Donate: Tatsuzo Relief Fund for Mashiko.

Thank you to everyone who donated to the Mashiko Relief Funds. We visited this spring and saw how much your donations help!

Monday, February 23, 2004

Lord Of the Rings Pottery, by Mirek Smisek

Lord Of the Rings Pottery, by Mirek Smisek
I enjoyed seeing Mirek Smisek's pottery today, when I saw Return of the King.

Article found here:

Mirek Smisek, Ceramics, on his role in creating the pottery used in the Trilogy.

Peter Jackson made a lot of inquires around New Zealand about the type of pottery potters make there. I think he came to the conclusion of bringing me on because I embody more of the traditional type of a potter and I like to rely on inspiration from pots that were made in the past. New as well, but definitely as it relates to classic pottery. Somehow he discovered this about my work and he approached me. From there it was a go... a green light.

Before I started making the pots, I re-read the books again to get a fresh approach to everything I was going to make. I wanted to really relate to the stories in the book. To me, it was terribly important to make a genuine contribution to The Lord of the Rings.

When I read the book, it related to me in the historical sense...the medieval times with respect to the weapons the people used and the places they lived. It sort of tied up these medieval times and that was more or less how I related my work to it.

What you might call intuition governed my process. Intuition and a mix of and blending of different ideas into one. There is nothing specific I can say, but out of the blending of several ideas I focused them, the whole thing, into one particular pattern. Some of the strange bottles and one or two of the medieval jugs from England inspired me because they are ideally suited for it. But I think I had a major contribution in the designing of seventy percent of the collection.

We rarely ever counted the collection. I think there are about seven hundred pieces in the collection and I was working on it for 8 months. I was most of the time on my own. My wife, Carmella, probably made five percent of the pots. She helped me with the simple forms.

It was an amazing project and I was very much devoted to it. I dropped everything else, to the dismay of some of my people, but when they knew what I was doing it for, they were quite happy!

Mirek Smisek on creating the pottery used on set in the Prancing Pony.

For the Prancing Pony set, I created quite a few tankards, probably ten different species you might say. Goblets, jugs, wine bottles and bowls, literally the whole range of what might used in people's lives.

I had to make, in most cases, two sizes and they had to look the same. In some instances I had to make three sizes because the size of the people - dwarves, normal and giant. That was a bit of a challenge because they all had to look the same.

I think the most unique one was when I was designing goblets and as well, the jugs. So I put my mind into the classical form and used them in both cases. There is uniqueness in the form, the glazing method and the design. There was a mixture of glazes over a something on the form and it would create what you would call triple effect in the glaze.

I used traditional clay made in New Zealand and it was my own mixture. It came from notion and it was ideally suited because it has a perfect texture for that type of pottery.

I used natural pigments. I used Iron Oxide, which was already mixed into the clay. Then I used a raw Manganese and Copper and all in what you call a 'prime stage' of oxidizing. And that is what I used in the mixing of the glazes. That was another exciting and challenging part.

Article below by Mirek Smisek friend. Can be found here:

Milos Stefanek, >b. 1922, Decin, Bohemia, Czech Republic. Immigrated to Australia 1948.

“I was 17 when Germany occupied Czechoslovakia and my friend Mirek Smisek was two years younger. We declared our own war against the Nazis. We distributed patriotic poems under people’s front doors, we threw rocks through the windows of the Gestapo headquarters in Lysa, we cut the field-telephone wires of the Germans.

Milos & Mirek arriving in Sydney, 1948 Milos & Mirek today

They sent us to a forced labour factory in Ternitz, Austria. That was our great opportunity to escape into Switzerland and, hopefully, into England. We planned to cross on foot and we spent a whole night in the snow, at times knee-deep, trying to cross through the Alps. But just before dawn, we were arrested by German border guards.

We were in prison for three months, being interrogated by the Gestapo. Then we were transported to a prison camp called Kislau. Kislau was the worst camp ever; we thought that if we survived this we could survive anything. It was full of Germans - social democrats, communists, anti-Nazis; some of them had been there for 10 years. We were issued shoes with wooden soles that were impossible to bend and straps that cut into your feet; we were sent out to weed the fields, walking like robots.

For the evening meal we used to get five little potatoes in their jackets - no butter, no nothing. One day, Mirek said to me: ‘Isn’t it your birthday today?’ I realised it was my 21st birthday, so later on during the meal I took two of these potatoes and hid them in my pockets. I thought, ‘We will celebrate when we get back into the dormitory, we will have a little party and eat one each.’ That evening Mirek came into the dormitory and announced, ‘Well, it’s your birthday - we will have a party,’ and he pulled out of his pocket two potatoes.

Now, we were right on the line of survival - to save one potato, in a situation where your life might depend on half a potato, you are really sacrificing your life. That was an act of incredible friendship by Mirek. So we swapped our potatoes, and ate them in celebration of a wonderful 21st birthday.”

After surviving his imprisonment in Nazi labour camps, Milos and his friend Mirek returned home, only to flee communism and emigrate to Australia in 1948. Today Milos is a retired hydrographer, living in Sydney with his wife Judy. Mirek is a potter, living in New Zealand.

This is an excerpt from an article written by Richard Guilliat which first appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend magazine on November 6, 1999. Milos Stefanek’s autobiography will be published shortly. To read a expanded version of his story online, visit