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"Mira is not only maintaining her father's legacy and reputation but continuing his work in a literal hands-on sense."
Mira Nakashima was born in Seattle, Washington in 1942. As an infant, Nakashima and her family were moved to Idaho and placed into an internment camp. Antonin Raymond, a colleague of Mira's father, sponsored the family's release and invited them to his home in New Hope, Pennsylvania. While attending private school in Solebury, Nakashima was given the opportunity to develop her interest and skills in classical music, mathematics, and languages. She is an accomplished flutist and contemplated pursuing a variety of interests before focusing on architecture in college.
Nakashima graduated cum laude from Harvard University and later earned her masters in architecture at Waseda Unversity in Japan. Architecture school was predominantly pursed by men, especially in Japan. Nakashima said, "My friends and I were conscious about that we were a little odd. We were in a man's field, but we just didn't think anything about it" (Metropolis, March 2008). Her many projects include design and supervision of construction of Steve Rockefeller's passive solar home in Vermont with Tetsu Amagasu (1982-1983).
After graduate school, Nakashima returned home to Bucks County to work with her father, George Nakashima, the internationally known craftsman of wood furniture. After her father's death in 1990, Nakashima became Vice President, Designer, and Shop Supervisor at Nakashima Studios.
In addition to keeping her father's designs alive, Nakashima has her own catalog of works, Keisho, meaning continuation or succession. While her designs are reminiscent of her father's, it is obvious that she has taken it a step further by experimenting with new angles and structural details. She has designed sanctuary furnishings for St. George's Church in Titusville, New Jersey (1991-1992), the George Nakashima Memorial Reading Room for the Michener Art Museum (1993), and a flat seated musician's chair with a T-shaped back for the performers of the Concordia Chamber Players (2003).
Another project Nakashima worked on includes completing her father's vision of building and placing peace altars on the seven continents. The first was Peace Table, completed in 1986 while George Nakashima was still alive, and is located in New York City at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Nakashima has since overseen the installation of two more tables, located in India at the Unity Pavilion in the City of Peace, Auroville, (1996) and at the Academy of Art in Moscow, Russia (2001). The fourth table is to be installed in Cape Town, South Africa, at the Desmond Tutu Peace Center.In September of 2008, Nakashima and brother, Kevin Nakashima, presented the Michener Art Museum with the Nakashima Archives. Guests were invited to witness a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in the Minguren Arts Building in honor of their father's legacy and the official signing of the Agreement for the Gift of Archives. Her works are presently on display in a new permanent installation at the Michener Art Museum entitled Intelligent Design, which opened in 2012. Additionally, Nakashima Looks: Studio Furniture at the Michener, which was guest curated by Nakashima, was on display through 2019.
Mira Nakashima, 1993. Photograph by Jack Rosen. Image courtesy of Mira Nakashima.
Education and Training
B.A., Cum Laude, Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1963
M.S. in Architecture, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, 1966
Assisted George Nakashima 1970-1990
Teachers and Influences
Mira Nakashima credits her father, George Nakashima, as her greatest influence. She also credits Mildred Johnstone as her mentor. Johnstone is a needlepoint artist who met when Nakashima was only two and introduced Nakashima to Japan, Zen Buddhism, Alan Watts, modern dance, and the tea ceremony.
Toshiko Takaezu, ceramic artist, and Alice Parrott, textile artist and weaver, were also her mentors. She credits the Zen Master Eido Tai Shimano for shaping her spiritual life, as well as Udar Pinto of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Connection to Bucks County
While Nakashima was born in Seattle, Washington, she moved with her family to New Hope, Pennsylvania in 1943. She attended school locally, finishing high school at the Solebury School. After completing her graduate degree in Japan, she returned to New Hope at the invitation of her father. She worked alongside him at Nakashima Studios for twenty years until his passing in 1990. She then became Vice President, Designer, and Shop Supervisor of the business.
Colleagues and Affiliations
George Anthonisen, Jeffrey Greene, Glenna and Ranulph Bye, Jack Rosen, Robert Whitley, Ferol and William A. Smith, Selma Burke
Active in the New Hope Arts Commission; the Contemporary Choir at St. George's Church in Titusville, New Jersey; Artworks in Trenton, New Jersey; Michener Art Museum (Member of the Board); Artsbridge; and Concordia Chamber Players
Major Solo Exhibitions
When Nature Smiles, Tenri Gallery, New York, New York, 1994
Keisho, Moderne Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1998
Major Group Exhibitions
Odakyu Shows, Tokyo, Japan, 1988, 1991
Edo Gallery, with Jeff Shapiro and Steven Addiss, Boston, Massachusetts, 1995
George and Mira Nakashima Furniture, Tasende Gallery, La Jolla, California, 1995
An Evolving Legacy: Twenty of Collecting at the James A. Michener Art Museum, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown Pennsylvania, 2009-2010
Intelligent Design, permanent installation, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2012
Nakashima Looks: Studio Furniture at the Michener, guest curated by Nakashima, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2019
Designed and supervised construction of furniture for Arthur and Evelyn Krosnick’s home, Princeton, New Jersey, 1989-1992
Designed and supervised construction of Sanctuary furnishings for St. George’s Church, Titusville, New Jersey, 1991-1992
Simon Table, designed for Professor Lee Simon, 1992
The George Nakashima Memorial Reading Room, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown Pennsylvania, 1993
Peace Table for Russia, in collaboration with Irene Goldman; The tables was completed for the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations and was dedicated at St. John the Divine, New York, 1995
Peace Table for Auroville, India, in collaboration with Julian Lines, 1996
Concordia Chair for the New Hope Concordia Chamber Players, 2003
Worked with architect Kenji Imai on the Imperial Music Hall, Tokyo, 1965
Collaborated with George Nakashima and Tetsu Amagasu on Church of Christ the King in Kyoto, a reinforced concrete hyperbolic paraboloid shell roof, 1964-1965
Assistant Designer for George Nakashima and Manager (work included Governor Rockefeller’s Japanese House in Pocantico Hills), 1970-1989
Designed and supervised construction of Steve Rockefeller’s passive solar home in Vermont with Tetsu Amagasu, 1982-1983
Against the Grain, Lear’s, November 1992
The Phoenix has Risen, Arts & Antiques, September 1993
Nakashima Tradition, Bucks County Town & Country Living, Fall 1993
Listen to the Wood, Nouveau, November 1993
Nature, Form, and Spirit: The Life and Legacy of George Nakashima, 2003, Harry W. Abrams, Inc.
Nakashima, Woodshop News, June 2005
Spirit in the Wood: Nakashima Studios, Nouveau Magazine: Delaware Valley, November 2005
Mira Nakashima, Furniture Designer, Interview for the Bucks County Herald, August 31, 2006
Root System, Metropolis Magazine, March 2008
A Custom Concern, Dwell Magazine, April 2008
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Assisted George Nakashima and managed his studio, 1970-1989
Vice President, Nakashima Studio, 1990-present
March of Dimes, The 113th Annual Salute to Bucks County Women of Achievement, Mira Nakashima
The Barley Sheaf Arts & Education Honoree, 2008
The Gold Medal Award, The National Arts Club, 2008
George Nakashima Memorial Reading Room
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