Around The Bend Woodworks
George Nakashima: Japanese-American self -taught sculptor and woodworker.
Born in 1905, in Spokane, Washington, he was the first son of a newspaper
reporter of samurai lineage named Katsuhara Nakashima and his wife, Suzu.
He graduated from the University of Washington in 1929 and then went on to New
York area, he moved to Paris. Then in 1934, he moved to Tokyo and took a
position with the architectural offices of Antonin Raymond.
In 1937, he volunteered to design and supervise construction at a religious sanctuary
in Pondicherry, India. It was a watershed experience in Nakishima's life. He
experienced a deep spiritual awakening there. He was given the sanskrit name
'Sundarananda' (one who delights in beauty) by Sri Aurobindo himself.
From this point on, he no longer viewed his work from a secular point of view. He felt
that his creations were an expression of spirituality, as well as beauty. Nakashima
returned to Japan where he met american-born Marion Okajima, who was to become
his wife. They moved back to Seattle in 1940. They had just opened a furniture
shop when World War II started.
Like so many Japanese-Americans at that time, he suffered the indignity of being
interred during the war. After a short stay in an internment camp, they were allowed
to leave and move to southeastern Pennsylvania.
He opened a woodworking studio outside of New Hope, PA and established a
reputation for his creativity and craftsmanship.
His major commissions included furnishings for the house of Nelson Rockafeller,
interiors for Columbia University, the Church of Christ the King in Katsura,
Kyoto, the International Paper Corporation, and the Monastery of Christ in the
He is also known for Alters of Peace in St. John the Divine's Cathedral in New
York City, Auroville/India, and the Acadamy of Art/Moscow, Russia.
In 1981, he published a book: The Soul of a Tree: A Woodworker's Reflection.
He employed some of the world's finest craftsmen who remain devoted to
Nakashima and his ideas. His studio is still in operation outside New Hope, PA -
run by his daughter, Mira Nakashima-Yarnall.
George Nakashima died at age 85 in 1990.