George Nakashima - American Woodworker

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"1905 - Born in Spokane,Washington."
"As a boy, I enjoyed roaming the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Higher and higher I climbed, passing the great Douglas firs which punctured the heavens.
"1917 - 1923 - A member of the Boy Scouts of America, attaining the rank of "Eagle".
"1942 - 1943 - Then Pearl Harbor broke, and all of us of Japanese descent were put in concentration camps. My wife and I and our newly born daughter were sent to a camp in Idaho. This 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."
1943 - Moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania.
1943 - 1990 - Created some of the most interesting furniture and architectural pieces of the middle and latter parts of the twentieth century. His work is included in some of the finest museum collections in the world.
Look him up.
It's worth it.
(Quotations are from, The Soul Of A Tree, harper and Row, etc. - 1981.)
Regards,
Tom Watson
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1 /
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Didn't mention that he had a degree in architecture, traveled all over the world, spending a fair amount of time in Paris around the time Picasso and cohorts were there, lived in an ashram in India and built buildings there. He also made trips to see, and sketch, famous trees.
Nakshima was not just a great woodworker, but close to a 20th Century renaissance man - into all manner of things.
And if you have to have a BIG ASS fork lift to move your logs around, have them sawn per your specs and have several buildings to hold your wood - you have to have a real love for the stuff.
Nakashima, Maloof, Krenov, Tage Frid - where are their replacements?
charlie b
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wrote:

"I became interested in Nietzsche, intrigued by his wonderful sense of freedom. I read Thus Spake Zarathustra in French, because secondhand French books were so cheap. This book was, in a sense, a springboard for my departure from the ordinary sources of inspiration. I no longer felt any particular attachment to technology or to the rootless concepts of art popular at the time."

I believe them to be around us and within us but we must be more aware than what our culture allows us to be, with its pounding backbeat of sameness and mediocrity.
When I have spoken about philosophy and woodworking on this group before, there have been those who thought that I was putting on airs and gilding the lily, at least a bit.
The truth is that wooddorkers such as Nakashima and Krenov are more than passing familiar with the roots of philosophy and its expression during their time. Philo-Sophia informs and educates them in the pursuit of their art and craft.
If we poor mortals are to uderstand them, we must first emulate them, and then try our very best to understand them all over again.

Nice post, charlie b.
(Quotes from, The Soul of a Tree, 1981.)
Regards,
Tom Watson
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1 /
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(snip)Nakashima, Maloof, Krenov, Tage Frid - where

We are here. Working diligently in our shops. Learning all we can. With goals of mastering joinery, wood selection, design, and finishing. Constantly producing better and better pieces. Personally, I may never attain the level of one of the "great ones" but if I can even come close by the end of my life, it will certainly be my greatest accomplishment. --dave
"There's a lot of work being done today that doesn't have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn't have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it." -Sam Maloof

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wrote:

Really nice thought and it describes the way I have felt for as long as I have been trying to understand this craft.
The people that I admire are so far ahead of me that I can't hope to come to grips with their understanding in my lifetime.
It's a little frustrating but I keep reminding myself that these people are geniuses and I am not.
I would just like to make one piece that I can respect ten years after I made it.
Just one.
Regards,
Tom Watson
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
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Tom Watson wrote:

On the one hand I truly understand what you mean. On the other hand it makes no sense to me WHY you would be soaked in such thoughts.
Once I made a simple work station for myself. Simple 2x3 construction, pine drawers, plywood top. Drew it up in an hour and banged it out in an afternoon. It's nothing special... other than being a sturdy and very well used piece of furniture.
Every so often I find myself looking at it with pride. It's beautiful in it's simplicity and utility. It doesn't take a genius to make one... anybody could make it.
One difference between you and I, I suppose, is that when I look at that piece, I can respect it. I feel good when I look at it. I made it and it's a wonderful thing.
Despite all your apparent skills, that's one thing I can do that you cannot.
Joe Barta
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"Joe Barta" wrote in message
<snip>

Perhaps therein lies the reason "Joe Barta" will never be said in the same breath with Nakashima, Krenov and Maloof ... or Tom Watson for that matter.
--
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Swingman wrote:

