Mirek Smíšek

Mirek Smíšek

Bohemian Potter

Mirek was born in Dobra, Czechoslovakia in 1925.

He was a prisoner of the Nazis during World War II and in 1946 after the Communists took over, he escaped to Germany. Who knows what horrors he saw and experiences he faced, but throughout his life, he remained jovial, encouraging, helpful to other potters and a staunch advocate for the medium. Mirek emigrated to Canberra, Australia in 1948 where he worked in a brickworks and attended pottery classes in the evening. A year later he moved to Sydney and worked in the Diana Pottery.

In 1951 Mirek married, moved to Tamaki Makaurau Auckland and worked at Crown Lynn making Bohemia Ware, the name of a popular range of vases referencing his homeland.

In 1951 the family moved to Nelson where he managed the Nelson Brick and Pipe Company. It was there that he learnt the technique of salt glazing. He also made his own pots and in 1954 became a full-time potter and began teaching pottery.

In 1961 and 1962 he had exhibitions in Japan and in 1962/1963 he spent six months at St Ives, UK working with Bernard Leach. In 1965 back in Aotearoa New Zealand he worked with Shoji Hamada in Christchurch. Mirek moved to Kapiti in 1968, first to Manakau and then Te Horo, and in 1997 he and his wife Pamela Annsouth moved to Waikanae.

In 1972 he was included in an exhibition at the V&A Museum, London, UK. In 1974 he returned to London to study medieval pots, and then went on to Japan to study Jomon pots.

Mirek was awarded an OBE in 1990 and then was presented with the Medal of the Senate of the Czech Republic in 2008.

He died in 2013 and is recognised as one of the most important potters of this country.

Rick Rudd