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Bio Pic 2 Paul Lee Credit

Paul Tanaka is a self-taught designer-maker working and living in Ames, Iowa. After thirty-two years of prac­tic­ing law he retired in 2016 to expand his skills in design­ing and crafting furniture.

Until recently, he worked out of garage and base­ment shops. In 2020, he opened a shop attached to his home where he works daily.

Paul’s design sensi­bil­ity derives from family and history. He grew up in Denver, in a home where the domi­nant aesthetic was mid-century modern. His father was trained as an archi­tect and urban planner. Though ties to Japan­ese culture were atten­u­ated because of the family’s intern­ment during the second world war, and reset­tle­ment in Colorado, the Japan­ese aesthetic was ever-present. During his atten­dance in school in the Pacific North­west during the late 70s, the region’s craft furni­ture culture fostered the hope that one day he could turn his focus to design­ing and building furniture.

Mid-century modern prin­ci­ples of ratio­nal­ity, utility and func­tion remain core values. However, in the past several years recent inter­ests in carving, bending and light­ing design have resulted in greater freedom of form and a migra­tion to a broader sense of function.

Ames,ia, IA
Wood, lighting
Professional Status