Renowned Hawaii Artist Toshiko Takaezu Dies

Toshiko Takaezu, a renowned ceramic artist born on the Big Island, has died at the age of 88.

Takaezu died in a convalescent center in Honolulu Tuesday, her sister, Miriam Takaezu, told Civil Beat. She had suffered a stroke last May.

A week before her death, Takaezu was able to view a new monograph about her work published by the University of North Carolina Press, the book’s editor, Peter Held, curator of Ceramics at Arizona State University Art Museum’s Ceramics Research Center, told Civil Beat. The book is titled “The Art of Toshiko Takaezu:In the Language of Silence.”

“Her career in ceramics mirrors the evolution of the contemporary craft movement in America,” Held told Civil Beat. Takaezu taught at Princeton University for 25 years and had a significant impact on several generations of artists, he said.

While she left Hawaii to study ceramics at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1951, she stayed connected with the islands where she was born and grew up, her sister said. Takaezu was born in Pekeekeo in 1922. She grew up on the Big Island and Maui before moving to Honolulu, where she studied at the University of Hawaii.

“Her signature glaze she called Makaha Blue,” Held said. “It was informed by the color of sky and ocean. The environment of Hawaii helped form a lot of her aesthetic.”

Her work is in the collections of many museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Hawaii State Art Museum.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Honolulu held a major show of her work in 2009. At that time, a curator said the local museum had the largest collection of her work. She had just donated 23 pieces to the museum. At that time, the weekly newspaper Midweek reported a museum curator, Jay Jensen, described her work this way: “She took the vessel and turned it into something that’s sculptural, not really functional. But she’s also known for her very expressionistic glazing. She’s using the clay surface as sort of a canvas.


Toshiko Takaezu is survived by two brothers and four sisters. Services will be private.