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Home About David Slawson Garden Gallery Design Philosophy Publications Project Gallery Evoking Natural Patterns 

David Slawson's journey:

Looking back, it doesn’t seem such a stretch that a kid who grew up playing in the woods at the edge of a fast-growing Cleveland suburb in the 1950's wound up designing landscape gardens. I can still remember experiencing those magical places of my childhood.

I first fell in love with Japan during my last year in the Marines, a four-year detour from college and part of my search for who I was and what kind of world I lived in. While in Japan, I traveled around the country and saw gardens in Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and my neighborhood around Iwakuni. But it wasn't until I made my first garden, totally untutored, at my parents' home that it dawned on me--here was a way of capturing those magical places of childhood. After completing my undergraduate degree in philosophy at Kent State in Ohio, I received an M.A in Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii. Since no major existed, I created my own discipline by taking courses in East Asian philosophy and art, and focusing my papers and thesis on Japanese gardens.

What I found in the gardens of Japan and other such nature-based arts as landscape painting and photography, were wonderful, ethereal places far beyond what I had experienced as a child. Translating an ancient Japanese garden manual as part of my doctoral studies, I came across passages that left no doubt in my mind that the central purpose of this art form was to recreate the beauty of landscape in our own country and region. In recent years I have had the good fortune of finding a wealth of inspiring landscapes in the wild preserves of our National Parks, in places like Zion, Mt. Rainier, the Black Hills, the Smokies, Hocking Hills, Acadia, and in Cuyahoga Valley National Park's Ritchie Ledges.


Serving a two-year apprenticeship in Kyoto under the noted garden master Kinsaku Nakane gave me the tools to design, build, and maintain landscape gardens inspired by nature. I cannot imagine any more effective way to internalize the facility of composing rocks and plants to evoke nature's beauty than this form of “experiential" or "kinesthetic" learning.” As long as I am alive, I will continue growing in my grasp of this 1400-year-old landscape art form. For me, there is no more magical, wonder-inspiring job than creating three-dimensional landscapes for human enjoyment, whether in a residential client’s backyard, outside the windows of a restaurant or art museum, or in a botanical garden.


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Last modified: 03/03/13