Tsuitate Butterfly Gate, 2011 (designed and produced). Maple burl root with walnut base, 84" x 32" x 80".
Credit: Courtesy George Nakashima Woodworker, S.A.
One solid mark of a furniture-maker's success is when a uniquely designed object becomes so commonplace that you forget how unique it once once. Midcentury modern woodworker, architect, and furniture-maker George Nakashima (1905–1990) both exemplifies and defies this truism. Take his signature live-edge tables. What once was innovative—incorporating the natural edge of burled, knotted, or salvaged wood—is now familiar and trending right along with other sustainable furnishings. Yet his tables, with their signature butterfly hinges, still wow. The Tsuitate Butterfly Gate (2011), by his daughter Mira Nakashima, who heads up his practice today, is a veritable piece of art. On view in Nakashima's home state of Washington as part of the retrospective "George Nakashima: A Master's Furniture and Philosophy," Butterfly Gate is made from a maple burl root with a walnut base. Nakashima's penchant for seeing the beauty in the irregular comes from the Pacific Northwest surroundings, where live-edge artisans now thrive. As Nakashima wrote in his book The Soul of a Tree (Kodansa, 1988), "My kinship with the tree dates from the day I first stood among the great forest giants in the rain forest of Washington's Ho River valley." Butterfly Gate, along with other pieces of furniture, architectural drawings, and photographs will be at Seattle's Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience through Jan. 20. • wingluke.org