A Trilogy of Tributes to Akio Takamori and Clay on Vashon

Celebrate pottery throughout the month of May at VCA, Vashon Heritage Museum and Mukai Farm & Garden.

Starting Friday, Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA) Vashon Heritage Museum, Mukai Farm and Garden, and three Vashon potters — Jane Neubauer, Marla Smith and Mary Robinson — will unveil a month of activities around acclaimed ceramic sculpture artist, Akio Takamori, and other Vashon clay artists.

Each organization will bring its focus to its respective events: VCA, for art, Vashon Heritage Museum, for history, and Mukai Farm and Garden, for Japanese culture. Together, the organizations have named the collection of events “Akio Takamori | Clay on Vashon.”

The collaboration was initiated by Jane Neubauer, an ardent admirer of Takamori since she saw his work at Tacoma Art Museum in 2006, and watched him, in person, build one of his 8-feet clay figures.

His innovative technique inspired her to create larger pieces than she had ever dreamed of. Her motivation for this collaboration of events is simply that she loves his work, wants others to see it, and also have “ceramic art get the recognition it deserves.”

Neubauer, in conversation with islanders Liz Lewis and Mary Robinson, appreciated their wider community view and soon realized her idea could include other Vashon organizations who could help create an island-wide event.

“I was thinking about Takamori and how you can argue he is one of the most important artists from Vashon, but there is so much more to that story,” said Neubauer. “… I hope people realize how this is all connected within our community.”

VCA offers “Akio Takamori: Time”

VCA Gallery will exhibit “Akio Takamori: Time,” a collection of ceramic art and prints, curated by Takamori’s wife, Vicky Takamori.

Akio, who died in 2017, had an illustrious career as both an artist and a University of Washington professor.

Born in Japan, he moved to the United States in 1974, where he studied, lived and worked in Kansas and Montana before moving to Vashon in 1988 to set up his first solo studio. He is best known for his coil-built figurative sculptures with strong narrative painting.

“I am mostly interested in the fact that vessels create a space that mentally affects me as containers,” he wrote. “Containers give us the strong notion of holding, hiding and protection.”

The exhibit is an overview of Takamori’s work in Seattle, but with a special focus on the creations he made on Vashon Island from 1988 to 1994. On display and for sale will be prints made throughout his career, ceramics courtesy of James Harris Gallery, in Seattle, and pieces from Vicky’s private collection that he created while on Vashon.

Augmenting the exhibit will be an exhibit of new work by local potters, on display and for sale in the gallery’s gift shop.

The exhibit opens at 12 p.m. Friday, May 6, with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Regular gallery hours are 12 to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

See the show online at gallery.vashoncenterforthearts.org. It runs through May 29.

Museum opens “Vashon Pottery of the 1970s and 80s”

The Vashon Heritage Museum will unveil its newest mini-exhibit “Vashon Pottery of the 1970s and 80s.”

The exhibit will celebrate the emergence of a potters’ community on Vashon, whose members included Marla Smith, Greg McElroy, Liz Lewis, Irene Otis, Christine Beck and many others — a community who was instrumental in establishing what is now Vashon Center for the Arts.

The exhibit also details the geology of Vashon’s clay and includes context on the early Vashon Brickworks and Akio Takamori’s time on Vashon.

An opening reception will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 6. The exhibit runs until May 29. The Museum’s regular hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Visit vashonheritagemuseum.org for more information.

Mukai Farm & Garden shows “Takamori Figures”

Mukai Farm & Garden will display “Takamori Figures,” five nearly life-sized, two-dimensional replicas of Takamori figures that depict Japanese life, on display through May in the garden. The display coincides with Asian Pacific Heritage Month, throughout May.

“Takamori’s often-autobiographical work is inspired by the human body and emotion,” said Tina Shattuck, the executive director of Mukai Farm and Garden. “The collection on exhibit at Mukai examines how changing historical, cultural, and racial viewpoints shape individual and group identities.”

The display will open on Friday, March 6. Mukai Farm & Garden is typically open from dawn to dusk daily for self-guided tours and is free of charge, at 18017 107th Avenue SW.

For more information, visit mukaifarmandgarden.org.

Art talk on Aiko Takamori

VCA and Mukai Farm and Garden will present a talk, “Bringing Clay to Life,” with historian Barbara Johns along with Takamori’s longtime friend and colleague Patti Warashina, a highly respected Seattle ceramic artist, in the Kay White Hall. They will be joined by Vicky Takamori, Akio’s wife. The trio will share personal stories of Akio as an artist, colleague and husband/father.

Tina Shattuck, executive director of Mukai says, “Takamori’s often-autobiographical work is inspired by the human body and emotion,” said Tina Shattuck, Mukai’s executive director. “The collection on exhibit at Mukai examines how changing historical, cultural, and racial viewpoints shape individual and group identities.”

The talk will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at VCA. Get tickets at vashoncenterforthearts.org.

Come Play with Clay Day

Free throwing and casting demonstrations with the Vashon studio, Pear Pottery, will let participants get involved, get their hands dirty and create their own strawberry (or something else) in clay.

This free event is scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at Mukai, at 18017 107th Ave. SW. On the same day, there will be an onigiri and miso soup demonstration in the house, and a viewing of a portion of island artist Kate Endle’s Kokeshi doll collection. For more information, visit mukaifarmandgarden.org.