Born in Hawaii to Japanese parents, Toshiko Takaezu was a potter whose richly glazed, stoneware objects were inspired by both Eastern and Western techniques. While her earlier works were wheel thrown, her later pottery incorporated hand-built techniques to produce larger works – some of which were over five feet high.
Takaezu became interested in making ceramics in 1940 when she moved to Honolulu after graduating from high school. She enrolled at the Honolulu Art School, then at the University of Hawaii, where she became technically proficient in ceramic techniques and studied weaving. She left Hawaii to study pottery and weaving in Michigan and later on became a close friend of the textile sculptor Lenore Tawney. They shared a studio at Toshiko’s house in New Jersey and often traveled together.
While Tawney created ‘woven forms’, Takaezu created her signature ‘closed forms’ after sealing her pots. Here she found her identity as an artist. Her works had closed tops with only a pinhole opening for air to escape. Before closing her forms, she would often drop a bead of clay, wrapped in paper, inside the object so that the object would rattle when moved. She used a variety of poured, painted, brushed, and dripped on glazes to create her rich colors of deep blues, purples, and blacks.
Weaving provided a different tactile experience than clay. Takaezu created woven hammocks, rugs, and plain weave wall hangings. Tawny and she worked together, side by side, on a backstrap loom in Guatemala. They even had a joint exhibition in 1979 at the Cleveland Institute of Art, “Form and Fiber: Works by Toshiko Takaezu and Lenore Tawney.”
Her work is in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.