Renowned ceramist, visual arts faculty member Toshiko Takaezu dies

Toshiko Takaezu, a renowned ceramist who helped shape Princeton University's Program in Visual Arts over her 25 years on the faculty and who created the bronze Remembrance Bell in the University's Memorial Garden, died March 9 of natural causes in a convalescent center in Honolulu. She was 88.

"During her career, Toshiko Takaezu performed three different kinds of transformations: She transformed the lives of individual students, she transformed the Program in Visual Arts and she transformed the campus," said Carol Rigolot, executive director of the Council of the Humanities at Princeton.

Takaezu taught at Princeton from 1967 until her retirement in 1992. She returned in 2004 as a Belknap Visitor in the Humanities. According to Rigolot, Takaezu was a "national treasure" who "contributed her genius, her energy, her example and her pedagogical skills to the University, to all who knew her, and to many who never met her in person but were able to admire her works in public places."

Takaezu was honored by the University with a Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities in 1992 and an honorary doctorate of fine arts in 1996. Three of her pots, in her inimitable blue glaze, are permanently exhibited in the main corridor of the Lewis Center for the Arts at 185 Nassau St.

Sculptor James Seawright, who directed the visual arts program while Takaezu was at the University, noted in his introduction of her at the Behrman award celebration that she "opened the rest of her world and life to the students." He said that most of her students "remember her as one of the greatest influences of their lives, not because she taught them how to hand-build or throw a pot or how to mix ash glaze, or even how to cook a chicken in a kiln, but because she taught them all of it -- her way of life, a true way, or as potters say, a centered way."

For her 80th birthday, alumni of her courses filled a treasure box with messages expressing gratitude and admiration.

Takaezu's work figures in the collections of more than 20 museums, including the Metropolitan and American Crafts Museums in New York, the Smithsonian Institution and the art museums of Boston, Baltimore, Newark, Cleveland, Detroit, Honolulu and Bangkok. In 2006 Takaezu received the "Visionaries!" award for lifetime achievement from the Museum of Arts & Design in New York. She also was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Philadelphia Museum while presenting a retrospective of her work, titled "The Poetry of Clay."

When Princeton sought to commemorate the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the university chose Takaezu's bronze Remembrance Bell for the memorial garden near Chancellor Green at the front of the University's campus.

"The bell is a testimony to the variety of genres and media in which Toshiko Takaezu excelled," Rigolot said. "For all of us who revered her, the bell will henceforth have the added dimension of being a memorial to her."

Individuals are invited to view or share comments on a blog intended to honor Takaezu's life and legacy.