Although he was born in Korea, John Takehara’s first contact with Japanese ceramists occurred in the 1960’s at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena , Montana , an internationally recognized gathering place for emerging and established ceramics artists founded in 1951 by brickmaker Archie Bray. After receiving an education degree from Walla Walla College and a master of arts degree from Los Angeles State College (now UCLA), Takehara was offered a position at Montana State University where ceramic artist and professor Frances Senska further sparked and encouraged his interest in clay. Montana State University and the Archie Bray Foundation sponsored a guest artist program that introduced him to influential ceramists including Peter Voulkos and Rudy Autio. In 1968 Takehara accepted a teaching position at Boise State University and began his own workshop series in the Archie Bray tradition that had been so important to him, bringing internationally known ceramics artists to the university to conduct ceramics demonstrations and to work with his students.
Takehara traveled extensively and met many of the masters of 20th century ceramics including Japanese potters designated as Living National Treasures by their government such as Shoji Hamada and Toyo Kaneshige, their counterparts from Great Britain such as Michael Cardew and David Leach, and many renowned American and Australian ceramic artists. As he traveled and visited their studios, he began to collect their artworks. While John Takehara was considered a contemporary American ceramist, his work approached the aesthetics of traditional Japanese Potteries and English potters who, for generations, produced utilitarian wares that were necessary to the life of the people. Teapots, storage jars, vases and cups were meant for use and were meant to be beautiful. The potters did not overlook the importance of aesthetics in their production, but they realized that only a few objects from among the thousands created would succeed in achieving a rare status of purity and beauty. John Takehara was true to this tradition. He maintained a commitment to the utilitarian form and focused on objects that were, in his words, “decorative, useful and simple.” He was prolific in production, as were traditional potters, because success in this creative practice includes a high loss ratio in the handling, drying, glazing and firing processes. Takehara had an exacting knowledge and understanding of what was necessary for a piece to attain the spiritual level of existence, and, according to his standards, few pieces achieved the refinement he sought. He will remain known for his eloquent spherical forms, large platters and classically shaped storage jars.
In 1993 John Takehara wrote: It was during my graduate studies in Los Angeles in the early 1960’s that I began collecting ceramic art. Although my major area was graphic design, I developed an interest in clay art. I started my career teaching watercolor, design, lettering and graphic design at Montana State University in 1963. I learned after a time that Montana State was the home of some of the nation’s outstanding ceramic artists. Moved by their work, I became involved with ceramics.