Toshiko Takaezu

February 8 - April 26, 2009


Toshiko Takaezu is known for her simple, sculptural structures and free application of glaze, liberally poured and painted on the surface, which give her work a unique patina and character.

Toshiko Takaezu born in 1922, on the island of Hawaii, studied ceramics, design and weaving at the University of Hawaii from 1948 to 1951. Takaezu enrolled at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1951, bringing with her a supply of Hawaii’s black volcanic sand to use in her work. Of her experience there, Takaezu later said, Hawaii was where I learned technique; Cranbrook was where I found myself. At Cranbrook, she studied sculpture with William McVey and weaving with Marianne Strengell, but the most important influence on her development was the celebrated Finnish ceramist Maija Grotell. An inspiring teacher, Grotell was known for emphasizing technical mastery as a means for achieving artistic goals, and for perceptively fostering the individual talent of each student instead of teaching a particular style or method.

Influenced by Grotell’s teaching, Takaezu explored her own Japanese heritage and the country’s rich ceramic culture during her travels in 1955. She studied the tea ceremony, lived in a Zen Buddhist temple and visited Japanese ceramists, including Shoji Hamada, Rosanjin Kitaoji and Toyo Kaneshige. In the end, people say my work looks Oriental. I can’t help it. As a child, I was drawn to the East and the West. I take the best of both, but I have to be myself.

Her pots display the same gentle attitude with which she cooks or maintains her garden. Her forms are carefully shaped; the glazing of her pots, although a result of conscious hand motions, is less controlled – resulting in a combination of freedom and control which gives her work its life. To me an artist is someone quite special. You are not an artist simply because you paint or sculpt or make pots that cannot be used. An artist is a poet in his or her own medium. And when an artist produces a good piece, that work has mystery, an unsaid quality; it is alive.

Toshiko Takaezu, is one of America’s most famous female ceramic artists, whose work is represented in museums throughout the world. Twenty pieces, including 14 from our own collection, will be on display in our Timken and Schneider Galleries, February 8 through April 26.