For decades, George Nakashima established a name as one of the country’s leading woodworkers through his exceptional forms, including his Conoid designs. Here, Freeman’s specialists offer a closer look at the Conoid form and the Nakashima legacy that continues to this day.
03/14/2023 Latest News, News and Film, Auctions
George Nakashima, the American-born master architect and woodworker, spent nearly five decades perfecting his selfless artistry in pursuit of natural beauty.
Designing furniture forms he felt revealed the particular “destiny” of each board of timber, Nakashima’s work took on a new language in the names of the forms imposed upon them: Minguren, Conoid, Odakyu, Bahut, and others. Individually, the names reference a place, person, or idea, but combined, they form an idiom of reverence for the natural world and Nakashima’s unique design philosophy.
The Conoid line, for example, is a geometric term that Nakashima first used in 1957 in the design of a studio whose roof took the uniquely curved “Conoid” shape that now bears its name. His furniture designs that followed, from 1957 to 1961, took the same name, announcing a new era of achievement and aspiration for the studio.
George Nakashima (American, 1905-1990), Conoid Chair, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1967 I Sold for $3,750
Around 1960, Nakashima designed his eponymous Conoid chair. The chair revisits his “New” chair design from 1955 with a scooped seat, hickory spindles, and curved crest rail (all evocative of his Windsor chair design), but with a cantilevered seat and continuous leg and stile, which support the sitter on “two feet.” The sled feet were devised to provide stability and allow the chair to slide on carpeted surfaces.
Fine Conoid Bench, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1974 I Sold for $33,750
Nakashima introduced his first Conoid bench around 1961, which Derek Ostergard called in his 1989 exhibition Full Circle “the most dynamic seating ever designed by Nakashima.” Using large planks of freeform timber for the bench’s seat and an asymmetrically aligned spindled back to provide for a “built-in” side table surface, the bench achieves a low profile on four tapering conical legs, always oriented perpendicular to the seat.
Special Conoid Coffee Table, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1970 I Sold for $37,500
The Conoid coffee table features a conical turned leg (or legs) with a curved plank support opposite, devised to buttress and showcase a wider, free-form, and often more spectacularly grained top.
Though George Nakashima passed away in 1990, his New Hope, Pennsylvania studio remains active as ever, overseen by Mira Nakashima, George’s daughter and an eminent furniture maker and architect in her own right. In Mira’s own words, “Each tree not only has a different size and shape, but color and character, and each board from each tree has a distinctly different personality.” With this careful philosophy at the heart of the studio’s production, Mira continues her father’s legacy to this day and forges a path of her own.