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George Nakashima Grass Seated Chair, Circa 1960's

$5,995.00

Grass-seated circa 1960s production in black walnut by George Nakashima with original seagrass seats. These were purchased from the family who owned them originally. Purchased from the grandson who's grandparents ordered them from new from George Naskashima.

These chairs are very special in that they were hand made by one of the leading lights of the American studio craft movement. They look simple but have small details that photography cant always show. Each spindle that supports the backrest is not perfectly round, rather they have flat faces because they where hand carved with a hand planer. Japanese style joinery locks the spindle in place.  

In excellent original condition, we have oiled them. Original grass seats. Vintage patina intact. Structurally sound. 

Dimensions: 18" width x 18" depth x 26.5" height; 

 

Provenance: Purchased from the family who purchased them from new from George Nakashima. These chairs date back to before 1950. These chair were originally purchased to complement a Nakashima Trestle table also commissioned by the family. Mira has confirmed they are her fathers work. 

Condition: In restored condition, with original age appropriate patina. They have been cleaned and oiled with Nakashima's preferred tung oil. Structurally sound. Ready for daily use. 

About the Designer:

A master woodworker and M.I.T.-trained architect, George Nakashima was the leading light of the American Studio furniture movement Nakashima was an artisan who disdained industrial methods and materials in favor of a personal, craft-based approach to the design. What sets Nakashima apart is the poetic style of his work, his reverence for wood and the belief that his furniture could evince — as he put it in the title of his 1981 memoir — The Soul of a Tree.

George Nakashima stands as a titan in the world of furniture design, a visionary whose influence resonates through American Modernism and changed American furniture making and its philosophy forever. He was born in Washington, he studied Forestry and Architecture at the University of Washington, attended the Ecole Americaine des Beaux-Arts at Fontainebleau. When he returned to Paris years later, he commented that he "could not help feeling that Paris lived in the past in spite of the powerful inspiration of modern art and architecture".

He attended MIT and studied architecture. The next destination was his ancestral land, Japan. In 1934, Nakashima was introduced to Antonin Raymond, who had worked with Frank Lloyd Wright. in 1941, he got married in L.A. and moved up to Seattle.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the incarceration of all West Coast residents of Japanese ancestry brought Nakashima's new life and endeavors to a halt. Nakashima, his wife, and their newborn daughter were removed to the Minidoka War relocation camp in Hunt, Idaho.

Because he had skills as an architect, he was assigned to design and plan rooms and housing for the social betterment of the camp. Nakashima utilized scrap lumber left over from building the barracks and additional materials that he collected out in the desert to make a model apartment. He tried to give his and fellow Japanese Americans' incarcerated lives some level of comfort and dignity. He was paid $19 per month and continued that job until he left the camp in May 1943.

One of the camp residents was an experienced Issei carpenter, Gentaro Kenneth Hikogawa , who collaborated with Nakashima on his job building rooms for display. Through their collaborative work, the carpenter trained Nakashima to refine skills as a woodworker. Hikogawa taught Nakashima how to use and take care of Japanese hand tools that were to become essential in Nakashima's postwar production. In later years, Nakashima's knowledge of Japanese wood joinery, which he owed to Hikogawa, surprised Japanese artisans who assumed that no Americans would know about it. Although the incarceration restricted the freedom of the up-and-coming woodworker, it could not contain his passion for work and knowledge.

Looking back, Nakashima expressed his bitter feeling about the incarceration in his autobiography: "[The incarceration] I felt at the time was a stupid, insensitive act, one by which my country could only hurt itself. It was a policy of unthinking racism."  The days that he spent in the desert of Idaho were harsh, yet the intimate environment of the camp provided Nakashima with an opportunity to reconnect with the Japanese American community.

He believed strongly in creating objects that were real and utilitarian. 'Style' was not a concern. Nakashima believed that creating furniture was only a mere vehicle to express the spirit of the tree. Once he was released from the camps, he settled in Pensylvania. In his book, Soul of the Tree he called himself a "rag picker", he would go to the lumber yard and discovered that there were off-cuts. Back then, they quarter sawed most of the lumber so there were pieces they trimmed off that didn’t make good lumber. He was able to scavenge or purchase those and was able to start making furniture out of them.

Mira Nakashima said: It’s a very Japanese thing. You find beauty in imperfection. You celebrate it. In the beginning the lumber was full of flaws, there were knot holes and cracks and wormholes and all kinds of things that ordinary furniture makers would have thrown away. But he learned how to do the butterflies, probably from the carpenter in the camp. So he joined pieces with butterflies. He said in the beginning people didn’t understand what he was doing but after a while they paid extra for them.

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