A painstaking project to a preserve a piece of New Zealand’s history got underway yesterday, as the towering beehive kilns of acclaimed potter Mirek Smišek are moved to a new location, brick by enamel-coated brick.
The two beehive kilns, built and used over a 40-year period by Smišek, are directly in line of the Peka Peka to Otaki (PP2Ō) Expressway project, being built by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and contractor Fletcher Construction.
Measuring about 2.5m high and 2m in diameter, it is believed the beehive kilns were made from 4000 second-hand bricks brought over from the Nelson area, Golden Bay and Tākaka. While they are not registered on the New Zealand Heritage list, they have significant value as the only known beehive kilns in New Zealand.
“Our work is only possible because of the relationship with have with local communities, so our projects always try to include community hopes and aspirations. We’re absolutely thrilled to help ensure that this historic piece of Kiwi history is admired for generations to come,” Director of Regional Relationships Emma Speight says.
“Having the support of the community, in particular the Mirek Smišek Ceramic Arts Trust, has been a huge help in reaching this stage of the project.
“Preservation of the kilns is one of the PP2Ō project’s consent conditions, and the team knows how important and challenging the job will be. Over the next few weeks, two kilns and a chimney will be moved, and the original open cover will also be re-instated.
“Because the bricks have been exposed to such great temperatures over their life, they will be very fragile, and need to be handled extremely carefully.”
Mirek Smišek arrived in New Zealand in 1951 as a refugee from Czechoslovakia. He first settled in Nelson, before moving to a Te Horo property east of State Highway 1. He was New Zealand's first full-time studio potter, and in 1990 was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to pottery.
He made a large number of pots for The Lord of the Rings in 2000, and in 2011 received the Gratis Agit award from the Czech Government for his contribution to the good name of the Czech Republic. He passed away in May 2013.
The project will oversee the careful relocation of the kilns slightly to the east of their current location, out of the way of a new local road being built as part of the PP2Ō Expressway.
Each kiln is expected to take one week to deconstruct, with the rebuild expected to take another three weeks.
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