George Nakashima is a Japanese American, who was famous for his woodwork. George grew up having strong ties to his Japanese culture which would greatly spark his interest in the study and characteristics of Japanese woodwork. Nakashima graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelors of Architecutre and later a Masters from MIT. Nakashima started to travel the world which would greatly open his views on woodwork and influence the type of style that he would use. From Paris to Japan, Nakashima's travels opened his eyes to various types of woodwork giving him a diverse view on wood design. Later, George would be employed for an American architect named Antonin Raymond but most of his focus and studies were in Japanese architect.
In 1937, the architect company was hired to build a dorm in India, where Nakashima was the major consultant. In India, Nakashima was able to learn more about East Indian woodwork and helped open his view on woodwork even more. After his work in India, Nakashima believed in removing one's ego from woodwork and instead devoting his creative process religiously, which is the opposite to the majority of Western culture. Nakashima received much praise from his work in India and was given the Sanskrit name "sundarananda" which meant, one who delights in beauty.
During World War II, Nakashima moved back to America and was placed in a Japanese internment camp, where he met Gentaro Hikogawa, who was trained in traditional Japanese woodwork. Throughout his time with Hikogawa, Nakashima learned to use traditional Japanese tools and designs. After being released from the internment camp, Nakashima settled down in Pennsylvania, where he would set up his own woodwork shop and studio. Nakashima produced many pieces for various clients including the furniture line Knoll. Through his work, George became internationally known working for private homes, churches, and corporate buildings.
Through his work, Nakashima aims for perfection like most Japanese woodwork. Nakashima is famous for having large finished tables with natural unfinished edges connected with butterfly joints. The butterfly joints were strong joints and helped him greatly because of his natural unfinished wood pieces. Nakashima saw more beauty in the natural unfinished pieces than the mainstream pieces with perfect edges and glossy finishes. Nakashima also liked to used natural oils on the table instead of the regular hard finish because he liked to show the natural grain of the wood. Some of his famous pieces besides the natural unfinished pieces include the Mira Chair (named after his daughter) and the Conoid chair which was supported by two blade like feet. The Mira Chair was originally designed for his daughter, but Nakashima expanded on the pieces and soon became a popular chair with a high and low style of the chair. This practice of working with both unfinished and finished pieces gave the idea of equality among wood pieces no matter what they looked lie. This idea seemed to reflect off Nakashima telling people that they should not judge on the outside appearance but appreciate a piece/person no matter what. Because of Nakashima's idea and style of work, his natural unfinished pieces were much more popular and desirable than his mainstream woodwork.
After Nakashim's death, his daughter would oversee the woodshops that he left behind. Nakashima left behind a legacy in his unique work that is still today greatly appreciated by many woodowkr enthusiasts and architects. Nakashima is greatly remembered for his natural, rough, knotted, unifished edges on his pieces and set a style that would become uniquely popular among people. One of Nakashima's woodshop, which is located in Japan, has become a musem that holds many of his pieces.