It is with sadness that we farewell the distinguished New Zealand potter Mirek Smisek, who passed away last week.
Mirek’s life was dedicated to his craft. He began working with clay in Sydney, after having left his devastated homeland, Czechoslovakia, at the end of World War II.
Mirek consolidated his passion for pottery when he moved to New Zealand in 1951: first at Crown Lynn’s Auckland factory, where he made free-flowing decorative vases, and later, when he established a pottery studio in Nelson, and then Horowhenua. The salt-glazed pottery that defined his work as a studio potter reflects his abiding interest in local clays, glaze treatments, and cultural traditions.
A group of Mirek’s Crown Lynn ceramics is currently on display in Ngā Toi | Arts Te Papa, in the Being Modern gallery. Mirek made these brown-manganese-slip vases during his lunch hours at Crown Lynn. As well as illustrating the flowing decorative line that characterised his work, these vases reflect his view that pottery should be hand made rather than commercially created – a view he held to throughout his career. Mirek was always true to himself.
Between 1978 and 1982, Stan Jenkins recorded Mirek’s Te Horo practice for the Ministry of Education. Mirek Smisek: Potter has now become an invaluable record of Mirek’s dedication to the craft that he committed his life to.