We were saddened this week to hear of the recent passing of ceramicist Mirek Smisek.
Here at City Gallery, we were privileged to showcase Mirek's work in our 2011 exhibition Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction. This show featured Christchurch collector Juliet Collins’ beautiful collection of Mirek's Bohemia Ware (pictured above), with its hand-etched white lines and deep, brown glaze.
Juliet Collins sent us these thoughts:
I only met Mirek Smisek once. It was at the City Gallery Wellington at the opening of the retrospective of Crown Lynn.
I had been gathering Crown Lynn for about 20 years, and by the time I met Mirek, I had collected some thirty of his Bohemia Ware pieces. When I met Mirek, I felt like both a friend and an imposter—I knew him so well, surely. I had handled, fondled, arranged his pieces so often we must be friends. And an imposter because despite their intimacy to me, I had no part in their creation actually. The Bohemia Ware are singular pieces. Uniform in height, colour and technique, they are compact—small but perfectly formed. Meeting him made me aware that making art is so often an act of self-portraiture. I feel honoured to have met him and to have known him through this work.
Mirek Smisek was born in Czechoslovakia but moved to New Zealand by way of a ceramic design course in Sydney. He was briefly employed by Crown Lynn in the clay preparation department, where he worked as a design assistant under Ernest Shufflebotham in 1951, and later was a designer and thrower himself. After his time at Crown Lynn, Smisek became one of New Zealand’s first full time potters, working first in Stoke, near Nelson, and then moving to the Kapiti Coast in 1969, where he built three studios over the next 40 years. During his time in Nelson also he travelled extensively, and worked in Japan with pottery Masters Shoji Hamada and Kenjiro Kawai, and with Bernard Leach at his pottery at St Ives in Cornwall.
Mirek will be warmly remembered for his distinctive modernist aesthetic and important contribution to the New Zealand studio ceramic scene.
Our thoughts and condolences are extended to Mirek’s friends and family.