he took these things and combined them in a way that nobody had every done before.”

The Nakashima Straight-Backed Chair and Splay-Leg Coffee Table.

Several of his works continue to be carried by Knoll and sold at DWR, including his Straight-Backed Chair and Splay-Leg Coffee Table.

His daughter, Mira, and son, Kevin, carry on his work in their own right at the family compound in New Hope, Pennsylvania, which is open for tours nearly every Saturday.

“Not everybody can live in the woods,’ says Mira Nakashima, “but they can live with wood and stay connected to nature and to the divine that way.”

George Nakashima in 1962. Photo via
Nakashima with the two large slabs of wood that became the Altar of Peace for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Photo by Jack Rosen.