SDR wrote:Ah -- I had forgotten about "Taliesin East." Thank you. Here are the photos from my file; it's unclear from them if the pieces you mention are included.
The hassocks are rather diminutive pieces, but they are illustrated in two of your photos. In the photo on the upper left they are lined up beneath the Georgia O'Keefe painting. Two hassocks can be seen in the lower photo ... directly beneath the photo of Mr. Wright's mother.
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It's one thing to use solid wood as opposed to plywood, but to make the decision to show end grain is simply beyond me. I can't recall ever seeing this done in a Usonian piece. Notice the edge in this photo; it creates the appearance of a butcher block top:
But that's beside the point of these new tables; their design was clearly predicated upon the availability of a relatively new material in mid-century, namely plywood (another misunderstood wood product or technique, in some circles) -- and thus it's troubling to see these designs re-imagined -- I suppose.
It could be noted that, while the horizontal planes of these tables were designed for plywood, the same cannot (probably) be said for the vertical elements -- the legs. And there, Wright exposes the end of the part at the top of the table -- a move that clearly could have been avoided if the exposure of wood end grain were an issue for him . . . ?
What is it about the design and craft of a Nakashima piece that an end grain is acceptable/expected/celebrated, where on a Wright piece it is virtually unheard of? Nakashima's work has always drawn me in to the point that I wax poetic and get gooey...more so than Wright's pieces with the possible exception of the Mori chair. Nakashima furniture is at once rustic but still highly refined. Wright furniture is either highly refined or almost crude as at Sweeton...but always well proportioned and geometrically interesting. Not sure where I'm going with this, but a comparison of Wright and Nakashima seems at once appropriate and not...Nakashima's work looks great in Wright spaces (the Sweeton's had one of his chairs in the 1960's with a single wide slab arm). Nakashima's "Greenrock Ottoman" is a piece that would look particularly at home in a Usonian:One man's crudity is another's "honesty." Exposed end grain may not have been a part of Wright's vocabulary, but it has the oldest history in all of woodworking -- self-evidently. Ask George Nakashima (for instance) to veneer or miter the ends of his magnificent tables . . . !
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The difference between an early Wright dining table and a Nakashima one would be quite remarkable, while a Usonian-era Wright table would be somewhat closer to the Nakashima. The early Wright would be a highly-wrought assemblage of planes both large and small, including pencil moldings wrapped around chunky legs, everything strictly orthogonal (parts arranged at right angles to each other) and most of the material assembled in such a way as to minimize any distinction between solid stock and veneer. The later Wright table might be a simple arrangement of planes, everything made of 3/4" plywood or solid stock of the same thickness, the plywood edges sometimes exposed, and some angular elements included, at least in plan.
The Nakashima example, by contrast, makes use of a simple thick slab of hardwood, its shape reflecting the irregular section of the tree from which it was cut. Edges of this slab are invariably seen for what they are, the waney long edges revealing the angle at which the saw passed through the bole while the end cuts frankly expose the cross-section of that great piece of wood. Veneer of any kind would be out of place in this assemblage. The table top is supported on turned legs or on a construction of round and/or square-section pieces of unstained wood.
To me, the aesthetic choice of showing the end grain on the Copeland table, no matter how "honest" it may be in theory, is simply ugly and somewhat thoughtless, and takes a liberty which has no precedent in Wright's work.
The trim at the ends of that coffee table serve another purpose besides covering end grain (which, I maintain, Nakashima doesn't see as a flaw): they help stabilize the thinner wood he uses here, against possible warping.
Why would we accept the edge of plywood -- either edge -- and not the end of a solid piece of wood ? A well-sanded end of a hardwood plank is more polished than any other face of that same piece, by the nature of the material. End grain is what provides a true butcher's block with its resistance to the shredding and shedding of fibers. End grain gets an undeserved bad rap -- begun who knows how . . .
To my eye and mind, the conundrum you mentioned, namely the necessary choice of grain direction in an otherwise quadrilaterally symmetrical object, is no worse or better whether the material be plywood or solid material. Yes, the edges appear different in one case and not in the other -- but I maintain that that difference is perfectly in keeping, in each case, with the material employed, and I wouldn't have it otherwise.
Not to beat the matter into the ground utterly, of course . . . ! And I remain disappointed that these table designs have been rendered in a material not original to their conception. Upon that we seem to agree ?