The Loss of a Legend: Akio Takamori

Last month, on the 11th of January, renowned artist and KCAI Ceramics alum Akio Takamori passed away. In the 1970s, Takamori moved to the United States from Japan and attended the Kansas City Art Institute at the urging of Ken Ferguson. He graduated in 1976 and went on to study at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. In 1993 he became an associate professor of ceramics at the University of Washington in Seattle, a position he held until his death.


Akio Takamori, piece made in 1980s workshop demonstration, Ken Ferguson Teaching Collection, Kansas City Art Institute Ceramics Department

Love and gratitude for Akio were felt across the whole of the ceramics community, with many artists and organizations—from Switzerland to North Carolina—taking to social media to express the weight of this loss.

Ayumi Horie, a Portland, Maine-based artist and former student of his “credit[s] Akio for giving me permission to address tenderness and vulnerability in my own work.”

Colleague Jamie Walker said of the prolific artist, “Even yesterday he was working in his studio with the assistance of his son, Peter. They ended the day by loading a kiln.”


Akio Takamori, student work, 1976, Ken Ferguson Teaching Collection, Kansas City Art Institute Ceramics Department

He was described by students and friends as a soft-spoken, gentle soul, who took risks by going against the canon in his unapologetic representations of intimacy and emotion in his work. Spoken in his own words to the News Tribune of Tacoma in 2006, “My interest is humanity. That doesn’t change, even over a thousand years. Everyone from a 2-year-old to an old man still has love, compassion, appreciates beauty.”

All of us here in the department would like to offer our condolences to the artist’s wife, Vicky, and children, Peter and Lena.

Thank you, Akio.