The studio of George Nakashima Woodworker introduces the Shoki Collection (pronounced show-kee and meaning “early years”), a new line of furniture based on recently discovered drawings by the legendary craftsman, George Nakashima, made in the early 1940s, now adapted and brought into being by his daughter Mira, a renowned designer and woodworker in her own right.
“It’s not clear whether or not my father ever built or sold works from these drawings, but we decided to make up selected items to gain an insight into his early creative process,” explains Mira Nakashima-Yarnall, Creative Director and Head Designer. “As some of the designs would be impractical for modern-age usage, we’ve modified the scale and substituted maple for poplar, which we no longer use in our current production. We’re delighted by the result and are pleased to offer this new collection to clients.”
The Shoki Collection debuted on October 9, 2009 at Philadelphia’s Moderne Gallery as a feature of the gallery’s exhibition: Early Furniture by George Nakashima, 1936-56—The Architect Designs. Copies of the original drawings are included in the exhibit, alongside some of Nakashima’s early architectural drawings.
In the fall of 2008, Mira and her brother Kevin began gifting their father’s archives to the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania to ensure preservation of these important documents. While sorting through various materials for the museum they “discovered” the 1940’s drawings and decided to put them into production for the show at Moderne Gallery.
The Shoki Collection currently includes six pieces: The Winged Console features “wings,” similar to those of the Milk House Table from the same era, designed to stabilize the wood as well as to provide a striking design accent. The Dovetail Bench showcases an intricate joinery that was not repeated in later designs. The Low Table combines an exposed dovetail joint with oval legs resulting in decorative “mushroom” shapes, an experimentation characteristic of Nakashima’s earlier work. The Dressing Table features a birdseye maple drawer and one-of-a-kind burl handle. The Ligne Revolving Chair is crafted from walnut, hickory, rattan and raffia and is very close to its original drawings. The Patterson Desk includes birdseye maple drawers slightly modified to accommodate modern Pendaflex file folders.
Crafted with thinner, dimensioned lumber rather than the wide, flitch-cut slabs of Nakashima’s better-known later work, the Shoki Collection pieces combine angles, curves and unusual exposed joinery details to express a spare, Zen-like functionality.
Trained as an architect, George Nakashima produced work in this early period that laid the foundation for his transformation into a master woodworker and furniture designer. “It is very exciting to be able to look at the early ‘restrained’ work and see how George was beginning to articulate a new vocabulary of design that didn’t exist before him,” says Robert Aibel, owner/director of Moderne Gallery, who has specialized in presenting the vintage works of George Nakashima for 25 years.
Between 1941 and his death in 1990, George Nakashima established himself as one of the most notable 20th-century furniture designers in the world. The heart of Nakashima’s design philosophy was reverence for the trees used to craft his furniture. Each tree, Nakashima believed, has its own character and soul; it is the craftsman’s mission to express this essence and its ultimate destiny. He allowed the form of the wood to dictate the furniture’s shape. Fixing cracks with butterfly joints, Nakashima maximized imperfections in the wood and allowed flaws to enhance each piece’s distinctive beauty.
Since 1990, Mira Nakashima-Yarnall and her brother Kevin Nakashima have extended their father’s tradition not only by producing the classic Nakashima Studio lines, but by continuing the evolution of new designs through the Keisho furniture, meaning “continuation.” Today, George Nakashima Woodworker employs 10 craftspeople in its New Hope, Pennsylvania studio. The studio’s work is routinely exhibited at galleries, art centers and museums throughout the United States.
While the prototypes of the new Shoki line on exhibit are not for sale, the pieces may be ordered through Moderne Gallery, 111 N. Third Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106, phone: 215-923-8536 // www.modernegallery.com or directly from George Nakashima Woodworker,1847 Aquetong Road, New Hope, Pennsylvania, phone: 215-862-2272 // www.nakashimawoodworker.com.
Ligne Revolving Chair, Shoki Collection, George Nakashima Woodworker
High resolution press images available upon request.
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