NEW HOPE, PA. -- George Nakashima, 85, a renowned designer of wood furniture whose work had been exhibited at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, died June 15 at his home here. The cause of death was not reported.
He was known for working with untrimmed slabs of wood, especially black walnut and redwood. He often left holes and cracks in the final product to capture the trees' character.
He considered himself an artist and craftsman who only rarely sold his works to furniture dealers. His works, fashioned painstakingly by hand, sold readily to collectors. His work eventually sold for more than $10,000 per piece. He also designed and furnished interiors for homes, corporate headquarters, and universities.
Mr. Nakashima was a 1952 recipient of a gold medal for crafsmanship from the American Instiute of Architects. It is the AIA's highest award for industrial arts work.
In 1986, Philadelphia Museum of Art Director Anne d'Harnoncourt called Nakashima a "national treasure." His work appeared in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and in many galleries. The American Craft Museum in New York last year staged a major retrospective of his work.
Mr. Nakashima's Altar for Peace at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan was dedicated on New Year's Eve 1986 with a concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
Mr. Nakashimawas born in Spokane, Wash., and graduated from the University of Washington. He also studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a diploma from the Ecole Americaine des Beaux Arts in Paris.
He also traveled to Japan and worked in the Tokyo offices of an American architect. After designing a monastery dormitory, he married in 1939 and returned to the United States with his wife and opened a small furniture shop in Seattle.
The couple was interned with other Japanese-Americans at the beginning of World War II. A former employer, Antonin Raymond, arranged for the Nakashimas to join him at his farm in New Hope in 1943.
Survivors include his wife, the former Marion Okajima, a son, Kevin, and a daughter, Mira Nakashima-Yarnall, all of New Hope; a sister; and four grandchildren. His daughter has taken over much of the design work of her father's firm.