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The Soul of a Tree: Master Woodworker's Reflections [Paperback]

George Nakashima
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Oct 1988
A beautiful book in which this remarkable Japanese American craftsman and philosopher impresses us with his devotion to discovering the inherent beauty of wood so that noble trees might have a second life as furniture. The first part of this meditative book reveals the development of Nakashima as a spiritual artist and the influence of life in an Indian ashram in the 1930's. The second reveals the inner truth and nature of the different trees with which he works, while the third explores the skills by which the wood is reborn as furniture.

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha America, Inc; Reprint edition (1 Oct 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0870119036
  • ISBN-13: 978-0870119033
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 22.2 x 29.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 939,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"An impressive book that effectively conveys the textural qualities and sensitivity of this master craftsman's use of wood" -The New York Times

"Today's increasing reverence for nature, truth, simplicity and the independent spirit makes the life, work and philosophy of George Nakashima especially meaningful."-Town & Country

"From [Nakashima's] tables and chairs flows the unadorned beauty of the rhythms of nature."-Smithsonian

"George Nakashima, the foremost master of the craft."-Time

About the Author

GEORGE NAKASHIMA, woodworker and architectural designer, is a native of Seattle, Washington. A graduate of MIT in architecture, he worked briefly in New York, then traveled to Paris, Tokyo, and India. It was while in Japan that he was sent on an extended architectural assignment to Pondicherry, India, where he designed Golconda, the primary disciples' residence at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, which was his first major architectural project. Running a small integrated business near New Hope, Pennsylvania, since 1943, Mr. Nakashima's major commissions include furnishings for the country home of the late Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, Pocantico Hills, in Tarrytown, New, York, and interiors for Columbia University, Mt. Holyoke College, the International Paper Corporation, and the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico, for which he also provided the architectural design. Featured in such publications as Smithsonian, Town & Country, House Beautiful, Life, and Fine Woodworking, Mr. Nakashima has exhibited at many institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.; the Nelson Gallery, Kansas City; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He was awarded the Gold Medal for craftsmanship by the American Institute of Architects in 1952, was named a Fellow of the American Craft Council in 1979, received the 1981 Hazlett Award, and in 1989 will be the first honoree in a series of major retrospective exhibitions of "America's Living National Treasures" at the American Craft Museum.
GEORGE WALD, Higgins Professor of Biology Emeritus at Harvard University, has been a close friend of George Nakashima for many years. He was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1967 for his work on mechanisms of vision. He spends most of his time now in what he thinks of as "survival politics"-the sharp struggle to preserve life upon this planet: human, animal, and plant.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, very inspirational 14 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a gem and the author pioneers many concepts that today are becoming more central, sustainaility, life-cycle and cradle to cradle design..
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wood 5 Aug 2010
By Phil
What a fantastic book!! Excellent photos and full of information. An absolute pleasure to read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous and inspiring book 27 Nov 2005
By Dennis Mitton - Published on
Like the books of James Krenov, "The Soul of a Tree" is as much a book about philosophy as it is about wood. And it's a good philosophy: slow down, take your time, play with the wood, and enjoy it. The book is really about the soul of Nakashima. He outlines some of his own personal history and how he developed his ideas about craft. There's not really much on technique here - you can certainly find better books for that - but you won't find many more inspiring.

On a personal note I had a lady call me years ago to fix up `some old furniture' she and her husband had bought years ago (in the `50's I believe.) Seems when they were young college professors they found this young oriental guy down the road who made furniture in his garage. When I looked at the furniture I told her that her young oriental friend had become quite famous and showed her this book. She was flabbergasted. What she wanted me to do was to nail up some chairs that had worked loose over time. I refused, of course, and explained to her that these were valuable pieces that should be cared for properly. I also encouraged her to contact Nakashima's Conoid Studio (if it still existed) to let them catalogue the pieces. Even after years of use by a family with kids living in the sticks the pieces were obviously crafted with meticulous care and held up surprisingly well. It was a real joy to bring them back to daily use.
77 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This man never wasted a single second of his life 30 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on
George Nakashima was not only a master craftsman in his field, he was a genius. He could pick up any piece of wood and at a glance know what the end product would be to its full potential...and more.He would let the wood tell him. Even his simplest of projects 'sing' beauty and finesse. I bought the book for insperation to my own woodworking skills, and learnt much more than i expected. Included in the book is a short biography telling us of his early life, his travelings and how he ended up the man he became, his family, lifestyle, work and good natured beliefs. It certainly gave me insperation towards beautiful woodwork and i like to think I learnt a few lessons in life as well. If i was to me this man and only shake his hand I would feel honoured.......
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A woodworking classic 10 Jun 2008
By Everett G. Hurst - Published on
Nakashima, a woodworker in the classic sense. Only wanted the tree to live on longer by working with and creating with it. This book is a great example of the love one can have for both nature and woodwork.
Any woodworker should have this book not on the shelf, but closer, to the workspace at all times.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great overview of his life and work! 24 Feb 2009
By Charles S. Holzheimer - Published on
This book, written by George Nakashima himself, is great overview of a great career and a wonderful talent. As a woodworker, I was drooling at all of the beautiful pieces GN has produced. I was also very envious of the opportunity he had to work with some of the most beautiful materials ever seen. Just to have access to some of the Black Walnut shown in the book would probably be the pinnacle of most woodworkers' careers.
Nakashima's work was at its height in the late 60's and 70's and the works reflect that. It appears a little dated but wonderful nonetheless.
I thought the first half of the book was especially enlightening. It is a short biography of Nakashima's early years and shows how these experiences directly influenced his works. When I first saw the book I thought that this part might be a little boring but I was pleasantly suprised that it was engaging and light in tone.
My style and Nakashima's style are different, as is to be expected. However, learning from and about the masters in woodworking is part of becoming a better woodworker yourself. This book was a balanced overview of GN's life and work and one I highly recommend for anyone wanting to learn more about one of the masters as well as to prompt ideas and concepts inside of you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tree Hugger 9 Aug 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wow! What a phenominal book!!

I think this book (or at least the Introduction) should be required reading for every woodworker, professional or amateur. "There are trees... which in their single lives have spanned the entire history of civilized man. We woodworkers have the audacity to shape timber from these noble trees." When I read this, I knew that George Nakashima had indeed touched (and been touched by) the Soul of a Tree.
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