New Zealand Potters (Inc.)
Mirek Smíšek OBE 1925 - 2013
Mirek Smisek died on the 19th May 2013. He passed away just as his retrospective exhibition, 60 years and 60 pots was in its final stages in Wellington at the Academy of Fine Arts gallery.
Mirek was a much loved and respected life member of NZ Potters. For nearly 60 years his influence on the development of pottery in New Zealand has been profound and far reaching. His generosity, wisdom and good humour will be greatly missed by the potting fraternity in this country and overseas.
Our sincere condolences go to Pamela.
Born in Bohemia in 1925, Smíšek left Communist Czechoslovakia in 1948 in search of freedom and determined to live a creative life, after spending much of World War Two in Nazi prisons and labour camps. He began his working life as a potter in Canberra and Sydney in 1948-49, then assisted English potter Ernie Shufflebottom at Crown Lynn in Auckland in 1951.
He became New Zealand’s first independent studio potter in 1954, establishing a studio in Nelson, and galvanizing the beginnings of the pottery movement there. During his sixteen years in Nelson, Smíšek also travelled widely, and worked in Japan with pottery Masters Shoji Hamada and Kenjiro Kawai, and with Bernard Leach at his pottery at St Ives in Cornwall. In 1968 he moved to the Kapiti Coast, and has built three studios here over the past 40 years. He has continued to work prolifically on domestic ware which fuses function and aesthetic qualities to a high degree, inspired by ancient sources including Celtic and medieval Europe, the pre-Japanese Jomon civilization and the 20th century Mingei folk-craft movement.
Smíšek’s work is represented in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, England, Fiji, Germany, Japan, Korea, the U.S.A and New Zealand. He was awarded a Diploma for Distinguished Work by the World Crafts Council at their 1974 International Exhibition in Toronto and an OBE for his services to New Zealand pottery in 1990.