Please note that the West Vancouver Art Museum will be closed for the public from 3 p.m. on July 13, 2024 due to a private event. 

Thomas Kakinuma, Peacock, glazed ceramic, 1963 detail
Thomas Kakinuma, Peacock (detail) (1963). Glazed ceramic.

The Ceramic Art of Thomas Kakinuma

Panel Discussion: Thomas Kakinuma in Context on Saturday, February 10, 2 p.m.

Speakers: Debra Evelyn Sloan (ceramicist), Dr. Carol E Mayer (curator), Allan Collier (curator/collector) and Stacy Reynaud (collector)

In pottery, the designs come from painting, the forms from sculpture, and we have to know the study of chemistry, too. It’s a very complex art.” –Thomas Kakinuma, 1969

Thomas Kakinuma (1908-1982) is an intriguing figure in British Columbia’s ceramics history. He was a highly regarded potter and sculptor in the 1950s and 1960s, and throughout his working life, he received recognition across Canada and internationally. With renewed attention and focus on Mid-Century art and British Columbia craft, this exhibition examines Kakinuma’s role as a teacher and producer of era-defining ceramics illustrating his significant contributions.

Born and raised in Japan, Kakinuma immigrated to Vancouver in 1937, intending to become an artist and to eventually study in Paris. World War II interrupted his plans and he ended up in Toronto where he studied painting and drawing at the Ontario College of Art (OCA). He graduated with honours in 1947, then studied painting under Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the Art Students League in New York. After rejecting painting as a viable career, he turned his attention to ceramics, studying again at OCA and then at the University of British Columbia, where he would later teach ceramics at the Pottery Hut.

While Kakinuma produced a variety of wares, he was well-known for producing small and endearing figurative works, such as cats, penguins, fish and birds. He preferred, however, to produce large sculptures and abstract pieces. “The birds are quick to produce and easy to sell… but I would really like to work on a one-man show, rather than making small items for stores”, says Kakinuma. His sculptures were included in a number of important exhibitions and were featured in Centennial Sculpture ’67 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, which was organized by the Federation of Canadian Artists.

Kakinuma won several awards including a Canada Arts Council Senior Fellowship grant in 1960 to study in Japan and Mexico: his works from this time reflect his experiences fusing both Japanese and Mexican influences. In 1962, he won a silver medal at the International Exhibition of Contemporary Ceramics in Prague.

The Ceramic Art of Thomas Kakinuma is the artist’s first substantial retrospective offering a rare opportunity to see works from public and private collections. The exhibition is organized by the West Vancouver Museum, in collaboration with the Kakinuma Family, Debra Evelyn Sloan, Dr. Carol E. Mayer, Allan Collier and Stacy Laviolette.