Oct 162014
 

Meet the Maker

Nakashima Woodworker

OPEN HOUSE

 

The raw lumber archive of Nakashima Woodworkers contains rare and extinct species of wood. © Adam Marelli

The raw lumber archive of Nakashima Woodworker contains rare and extinct species of wood. © Adam Marelli

Introduction

If you have ever run your fingers across a wooden table, reached out to touch a sculpture in a museum, or put your hand into a container of dry beans just to experience what it felt like, then you have a “Maker” buried inside of you.  There is a sensual pleasure that comes with touching fine objects.  The desire to touch takes us beyond looking, to where we want feel the satisfaction of the material under our fingertips.  Good makers bring this desire out in all of us.  Mother nature is arguably the finest maker, but behind her lies a dedicated group of craftsmen who bridge the gap between the forest and the home.

The natural edge designs made famous by George Nakashima. © Adam Marelli

The natural edge designs made famous by George Nakashima. © Adam Marelli

Nakashima Woodworkers

Chances are, even if you don’t know the name Nakashima, you know the legacy they started.  At a time when American furniture was either clean Shaker lines or homages to European designs, George Nakashima did something completely revolutionary.  He left the natural edge of the tree trunk visible in the finished product.  What sounds like a small step, rooted in economy, has influenced decades of American woodworkers to re-imagine the language of furniture making.

Mira Nakashima heads up the studio today with a team of craftsmen.  © Adam Marelli

Mira Nakashima heads up the studio today with a team of craftsmen. © Adam Marelli

History

After being interned during World War II, George Nakashima set up his shop in New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Like many artists, he was on a tight budget.  As a graduate of MIT’s architecture program, he was well educated, talented, but lacked the funds to buy the choice pieces of lumber.  In this limitation, he discovered the incredible range of beauty that existed in logs that had burls, waves, and other irregularities.  His daughter Mira, who runs the shop now, joked that “Dad just used what he could get his hands on.  Now we have pieces of wood in our collection that do not exist anywhere in the world.”

A detail of a butterfly, which keeps the wood from opening up.  © Adam Marelli

A detail of a butterfly, which keeps the wood from opening up. © Adam Marelli

Open House

On October 25th, Nakashima Woodworkers are opening their doors to the public for a chance to meet the family, visit the workshops, and view the incredible collection of furniture and buildings that have been made on the property in the last fifty years.

Why go?  A visit to Nakashima Woodworker is memorable.  I visited for the first time back in the early 2000’s with my father.  As an artist working in construction at the time, the combination of materials, architecture, drawings, and furniture that I found in the New Hope studios was inspiring.  It gave me a chance to sit on the furniture and see a selection of woods, like Caspian Elm or old growth burled English Oak, that I had never seen before or since.

Years later, I discovered that Mira and I shared a mentoring Zen monk, Fujin Butsudo.  It was through Fujin that I was personally introduced to Mira and spent three months last summer photographing their craftsmen for their archives and for Surface Magazine.  It was a unique opportunity to see all phases of the design and construction process which are keeping George’s legacy alive and pushing in new boundaries under Mira’s direction.

View some of the images here: http://www.nakashimawoodworker.com/philosophy/4

Nakashima Woodworker Open House Invitation

Nakashima Woodworker Open House Invitation

Details

LOCATION: 1847 Aquetong Road, New Hope, PA 18938

DATE: Saturday, October 25th from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Members of the Nakashima Family and the Foundation for Peace will answer questions about George Nakashima, the history of the buildings and his furniture business.

SCHEDULE: 11:00 AM: Frank Emile Sanchis III of WMF will give a Power Point Presentation on some of the World Monument Fund projects past and present and answer questions from the audience in the Arts Building

12:00 PM: Light refreshments will be served in the Arts Building.

1:00 to 4:30 PM: The Conoid Studio and Show-room will remain open to the public during our regular Open House & Cello concert by Noelle Casella Grant

Free and open to the public

Link to Nakashima Woodworkers: http://www.nakashimawoodworker.com

Craftsman Michael Veith prepare a mortise to receive a butterfly.  © Adam Marelli

Craftsman Michael Veith prepare a mortise to receive a butterfly. © Adam Marelli

Conclusion

One thing that I appreciate about Nakashima Woodworker is their belief in “direct experience.”  Only when all of our senses are firing at the same time can the richness of an experience penetrate our outer shell of to-do lists and priorities.  Sadly, I will be in Japan on October 25th, so will not be able to make the event, but I’d like to invite all of you on my behalf, to meet Mira and the rest of the craftsmen. Bring your cameras, there will be lots of things to shoot, and remember to tell them I said hi.

Best-Adam Marelli

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