George Nakashima: An Elder Mentor to Sovereign Design

By Lee Williams


Since our introduction to design as more than just a hobby, we've been looking up those who came before us to help us to form a collective company identity. One of the major forces of the American Design Industry during the 20th Century was George Nakashima, The Samurai of modern minimalism and woodworking applications. Here, we tell you what we have learned about the creator and frontrunner of one of our most important, desired, and lucrative product offerings: Live edge.


In the beginning of creating our makerspace and developing the ideas that became our company, we were tasked with pinpointing a collective identity. We started by asking ourselves some open-ended questions: What do we want to be, and how do we want to be seen in our industry? Where do we want to start? Who do we need to align with? Are there any companies that have done what we want to do? What example can we take from their experience and their story? Just like children sidetracked by peer pressure during the formative years of creating a personal identity, our company in its formation was sensitive to its environment. This was a volatile climate for us as we became entrenched in business; a climate dictated to by a whirlwind of requests from clients, crafting based on our personal economic need, and being dictated to completely by the entire market instead of finding our niche for our own high performance to meet with consistency and create opportunity. We were drowning in doing what we could, and rarely did we get a chance to revisit the surface to breathe and figure out what we wanted to become. Whether the reason was branding, design, or honing in on our own focus, it was important that we created a company personality profile- and fast.


In this stage, I got to work and began to research everything that I could about one of our most lucrative and sought after services- live edge surfaces, especially river tables with epoxy. I had figured out that we should base our original identity on the item or service we offer that excited our client base the most, was most requested, and (last but far from least) was the most lucrative for the company's growth. This led me to start with woodworking, and live edge specifically, since so much attention had been directed to accommodating this type of client that this seemed to be what we were already most prepared to do consistently.


Mind you, prior to my more extensive research period, our design preferences were already leaning in the direction of simplistic luxury with a hint of farmhouse/natural beauty to show the effortlessness of our cooperation with surrounding environments. We set out originally to bring more modernity to rural design, and blend more rural capabilities and homestead applications in urban environments-which has remained our goal to this day. In the spirit of consistency, Sovereign Customs by Design has an individual and very nuanced approach to design, within which there are some factors that are of ultimate importance. A few of the most prevalent of these factors are Minimalism, Natural Elements, Modernity, Efficiency, and Sustainability. During the company's inception, as I researched what was becoming our shared philosophy and what we bring to the market, I almost immediately noticed a name that continued to come up in my research: George Nakashima.