Since 2016, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) has been asking the seemingly simple question on social media during Women’s History Month: Can you name 5 women artists? Most people they asked could not.

The #5WomenArtists campaign calls attention to the fact that women remain dramatically underrepresented and undervalued in museums, galleries, and auction houses.

To date more than 1,000 cultural institutions from seven continents and 47 countries, plus over 10,000 individuals have participated, and UC Press is pleased to share the first of our 2019 #5WomenArtists features based on our commitment to influencing public discourse and challenging the status quo through our progressive publishing.

Ceramicist Toshiko Takaezu (1929–2011) was born in Hawai’i to parents who emigrated from Japan. She worked in clay and taught ceramics for over forty years. From functional vessels to abstract sculptural forms, Takaezu’s work draws on a combination of Eastern and Western techniques and aesthetics, as well as her love of the natural world.

Toshiko Takaezu at the Liberty campus of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, 1958. Photo courtesy of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

“In my life I see no difference between making pots, cooking, and growing vegetables. They are all so related. However there is a need for me to work in clay. It is so gratifying and I get so much joy from it, and it gives me many answers in my life.”

Takaezu’s significant teaching career included influential work at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, where she was one of the artists—along with Anni Albers, Robert Arneson, Dale Chihuly, Arline Fisch, and others—who helped define the school’s model of communally oriented, process-based learning.

Toshiko Takaezu observing ceramics production at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. Photo courtesy of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

Toshiko Takaezu first taught at Haystack’s Liberty campus the summer of 1957 and returned to lead workshops in 1958 and in 1962 at the school’s new location in Deer Isle, Maine. She exhibited work in several shows related to Haystack such as the 1959 exhibition, Design by Maine Craftsmen, at the Portland Museum of Art. Takaezu also exhibited work at Centennial House and Gallery, the Deer Isle exhibition space associated with Haystack.

Toshiko Takaezu, Double-Spouted Vase, c. 1958 Stoneware, 14 5⁄8 × 17 3⁄4 × 7 3⁄8 in.; Cranbrook Art Museum, Gift of Eliel G. and Daniel A. Redstone in honor of Ruth R. and Louis G. Redstone, CAM 2002.49

Haystack’s innovative pedagogy and its role as a major force in the studio craft movement are the focus of a landmark exhibition and accompanying catalogue, both of which showcase Takaezu’s talents and tell more of her story. Learn more about In the Vanguard: Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, 1950-1969, co-curated and edited by Diana Jocelyn Greenwold and M. Rachael Arauz. The show can be viewed at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine from May 24–September 8, 2019, and the Cranbrook Art Museum in Michigan from December 13, 2019–March 8, 2020.