Toshiko Takaezu

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Toshiko Takaezu (17 June 1922 – 9 March 2011)[1] was an American ceramic artist and painter.


Takaezu was born to Japanese immigrant parents in Pepeekeo, Hawaii, on 17 June 1922.[2] She moved to Honolulu in 1940, where she worked at the Hawaii Potter's Guild creating identical pieces from press molds.[3] While she hated creating hundreds of identical pieces, she appreciated that she could practice glazing.[4] Takaezu attended Saturday classes at the Honolulu Museum of Art School (1947–1949)[5] and attended the University of Hawaii (1948, 1951)[5] where she studied under Claude Horan. From 1951 to 1954, she continued her studies at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (1951), where she befriended Finnish ceramist Maija Grotell, who became her mentor.[1][6] In 1955, Takaezu traveled to Japan, where she studied Zen Buddhism, tea ceremony,[4] and the techniques of traditional Japanese pottery, which influenced her work.[1] While studying in Japan, she worked with Kaneshige Toyo and visited Shoji Hamada, both influential Japanese potters.[4]

She taught at several universities and art schools: Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin; Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio (10 years); Honolulu Academy of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii; and Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey (1967–1992), where she was awarded an honorary doctorate.[5][7]

She retired in 1992 to become a studio artist, living and working in the Quakertown section of Franklin Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, about 30 miles northwest of Princeton. In addition to her studio in New Jersey, she made many of her larger sculptures at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. She lived in Hawaii for 10 years and died March 9, 2011 in Honolulu.[1]

Toshiko Takaezu made functional wheel-thrown vessels early in her career. Later she switched to abstract sculptures with freely applied poured and painted glazes. In the early 1970s, when she didn’t have access to a kiln, she painted on canvas.[8]

Takaezu died in 2011 in a Honolulu convalescent center after a stroke in May 2010.[2]


Takaezu treated life with a sense of wholesomeness and oneness with nature; everything she did was to improve and discover herself. She believed that ceramics involved self-revelation, once commenting, "In my life I see no difference between making pots, cooking and growing vegetables... there is need for me to work in clay... it gives me answers for my life."[5] When she developed her signature “closed form” after sealing her pots, she found her identity as an artist. The ceramic forms resembled human hearts and torsos, closed cylindrical forms, and huge spheres she called “moons.” Before closing the forms, she dropped a bead of clay wrapped in paper inside, so that the pieces would rattle when moved.

She was once asked by Chobyo Yara what the most important of her ceramic pieces is. She replied that it is the hollow space of air within, because it cannot be seen but is still part of the pot.[4] She relates this to the idea that what’s inside a person is the most important.[9]


Takaezu had many solo exhibitions throughout the United States:[5]

She has also been in several group exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally in countries including Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Japan, and Switzerland.[5]

Honors and awards[edit]

Takaezu won many honors and awards for her work:[5]

  • McInerny Foundation grant (1952)
  • Tiffany Foundation grant (1964)
  • National Endowment for the Arts fellowship (1980)
  • Dickinson College Arts Award (1983)[10]
  • Living Treasure award, Honolulu, Hawaii (1987)

Collections containing work[edit]

Takaezu's work may be found in private and corporate permanent collections, as well as several public collections across the United States:[5]

Takaezu's work may also be found in the National Museum in Bangkok, Thailand.[5]

Selected works[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Grimes, William (March 19, 2011), "Toshiko Takaezu, Ceramic Artist, Dies at 88", The New York Times 
  2. ^ a b "Renowned Hawaii Artist Toshiko Takaezu Dies", Honolulu Civil Beat, March 10, 2011 
  3. ^ "Toshiko Takaezu | Densho Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2018-03-09. 
  4. ^ a b c d Saiki, Patsy (1985). Japanese women in Hawaii: the first 100 years. Honolulu, HI: Kisaku, Inc. pp. 139–142. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Heller, Jules; Heller, Nancy G., eds. (1995). North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century. New York and London: Garland Publishing. p. 536. ISBN 0824060490. 
  6. ^ Honolulu Museum of Art, Spalding House: Self-guided Tour, Sculpture Garden, pp. 5 & 18
  7. ^ Duazo, Catherine (March 11, 2011), "Former visual arts professor Takaezu passes away at 88", The Daily Princetonian 
  8. ^ Honolulu Museum of Art, Welcome to the Honolulu Museum of Art, 2012, p. 8
  9. ^ Strickland, Carol (Oct 6, 1997). "Master of Art and the Art of Living, Everything Ceramic Artist Toshiko Takaezu does Feeds into the Process of Discovering and Creating". The Christian Science Monitor. 
  10. ^ "Toshiko Takaezu Receives Arts Award | Dickinson College". Retrieved 2018-03-09. 
  11. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Clarke, Joan and Diane Dods, Artists/Hawaii, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1996, 98-103.
  • Department of Education, State of Hawaii, Artists of Hawaii, Honolulu, Department of Education, State of Hawaii, 1985, pp. 55–60.
  • Haar, Francis and Murray Turnbull, Artists of Hawaii, Volume Two, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1977, 79-84.
  • Nemmers, Peyton, Steuber. "In Memory of Toshiko Takaezu: Artist, Mentor, Friend" Ceramic Arts and Technical, vol 87. 2012.
  • Honolulu Academy of Arts, Toshiko Takaezu, Honolulu, HI, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1993.
  • Honolulu Museum of Art, Spalding House Self-guided Tour, Sculpture Garden, 2014, pp. 5 & 18
  • Morse, Marcia, Legacy: Facets of Island Modernism, Honolulu, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 2001, ISBN 978-0-937426-48-7, pp. 24, 82-87
  • Morse, Marcia and Allison Wong, 10 Years: The Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center, The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, 2006, ISBN 1888254076, p. 111
  • Takaezu, Toshiko, Portfolio in Bamboo Ridge: Journal of Hawai'i Literature and Arts, Spring, 1996, 26-30.
  • Takaezu, Toshiko, Toshiko Takaezu, Four decades, Montclair, N.J., Montclair Art Museum, 1989.
  • Woolfolk, Ann, "Toshiko Takaezu," Princeton Alumni Weekly, Vol. 83(5), 6 October 1982, pp. 31–33.
  • Yake, J. Stanley, Toshiko Takaezu, The earth in bloom, Albany, NY, MEAM Pub. Co., 2005.
  • Yoshihara, Lisa A., Collective Visions, 1967-1997, Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1997, 61.

External links[edit]