Midori Kono Thiel

Name Midori Kono Thiel
Born June 7 1933
Birth Location Berkeley, California
Generational Identifier


Nisei calligrapher, printmaker, and performer of Japanese traditional arts.

Although she was born in Berkeley, California on June 7, 1933, and spent the first three years of her childhood in Los Angeles, multi-disciplinary artist Midori Kono Thiel (1933- ) spent the majority of her childhood in Hawai'i, after her family moved there when she was a very young child. From 1936-47, the Kono family lived in Honolulu and Lāhainā, Maui, which meant that they avoided the World War II mass incarceration of West Coast Japanese Americans.

In 1947, they returned to California, living for a short period in Richmond before moving south to Riverside, where Kono completed high school and began exploring art. She enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1951 where she majored in art and received her B.F.A (1955 summa cum laude, art) and M.F.A. (1960 in painting). She also completed a fifth year at UC Berkeley as a student teaching towards master of arts in education. While in graduate school, she began participating in group shows in San Francisco and experimenting with printmaking techniques, influenced by teachers Karl Kasten and John Haley.

In 1960, she received a University of California traveling fellowship which allowed her to go to Japan and study woodblock printmaking with Un'ichi Hiratsuka and color woodblock with Hideo Hagiwara, Tokyo, Japan. She immersed herself in Japanese art and culture, and began studying calligraphy, nihonga and haiga painting styles, Japanese court dance and theater forms, and various musical instruments such as the koto and shamisen.

After returning to the United States, she moved with her family to Seattle, Washington, and continued to expand her skill and practice of various Japanese performing and visual arts, such as sumi-e painting, tea ceremony and kimono. This inspired her to also explore techniques of weaving and dying textiles. She has also worked as an educator for various public schools and universities in and around Seattle and taught dozens of workshops, while exhibiting widely. She has received numerous grants and artist residencies, and has been commissioned to create pieces for Rainier Bank, Seattle (weaving) University of California library, the Oakland Public Library, Cambridge University, Caius College; King County Portable Works at Harborview, and the Washington State Arts Commission.

Thiel currently lives and works in Seattle, Washington. Her daughter, Tamiko Thiel, is a renowned media artist based in Germany.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Midori Kono Thiel artist website. http://www.mission-base.com/midori/ .

Chang, Gordon H., Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors. Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 . Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2008.

Tsutakawa, Mayumi, ed. They Painted from Their Hearts: Pioneer Asian American Artists . Seattle: Wing Luke Asian Museum/University of Washington Press, 1994.

Last updated June 2, 2015, 11:55 p.m..