Bertoia at RISD & NYC

Nakashima, Decaso, and more...

Photo by Matthew Carasella for Editor at Large.

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) honored me, along with Mira Nakashima, with invitations to speak to their students in October.

This was an extra-special occasion because of another guest. Thomas Zung, respected architect who worked with Buckminster Fuller the last couple decades of his life, came up with the idea to invite the daughters of Harry Bertoia and George Nakashima to RISD. Most of you readers have heard the Nakashima name, but for those who are not familiar with his gorgeous wood furniture designs, he is the woodworker who could see the "Soul of a Tree"

Zung, 85 years young, knew both Bertoia and Nakashima and loved them dearly. Bertoia was a mentor to Zung, and Nakashima a respected fellow creator.

The Nakashima and Bertoia families were friendly and lived only about an hour away from each other, thus Mira and I have known each other since childhood. Harry and George met through Knoll in the 1950s when they both worked there. Knoll carried a few models of the Nakashima wooden chairs for a few years, and we all know the history of Bertoia with Knoll and the iconic wire grid chairs.

Harry and George, both leaning towards eastern philosophies and quiet lifestyles, together lamented about the disappointment of plastic molded items replacing hand crafted items. Several negotiated trades resulted in a selection of Bertoia sculptures at the Nakashima campus and Nakashima furniture at the Bertoia residence.

RISD, for those who may not be aware, is one of the best design schools in the country with an exclusive enrollment of about 2,000 students. We had a chance to work one-on-one with some of the upper classmen, and they are a smart and creative bunch indeed. They are not pampered, but they do get plenty of direction and attention.

The lecture hall for the Bertoia / Nakashima event was packed to the brim, with standing room only. The professors later reported to Mira and I that the students talked about it for days afterwards. This is what I love to hear! This generation needs to understand the importance and relevance of those who came before them.

New York City

Part of the trip back east included a stop in New York City to meet with one of our new sponsors, DECASO, the Decorative Arts Society. The staff at DECASO put together a breakfast event for some of their dealers along with a sprinkling of artists and architects. DECASO has been generous enough to give the Harry Bertoia foundation and Table Tonal II a spot on their high-end online store. We still have a good selection of edition numbers of the Table Tonal II available on our website. Click here to shop.

DECASO has also featured an unforgettable interview with Celia on their blog. You don't want to miss it.

Photo by Matthew Carasella for Editor at Large. Celia in New York City with the DECASO team, posing with the Harry Bertoia Foundation limited edition "Table Tonal II"

Once, when Harry was asked if he thought metal was cold, his face softened as if speaking of a beloved child and he explained:

"I don't associate temperature with metal. I think sometimes metal can be very soft. It can have qualities that heretofore probably have not been explored. Maybe the word cold is associated with other shapes, other forms. But in this instance [in Sonambient] I wouldn't really say it is cold."

- Harry Bertoia

Celia & DECASO

Photo by Matthew Carasella for Editor at Large

Recalling the concerts, Celia describes a scene in which, a dozen or so spectators sat seated in Bertoia chairs along the sidelines of the barn...

"He wanted to release the sounds of each sculpture in all its glory. His face became intently focused and serious as he moved silently, almost cat-like, through his orchestra. It started somewhat quietly, stroking a few tonal sculptures here and there. While there was no actual tune or rhythm, there was a sort of communal breathing and swaying of the sculptures."