Born in Tokyo in 1919, Tatsuzo Shimaoka lived and worked in Mashiko, Japan, a town well-known for its pottery traditions. He originally studied pottery at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and then apprenticed to Shoji Hamada before starting his own kiln and complex next door in 1953. His signature technique of jomon zogon, the technique of rope-impressed inlay, earned him the honor of Japanese Living National Treasure in 1996. Shimaoka also influenced many potters starting their careers including Ken Matsuzaki.
Shimaoka's works can be found in multiple museum collections worldwide, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Tokyo Folk Art Museum, and the Rhode Island School of Design.