That's never been a goal or priority for me. To me, woodworking is no more a a spiritual thing than building a handsome garage or writing a few slick lines of code.
Then again, maybe it's all a matter of degree. Sometimes I find myself admiring a piece of furniture somewhere, running my hands over it, feeling it as well as seeing it. I love the feel of wood in general. Maybe that's spiritual. I don't know.
I think the point is, I don't want to be anyone else, I don't want to be compared to anyone else and I don't want to mentioned in the same breath as anyone else. I just want to be Joe Barta, be happy with that, and have that stand on it's own.
Joe Barta
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Apparently, that's the ability to delude yourself.
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Apparently, that's the ability to delude yourself.
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On 20/02/2006 11:03 PM, Joe Barta wrote:

Remember that some of Sam Maloof's earliest work was made from recycled plywood that he salvaged from old concrete forms. It was quite simple in design, yet to my eyes still looks pretty good today (in pictures; I've never seen the real deal).
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Is it not possible that they feel the same way. I would bet more likely than not. It's the person who is never satisfied and continues to reach for something better that becomes the master (at least in other people's eyes).
Do geniuses/masters see themselves as such? I wouldn't know. Can it be known?
I think the person who thinks "I have arrived" probably hasn't.

Yup, I hear that.

To be completely at ease with your past work would indicate that you have stopped evolving (growing).
Disconcerting, but it's really not a bad thing.
-Steve
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Mr. Watson...care to comment on Sam Maloof wanting his furniture to have a soul?
todd
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I'm not a big Sam Maloof fan but I think that I know what he was talking about.
Sam Maloof is an artist, equally as much so as Nakashima and Krenov, whom I happen to greatly admire. As such, he brought forth something of himself and invested his work with his vision.
I believe that he also thought that the material that he worked with brought something to the process and that the interaction of the artist in revealing the possibilities of the material in an artful way and the material itself produced a synthesis that, when properly done, expressed the soul of both the material and the artist.
Michaelangelo is said to have spent weeks at the quarry looking for the perfect piece of marble that he believed to encapsulate his vision for the work that he had at hand.
In his mind it was almost as though his sculpture was imprisoned in the unformed rock and that it was his duty to set it free.
Artists such as Nakashima, I believe, question the materials more directly and ask of them what they want to be.
Krenov seems to work in a similar way and is famous for collecting wonderful pieces of wood and waiting for a project that is perfect for them.
Maloof, as I understand him, is a bit more of a practical artist. His joy is in the form and his vision is to fit the wood to the form, rather than find a form that expresses the nature of the wood, as does Nakashima.
I suppose that a summary would say that:
Maloof finds a wood to fit his vision.
Nakashima is given a vision by the wood.
Krenov is a matchmaker between the wood at hand and the work to be done.
This could all be bullshit.
I haven't the slightest idea.
But it is fun to contemplate.
Does good wood have soul? Do you really doubt it?
Can its expression be enhanced or retarded by the maker? Once again, do you really doubt it.
Your question is a good one and as with almost all really good questions, can be answered over and over again.
Regards,
Tom Watson
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1 /
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Tom Watson wrote: <snip>

intricate relation to wood, but as far as generalizations go, these are good, they make sense.
Krenov in particular is difficult to pin down--I don't think he thought very well or clearly about his craft. He just did it very well. He was a terrible writer of his own processes, yet his writings preserve the spirit of his obsession and his love for wood, and his work speaks for itself. Such beautiful simplicity and harmony.
Thanks, H
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"Tom Watson" wrote in message

And his work exhibits more practicality, in certain respects, than most of the other exalted names.
The way he has rounded off the edges of inset door and drawer fronts, as well as the rails and stiles, to mitigate the necessity of perfection in fitting these components, is a good example of this "practicality" in my mind.
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Wouldn't it be great if these gentlemen were also here so they could give us their EXPERT opinions on politics, domestic and world affairs, religion, and how to google?
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If the 'soul' is the sum of the tree's life experience, the creatures it sheltered, the breath of every living thing that passed through it, the seasons and storms it weathered, then you can either give that 'soul' an extended life or choke it off. And it does not need to be through art. A well made tool handle or shop stool will do.
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"Lobby Dosser" wrote in message

LOL. IOW, run it through a chipper and make newspaper, just don't use it for the Op-ed.
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Depends on how good the writing is.
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