While heading home after my ceramic classes this past Thursday, I read that Akio Takamori had passed away. I was shocked; I hadn't known he was sick.
I met Akio in Denmark during the summer of 2009, when I was doing a residency at Guldagergaard International Ceramic Research Center. My poor English made it difficult to interact in a deep way with most of the other artists. But it was always very easy to communicate with Akio; he was always happy and excited to share.
From day one I was very impressed with his work. He approached figurative sculpture (the field of study I was also pursuing) with a simplicity and plasticity that fascinated me.
Since Thursday, I have been looking at the photographs I took during my time at Guldagergaard, and recalling a lot of wonderful memories. I remember one day in particular when I got to the studio early, and Akio hadn't yet arrived. I used the opportunity to take a close look at his new, unfired sculptures. Studying all the fresh details, I realized how different my way of working with clay was. I wasn't comparing his work with mine (I was still very far way from the confident patterns his experienced fingers were capable of)... I just wanted to learn as much I could by looking at them.
Akio came to my space later that day to ask me some questions, in English, that I could barely answer. But I think he understood me. He seemed to know how I felt as a foreigner in an English-speaking country, just as he was when he came to the USA.
Akio Takamori was born and raised in Japan, but moved to the USA in 1974. In 1993, he began teaching at the University of Washington School of Art in Seattle, where he remained as a teacher until his death.
The ceramic community has lost a great artist and a greater human being.