Is it the lovely grain and sap streaks in the wood that make a table by famed furniture maker George Nakashima beautiful to behold? Perhaps it’s the meticulously crafted exposed joinery or the feeling of running my hand along its free edge that draws me in. For some, it’s the appreciation that the maker crafted it with little more than tools and his own imagination.
Whatever inspires you to admire the work of George Nakashima, know that you are not alone, and should you ever get the chance to bid on his work at auction, be ready for a fight. The large Nakashima Dining Table pictured above sold at a Skinner 20th Century Design auction for $204,000! The story behind it is as interesting as the table itself.
This particular Nakashima table dates back to 1973 when it was crafted for a close friend of George Nakashima, the Reverend Thomas W. Phelan. He had a keen eye for life and beauty. It is fitting that the two men were friends as both were spiritual with an understanding of all the forms of nature.
Selling this table meant I had to let it go. As I gazed at the large burl wood top with exposed butterfly joints, I wondered, “Does the buyer love this table for the same reasons I do? Or is there something else he sees in its iconic design?”
What inspired this bidder to make such an investment? Whether it was an appreciation of its beauty, workmanship, or simply its market value, the truth is that investing in a work by George Nakashima, or any other artist, requires knowing what you value, and then raising your paddle.