Toshiko Takaezu’s Legacy

For how many years did I knead clay, throw clay on the wheel, extrude clay into natural forms and fire them once into bisque and fire them again into stoneware so they became vessels to complement inside decors or outside gardens or single flowers.

I was no good at glazing and didn’t apologize for it. My pieces were of red, cone-six clay, brushed with oxides, to blend with nature’s four seasons, designed never to be out of place on a rotting log or a brick stone wall or even in a palatial mansion with floor to ceiling windows, welcoming an outside rural scene inside or even in a Manhattan brownstone with ivy climbing up smaller windows outside, softening the city scene of brick and mortar with a touch of green seen inside.

My pots achieved my own acceptance, me, being my own harshest critic because of Toshiko’s philosophy in her ceramic creations. Her pots don’t overpower the surroundings they’re place in. They blend in.

They create an environment of harmony with nature, with God, wherever they are.

My yearly trips to Toshiko’s open houses for some 30 years have been pilgrimages to a sage’s hut, a house not at all pretentious but rather filled with testaments to friendships with people of all stripes: students, teachers, leaders, dignitaries, solitaries.

Her pots have found their way into very pretentious places – but like certain scriptures, the high is made low or accessible – to all who meet them because of their honesty and forth righteousness. Toshiko’s pots feel, taste, look, sound and smell of the earth.

Even when I showed photographs of her pots to my elementary school classes, the students responded with drawings that spoke to the five senses.

On my pilgrimages to Quakertown, where I’m elbow to elbow with other pilgrims, the atmosphere is hushed, reverential, because of the master holding forth on her bench, greeting friends from around the world by name – even though in some cases, she hasn’t seen them in a decade.

Toshiko has a following that has evolved and evolved over her eighty-seven years. People like to be near her and near her pots.

She and her pots are other worldly – a part of the universe everyone can tap into.

Isn’t it amazing!

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