Tag Archives: Toshiko Takaezu

Bells Toll for Ceramist Toshiko Takaezu

“I never had the sense of myself as an accomplished artist, and I always had to work three times as hard as anyone else to make my pieces as good as they could be. I am never completely satisfied. There always seems to be something just beyond my reach.”

Japanese-American ceramist, sculptor and weaver Toshiko Takaezu passed away March 9th in Honolulu, Hawaii. She was 88. A pioneer, she made a considerable impact in the art world. Hawaiian-born of Japanese parents, she traveled to her ethnic homeland in 1955 to study traditional Japanese pottery and Buddhism. By this time, she had studied ceramics since 1948; her work was influenced by the ‘mother of American ceramics,’ Maija Grottell. Takaezu taught ceramics at Princeton for 25 years and, after retiring in 1990, she worked as a studio potter in Quakertown, New Jersey. Later, she returned to Hawaii. She had a no-nonsense approach and demanded that all students cut their fingernails, celebrities included. At the beginning or her own artistic career, Takaezu created functional pieces but later she began making monolithic pieces, organic sculptures with closed tops. Of her glazing technique, Jay Jensen said, “She’s using the clay surface as sort of a canvas – just the broad brush strokes, and Mrs. Takaezu letting the glaze run and pool and drip.” A curator at Hawaii’s Contemporary Museum at Makiki Heights, Jensen said, “I would describe each of her works as a little world” in an interview for Midweek Artbeat. The following tributes from newspapers and blogs further illustrate Toshiko Takaezu:

Books written about or by Toshiko Takaezu:

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Ceramics Books Published Winter/Spring 2011

Surface Design for Ceramics (A Lark Ceramics Book), by Maureen Mills. Paperback. $13.89 US (amazon.com), $16.89 CDN (amazon.ca). New edition of book originally published in 2008. Pre-order: April 5th release date.

Amazon blurb: “Ceramists of any level will benefit from this comprehensive studio reference about surface design and the many techniques for embellishing clay. Detailed images inform every phase of the process-from the wet and leather-hard stages through bisque ware, to firing and post-firing. Recipes are supplemented by design theory and historical examples.”

Pottery & Ceramics, Glass, Metal: A Walk into Islamic History, by Abdul Latif Jassim Kanoo, Samar Al Gailani, Tarek Waly. Hardback. $50.40 US (amazon.com), $58.59 CDN (amazon.ca).  Pre-order for May 17th release date.

Said to be lavishly illustrated, the Amazon blurb says that “there are a number of pronounced characteristics which distinguish this art from other forms and underscore its unity. Among these are the use of calligraphy as a central design theme in the decoration of objects; the free use of decorative motifs, particularly recognised repetitive geometric and foliate forms; the bold use of colours without gradation.”

The Art of Toshiko Takaezu: In the Language of Silence, edited by Peter Held. Hardback. $25.33 US (amazon.com), $24.53 CDN (amazon.ca). Pre-order for March 31st release date.

Amazon blurb says the book “traces the artistic development of renowned potter Toshiko Takaezu, this masterful study celebrates and analyzes an artist who holds a significant place in the post-World War II craft movement in America.”

Fukami: Purity of Form, edited by Andreas Marks. Hardback. $31.50 US (amazon.com), $46.02 CDN (amazon.ca). Pre-order for May 1st release date.

Amazon blurb: “Born in Kyoto in 1947, Fukami Sueharu belongs to a generation of ceramic artists in postwar Japan who devoted themselves to the creation of sculptural ceramics, free from traditional forms. He is internationally known for his polished, razor-sharp, minimalist porcelain sculptures with elegant pale bluish glaze inspired by Chinese porcelains of the 10th to 14th centuries. He can be considered the most successful living Japanese artist working in any medium.”

Surfaces and Textures: A Visual Sourcebook, by Polly O’Neil. Paperback. $17.63 US (amazon.com), $11.19 CDN (amazon.ca). Pre-order in the US for a March 15 release date; already available in Canada.

Amazon blurb: “The author has captured fascinating aspects of both natural and man-made things otherwise overlooked, showing the reader their hidden qualities. Elements of skips, old paint, driftwood and stone walls from around the world all contribute to a range of beautiful patterns and samples which make up this selection of photographs. Every surface tells a story and these beautiful images provide a visual sourcebook for artists from all areas of the Visual Arts.”

This Blessed Plot, This Earth: English Pottery Studies in Honour of Jonathan Horne, edited by Amanda Dunsmore. Hardback. $56.19 US (amazon.com), $65.00 CDN (amazon.ca). Pre-order for a May 1st release date.

Amazon blurb: “Encompassing a broad range of new research, over 30 specialists from around the world consider topics including the first pottery in James Fort, North America; shipping containers for Atlantic ceramic cargoes; Delftware exports to the West Indies; recent archaoeological discoveries in London; an 18th-century duke’s bill for ceramicware; and the 16th-century Rheinland stoneware industry in England.”

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Toshiko Takaezu: Blending Life and Art to Create Poetry

— In the early 1980s, I learned about Japanese Living National Treasures from my own teacher, Mr. Takehara. This story reminded me of his teachings about the subject, as we covered ceramists and bell makers. I am sharing another’s story with you today, reprinted under license from Creative Commons. I thank the writer for their words and this collection of links about this stellar artisan, Toshiko Takaezu, a Living Treasure of Hawaii. — Jan


Blending Life and Art to Create Poetry

More than 40 years ago, I attended a daylong class taught by Toshiko Takaezu and I often think of this renowned artist who transformed ceramics from craft to high art.

In that long-ago class, students watched as Takaezu spoke about the soul of her work. As she closed the form (a novel act at the time), she dropped a tiny bead of clay inside. She then picked up the pot to listen as the work spoke to her.

This act shared with her students demonstrated the living poetry in how this artist approached her work.

More recently, that poetry sounds in Remembrance (photo above), her bronze bell installed in the memorial garden honoring 13 Princeton University alumni killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Watch the video on Autumn Bell to hear the sound of art. On this page, I gathered favorite photos, videoclips, articles and stories to help you appreciate the life and work of Toshiko Takaezu. (JSCW Note: use the link above to see the rest of the works featured. Below, runs selections from the post.)

An Interview with Toshiko Takaezu

Film for Watershed Special Exhibition at SOFA Chicago

Filmmaker D.B. Long interviewed American ceramic artist Toshiko Takaezu in her home and studio for the Watershed Special Exhibition at SOFA. The film, featuring music performed by Winard Harper, was screened at the 16th SOFA Chicago (Sculptural Objects and Functional Art) Nov 6-8, 2009 at Navy Pier. Included the Smithsonian Archives for American Art.
Toshiko Takaezu | Grounds For Sculpture : Collection
It has been said that Toshiko Takaezu may have been the first potter to successfully close a pot. This seminal decision removed her work and ceramics as a whole, from the realm of craft and functionality, to that of fine art.
Presence and Remembrance: The Art of Toshiko Takaezu | Grounds For Sculpture: Expressions
The Exhibition Presence and Remembrance: The Art of Toshiko Takaezu: Princeton University Art Museum, June 26-September 11, 2010. One of the attributes of Toshiko Takaezu’s ceramics for which she is best known is the closing of the vessel form. Once closed, the emptiness is sealed within, while the clay form gains presence and becomes a work of art.

Echoes of the Earth: Ceramics, by Toshiko Takaezu

This book served as the catalog for Toshiko Takaezu’s exhibition at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California. This elegant volume includes images from a lifetime of work. Text by Scott Shields, chief curator at the Crocker. Forward by Gary Smith.

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