While Takaezu’s work recalls traditional Japanese forms and techniques of ceramic production, she was at the vanguard of the movement that elevated ceramics from a craft to an art. One of the innovations of her work was the closed form. Her vessels lack openings large enough to allow them to be used as bowls or jars. Instead, her ceramics convey the powerful interaction between the intention of the artist’s hand, nurturing and cajoling the clay into shape, and the unpredictable environment of the kiln, where splashes and rivulets of colored glaze are formed.
Takaezu often presented her work in specific groupings. Her sculpture Homage to Sawada Tetsuro is accompanied by a painting by a friend of the artist, Sawada Tetsuro; the two works were presented to the Museum as a set. Moon and Night were not originally paired, but their forms seem to gravitate toward each other naturally. Sunrise Egg completes the assemblage.
Toshiko Takaezu was born in Hawai’i to parents who emigrated from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa. She began her study of ceramics at the Hawai’i Potters Guild; later study brought her to Michigan, where she was mentored by the Finnish potter Maija Grotell (1899–1973). In 1955, Takaezu traveled to her parents’ homeland of Japan and studied mingei (folk-craft) ceramics, utilitarian objects prized for their rustic beauty. Upon her return to the United States she began teaching, and from 1967 to 1992 she taught in the Program of Visual Arts at Princeton University.