"Even-tempered and uncomplaining, Henry kept on going over three decades, moving the heavy loads and unloads it takes to keep everyone else’s clay art coming on out in the most practical way. During unobtrusive parentheses, he turned out quality batches of practical pottery thrown and glazed with great simplicity, economy, and quiet elegance. His is the pottery you can use every day for decades, never tiring of its quiet touch, iron tones, and unassuming absence of anything extra added on." – Jeff Schlanger
“Homage to Henry” honors clay artist Henry Okamoto, the co-founder of the Clay Art Center (CAC) from 1923-1988. On display from March 3rd to April 10th, 2003, a selection of works has been loaned from private collections, highlighting Henry’s work as an artist and teacher at the CAC from 1957 until his death in 1988.
Henry was born in the USA; he grew up on a family farm in Lodi, California. "As a young man during the Second World War, he and his family were interned in a camp by the U.S. Government, and the farm was taken by others. Years of struggle would be consumed in trying to get part of it back. Upon release from that camp, Henry was drafted into the U.S. Army." After World War II, he pursued education with interest in ceramics at Mills College. In 1957, he co-founded the CAC with the help of Katherine Choy (1929–1988), a friend from Mills College and radical potter in her own right.
The CAC reflects on Katherine as "a visionary twenty-eight-year-old immigrant who was born in Hong Kong and reared in Shanghai, left her assistant professorship in ceramics at Tulane University and moved to Port Chester, NY, to fulfill her dream of establishing a center for the advancement of ceramic arts. Her work drew inspiration from Eastern and Western aesthetics and ranged from functional wheel-thrown stoneware pieces to sculptures. Her later pieces explored thrown and altered vessels decorated with textured surface treatments."
Founders are essential to the success of any venture because they are the driving force behind the organization's goals, values, and culture. Henry and Katherine's impact are seen in their ability to create a vision, inspire passion, demonstrate resilience, shape culture, and drive innovation. Their impact on the CAC was lasting, shaping its identity, direction, and legacy....