One of the great joys of attending a collaboration event is the generous, talented and creative people you meet. This post is a personal thank you to Miriam Carpenter, one of the go-to people of the collaboration, who successfully worked on many too many projects, including our lamp project!

Miriam with Mark Sfirri

Miriam Carving

Miriam is an industrial design graduate of RISD and works with Mira Nakashima as a designer at the Nakashima Studios.

George Nakashima stands out as a very significant figure in the development of the studio furniture landscape. Many furniture makers have found inspiration in his work and lifestyle. Nakashima’s work with live edge slabs spawned a whole slew of imitators, although very few, if any, achieved the beauty of his work or extended his vocabulary. I personally found inspiration in his use of the cantilever in furniture, and particularly in his experiments with curved and cantilevered architectural forms in his studio compound.

But over time I found myself becoming a little sceptical of the reputation he attained. On a previous visit to the USA I had seen some Nakashima pieces for sale in New York that really didn’t sing, and wondered if the work relied too heavily on the beauty of the material without sufficient strong underlying form. I began to find it very difficult to separate the image and myth-making about the work of the Nakashima studios from the actuality.

The Nakashima studios are quite close to the site of the Echo Lake Collaboration. To my great joy, Miriam took time out from her myriad of projects at the collaboration to give Reagan and I a personal tour. Taking photos is discouraged, so I don’t have images to share, but it is an understatement to say my skepticism is removed. 

Thanks to Miriam I was able to see and touch many beautiful Nakashima pieces. I was able to see her design drawings matching individual slabs from the vast, vast collection of catalogued slabs to furniture for clients. The huge shed full of slabs stacked to the roof is a treasure that most woodworkers wouldn’t even dare to dream of. 

I was able to meet some of the workers: in the chair studio, the cabinet studio and the finishing studio, who displayed skill, dedication and pleasure in their work. I met one guy in the cabinet shop who told me with great pride he had been working at Nakashima studios for 40 odd years. In a quiet sort of way he was having trouble containing his excitement at the beautiful book-matched sliding doors he had just made for the latest cabinet. 

And to see the furniture in the context of the beautiful, peaceful, large-span, interior spaces of the reception house and conoid studio was to see it with completely new eyes. The forms sit perfectly in the spaces and lifestyle Nakashima was developing and promoting. It was a wrench to leave the calm beauty of the compound and return to the Collaboration. Thank you Miriam.

Miriam at Nakashima Studios

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