Taeko Tanaka Perry spent much of her long life appreciating and creating art.
A gifted potter in the Japanese Mingei tradition, Perry was also a writer, a supporter of the arts, and a skilled cook.
Perry, 90, of Golden Valley died peacefully on July 14.
Born on Hokkaido island in Japan, she spent much of her young life in China.
She entered Tokyo University in 1952, in one of the first classes that admitted women. "The American occupation resulted in the liberalization of educational policies and practices," her husband, Dallis Perry, said. "She was fortunate to be among the first of those to take advantage of that."
Perry came to the United States as a Fulbright scholar studying dramatic literature in graduate school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and later at Duke University, where she taught classes.
After marrying Shin Tanaka in 1954, Perry returned to Japan and began collecting pottery and wood block prints, befriending many artists there.
Returning to the United States in 1960, she and her family settled in Minneapolis. She took pottery lessons at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts in 1969, and went on to study with established potters such as Bob Brodersen, a fixture in the St. Croix Valley's famed pottery community.
Soon, she had a studio and kiln built at her home, and began working as a potter, building a career that lasted well into her 80s. Her work was well received and included in exhibitions in New York, Japan and Minnesota.
"She was influenced by the pottery from Japan, as well as people working here," her husband said. That included internationally known potter Warren MacKenzie, the scion of the St. Croix Valley pottery community who died late last year.
Perry and many members of that community embraced the Mingei tradition, part of a Japanese folk art movement of the 20th century that found beauty in everyday and utilitarian objects. "She made functional pottery, plates, bowls, cups, vases, lamps, teapots, working in both porcelain and stoneware," Dallis Perry said. "It was in the Mingei tradition of functional pottery for everyday people."
Local potter and friend Wayne Branum said the metro area is known "for a lot of very well-known potters. It's a pretty vibrant community and she was part of it." He said Perry would often introduce locally based potters to like-minded counterparts in Japan.
Beyond her work in pottery, Perry enjoyed spending time with family and traveling to Japan, Europe and Mexico, as well as attending performances at the Minnesota Orchestra and Guthrie Theater.
"Our main enjoyment was sharing dinner with friends in our home and their homes; she did like to cook and she was very good at it," said Dallis Perry, whom she married in 1982.
Her friend Yoshie Babcock of Wayzata, an ikebana floral arranger, knew Perry for 40 years. Asked how they met, Babcock said, "Taeko was a potter, she made great pottery, and I do ikebana. I needed a nice vase.
"She is very outspoken, and has opinions about politics, the arts, movies, the theater, concerts, and music. She reads all the time," Babcock said. "But she never forced it; she liked to have company and parties."
Perry was a board member of the Minneapolis YWCA and was active in the Japan America Society of Minnesota.
In addition to her husband, Perry is survived by their children, Mariko Tanaka, Taro Tanaka, Cathy Perry and Brian Perry, all of the Twin Cities; five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Services have been held.
Janet Moore • 612-673-7752 • Twitter: @ByJanetMoore