about George Nakashima

GEORGE NAKASHIMA (1905 – 1990)

George Nakashima was born in Spokane, Washington on May 24, 1905. Nakashima studied architecture at the University of Washington and graduated there in 1929. In 1931 Nakashima also finished his master’s course and afterwards went on a great journey: George Nakashima sold his car and bought an “around-the-world steamboat ticket”.  

During his journey George Nakashima lived in France for one year as a bohemian and afterwards traveled on to Northern Africa. Later on Nakashima was drawn to his home country Japan where he worked for Antonin Raymond, a colleague of Frank Lloyd Wright, and dedicated his time to the Japanese cultural- , design- and architectural history.

In 1937 George Nakashima designed his first pieces of furniture while he was still employed by Raymond. Raymond’s office received an order to design the interior of an Ashram in India and George Nakashima became the project manager.

In the 1940s Nakashima returned to the USA and taught “working with wood” and “furniture design” in Seattle. During the Second World War George Nakashima was interned and brought to Camp Minisoka in Idaho like many other Japanese. There he met Gentaro Hikogawa, a master of Japanese craftsmanship. During his time in this camp George Nakashima developed his love for and perfection in working with wood. Wood became his vocation.

Wood is also the material which made George Nakashima world-famous: his tables made of complete slices of trees, Nakashima´s wooden chairs, benches and other wooden pieces of furniture are today seen as absolute highlights of American design history. In all his designs Nakashima saw to it that the nature of the wood was respected and emphasized. Many of Nakashima´s designs include elements of wood which have been worked and changed only minimally. The form is determined by nature – George Nakashima created the perfect conditions for that.  

George Nakashima died on June 15, 1990. Since then, his company Nakashima Woodworker has been continued by his daughter Mira Nakashima.