Artful moments exist in the evanescent everyday, giving deeper meaning to life lived in the here and now, however fleeting. To mark the elusive transition into the new spring season, Tzelan visited the late George Nakashima’s iconic wood workshop and live-in estate in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
For George Nakashima, the American-born Japanese architect turned artist, woodworker and furniture maker from Spokane, Washington, live wood was his medium of choice. “To be intimate with nature in its multifaceted moods,” Nakashima said, “is one of the greatest experiences of life.” It is within that experience, and through a formed, inwardly approach with direct experience, that he created exceptional works of art.
Largely considered the father of the American craft movement and one of the most respected innovators of 20th century furniture design, Nakashima looked towards naturally inspired elements, like the moss garden and teahouse at Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple Saiho-ji in Kyoto, or the stone and glass of Chartres, France. But ultimately, it was the nobility of the tree that appealed to him most. “George was very much a purist,” describes his daughter Mira Nakashima. “He wanted, when you touch the furniture, to also touch the wood.”
Nakashima paid the utmost respect to nature, and specifically, tress, giving a renewed sense of purpose and new life to a tree and “its eternal patience, its suffering caused by man…its witness to thousands of years of earth’s history, its creations of fabulous beauty. It does nothing but good, with its prodigious ability to serve.”
While the tree lives on in noble forms, through collected lumber fashioned into “useful objects to fulfill man’s life,” so too does his personal legacy through Mira—the keeper of the George Nakashima Studio—her son Ru Amagasu and his son Toshi, who all live on the family estate and continue Nakashima’s important work, alongside the craftsmen who were trained by her father before his departure in 1990.
Mira, who holds two degrees in architecture, inherited the Nakashima legacy and has continued to expand upon his oeuvre with newly evolved design solutions like the studio’s Keisho Collection, which represents a continuity of practice, tradition and technique dedicated to her mother, Marion Nakashima.
Ultimately, it is Mira’s greatest wish to fulfill her father’s dream in providing “Altars of Peace” for each of the seven continents on earth. The first “Altar of Peace,” constructed from a magnificent pair of matched black walnut, was installed at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City in 1986. The second has found it way within the newly renovated Russian Academy of Art in Moscow to help inspire peace in the new millennium.
It was in this peaceful, serene presence of Mira and the Nakashima family, their studio, their woodwork and the greatness of their surrounding woods—with cherry blossoms in short, full bloom—that inspired us to embrace nature’s intimacy and gave us hope in our own pursuit of meaningful everyday living, in highlighting the importance of craft, our creative future, and for now, spring.
To Celebrate the Sprit of Spring we asked our fiends from around the world to reveal with that season means to them…
|—Monica Cuellar, Tory Birch||—Jessica Corr, Designer||—Nicole Rochette, gl-ow|
|—Olivier Weppe, gl-ow||—Stefano Ronchetti||—William Lau Jr.|