This last weekend my wife and I drove down to see the George Nakashima’s work shop. George Nakashima is someone I would consider to be an American treasure, and although he is no longer living, his son and daughter continue on his dream of creating beautiful furniture from his work shop in New Hope, PA. The wood shop is located on a nine acre lot with several buildings constructed by George all to support the building of his work. Having lived in Japan and being back in the US now this was like taking a small trip back to Japan for myself. My wife, being Japanese, even got a little teary because it reminded her so much of being back home. The buildings and grounds are very similar to what you would see in tradition japanese landscaping and construction, but there is an influence of western mixed in. While the visit was supposed to be self guided we ended up getting taken around by the shop manager, which gave us lots of great information and background story on the property and the furniture construction. One thing that I found impressing is that the majority of wood being used is a species of walnut, and comes from several places around the world. Knowing that walnut is a very hard wood I was curious how often they have to sharpen their tools after working the furniture. The manager said once a week they must have all their tools and blades re-sharpened. But I am sure it is worth every penny because by the time we moved from the wood shop to the finishing room the pieces looked absolutely stunning. Following the finishing area we were led to the furniture show room, which was my favorite building on the premises. In the show room you are not allowed to take photos so I took a couple brochures to show you their wonderful pieces of art. The show room itself is also a piece of art it has wonderful shoji paper windows, tatami flooring and beautiful wood trim throughout the building.
At this point I had the opportunity to speak with Ken Nakashima, the son of George Nakashima, and he explained about the difficulties that his father had to face to make his mark on this world. I found out quickly that George Nakashima like another one of my favorite designers Isamu Noguchi lived very similar lives. In that around the time of the second world war George too was removed from his home in Washington and placed in a concentration camp. Fortunately for George he was pardon thanks to the help of a friend, but he would have to work as a farmer for an additional two years to earn his freedom. While working as farmer in the New hope area he bartered from another local farmer a 2 acre lot and set out to rebuild his furniture shop once more and lead the American craft movement.
In conclusion by the time it came to leaving the facility my spirit felt rejuvenated and ready to continue wood working, what a wonderful experience that was.