Letters to Toshiko

sepia toned photgraph of Toshiko Takezu seated next to a large bell outdoors

Toshiko Takaezu

Celebrating the first retrospective of Toshiko Takaezu's work in over twenty years with Thought Leader Toshiko Takaezu Foundation.

On the occasion of the opening of the retrospective exhibition, Toshiko Takaezu: Worlds Within at The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, the Toshiko Takaezu Foundation is launching a creative archival initiative, Letters to Toshiko, in which they invite audiences to share personal anecdotes, stories of her influence, or ways in which her life, work, and teachings have inspired them.

To launch this initiative, board president and grandniece Darlene Fukuji and board member and curator Christina Hiromi Hobbs have written letters to Toshiko that we share below.

Letter to Toshiko by Darlene Fukuji

Dear Aunty Toshi,

As I reflect upon my upbringing, you’ve always been “Aunty Toshi” the great aunt who enjoyed family so much and sparked our creativity. Thanks to you, our family has been surrounded by good art and an understanding of the power of education. Over the past 5 years I’ve gained an appreciation for you as an artist, and it has been such a privilege to be serving on your foundation, stewarding your legacy and teachings.

We are a few weeks away from the opening of "Toshiko Takaezu: Worlds Within" which will be your traveling retrospective at your dear friend Isamu’s museum, the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum. There’s also a 300+ page monograph coming out on you too, and it’s written by some of the most respected curators/scholars today: Glenn Adamson, Dakin Hart, & Kate Wiener; with contributions by Ai Fukunaga, Nonie Gadsden, Diana Greenwold, Laura Kina, Leilehua Lanzilotti, Margo Machida, Laura Mott, and Katy Siegel. You’ve always been ahead of your time and you’ve paved the way for many. This “Takaezu Moment” is leading the way for clay and abstract art. I can probably guess what you’re thinking… you couldn’t be bothered by the boxes that others have always put you in such as being a female artist, an Asian American artist, a ceramic artist, etc. You are a serious artist with or without those labels!!

Thinking about this more, you may be slightly embarrassed with all this attention on you, and yet, at the same time, you wouldn’t be surprised. In fact, you’d probably be pleased knowing that the world is finally catching up to your brilliance. It may have taken us a little past your 100th birthday…

If you were around today, you’d probably ask about our family—it’s still filled with characters and 18 family members will be travelling to New York for your opening and to visit your former studio/home. Please know that those who could not make it contributed to the show and have been so supportive.

The individuals and institutions you’ve entrusted with safeguarding your legacy have come through big time. Peter Russo is the mastermind behind bringing everyone together. There’s a strong board running your foundation and there are BIG things ahead thanks to Ruth Arts and other supporters!

Enjoy this moment—it’s yours and it’s well-deserved!

Love always,


Letter to Toshiko by Christina Hiromi Hobbs

Dear Toshiko,

I had a dream a few nights ago that I was looking up at the moon. It started growing before my eyes until it burst into fragments of seashells that floated down to Earth, suspended like snow. As the seashells tumbled to my feet I couldn’t help but feel the overwhelming fullness of love.

While we never had a chance to meet on the earthly plane, our lives have become intertwined through my curatorial work, and since last year I have been serving on the board of your foundation. After researching your work, I was particularly moved by an interview where you talked about the importance of the space inside of the closed forms that can’t be seen, and that you would sometimes write poetry and other messages inside of the forms before you closed them. I’m curious about the kinds of things you would write, whether you wrote confessions or other secrets that you never spoke aloud. Maybe in this letter I can say to you some of the things I wouldn’t otherwise in the spirit of your work.

I have been thinking a lot about personal transformation lately. Perhaps because I have recently fallen in love. Suddenly I’m reimagining what’s possible for me and my life and I feel more sensitized to the world. When I’m with my partner I’m in love’s time. Even before this I was sentimental but now I cherish every object that remembers our love and find myself getting emotional when I think about how we are with one another. 

I witness this kind of unimaginable love in your grandniece Darlene, who in addition to shepherding your artistic legacy embodies your spirit in her fierceness and compassion. Although our lives have only been intertwined for a little over two years now, I have seen the reverberations of the care and strength that you brought into the world, and while I wish I had known you in life, I appreciate so dearly that part of your legacy is your desire not to be fully known, to keep parts of yourself for yourself. I will remember this as I continue to work with your foundation, and when I’m in New York later this month for the opening of your retrospective at the Noguchi Museum I will bring seashells for you as a memory of the unexpected impact that you’ve had in my life.

In gratitude,



Toshiko Takaezu Foundation

Photo: Toshiko Takaezu Foundation, Toshiko in studio, date unknown

Toshiko Takaezu (1922-2011) was an American interdisciplinary artist best known for her ceramic closed-form sculptures, abstract paintings, weavings, and bronze works. Born in Pepeekeo, Hawai’i, to Japanese immigrant parents from Okinawa, Takaezu initially took classes in ceramics in Honolulu prior to attending Cranbrook Academy in Michigan. Takaezu was instrumental in the post-war reconceptualization of ceramics from the functional craft tradition to the realm of fine art. In addition to being a prolific artist, she was an influential teacher at Cleveland Institute of Art, Princeton University, and other institutions.

The Mission of the Toshiko Takaezu Foundation is to preserve and promote the artistic legacy of Takaezu and to educate the public about her work and teachings. At a crucial stage of development, the Toshiko Takaezu Foundation intends to formalize its operations and capacity, build a capsule collection and archive, and spearhead a documentary project on Takaezu. With the ultimate goal of stewarding the legacy of Takaezu and her work, the foundation has long-term ambitions to establish an artist residency, fulfilling Takaezu’s aspirations of her home becoming an energetic, welcoming space activated by young artists in perpetuity.