February 18 - 24, 2018: Issue 348
Willi Michalski, 2016 Works at Winter Exhibition held at Avalon Beach SLSC as part of the Pittwater Artists Trail; with Bottle - Yellow; Springtime stoneware, chrome yellow glaze and Platter in stand - inspired by Venice stoneware, cobalt glaze with decoration
For the past 30 years master ceramicist, Willi Michalski, has been creating one-off pieces in his Church Point studio. He began in Wollongong decades ago being taught by renowned Australian Artists Ivan and Patricia Englund in 1961 and has recently been honoured by Wollongong Council for his contribution to that city.
This week a small insight into a gentleman many people consider a Pittwater legend.
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Bottrop, Germany in 1933.
Where did you grow up?
In what they call the Ruhr Valley, which as Essen was a heavy industrial area, and was bombed incessantly during World War II.
By the end of the war it was terrible, quite catastrophic.
When did you come to Australia?
In 1955. I came by a boat called the Skaubryn and landed in Melbourne on July 3rd 1955. I married one week before I left for Australia.
MS Skaubryn was a Norwegian passenger ship launched in 1950, which sailed between Europe and Australia. She was chartered in 1951 to transport German Tradesmen to Australia to help with the Snowy Hydro Scheme
I was placed in Bonegilla Migrant Camp. From there many migrants were sent to various places in Australia where there was work. I went to Wollongong.
Bonegilla Migrant Reception & Training Centre 1947-1971, Australia
After three years in the Balgownie Hostel Camp we decide to open a café, which was a massive success – The Pig Alley Café House (Pigalle restaurant). We had to open another one because we had too many people and didn’t want to turn them away.
What sort of food were you serving?
It started off as a German Coffee House, which was coffee and cake.
Were you a pastry cook?
No, I was a Fitter and Turner by trade. That’s why I was sent to Wollongong, to work in the Port Kembla Steelworks.
So we opened a second café. We found a little basement where we opened a German Restaurant and had a little jazz band playing.
I never really liked my job as a Fitter and Turner. I trained to get my Trade Certificate but I really hated it.
Luckily I had a couple that came into my coffee shop, Ivan and Patricia Englund.
They were both Potters. I befriended them and sold their Art through the café. People were really keen on buying their work.
I decided when I had the chance that I would try doing Pottery.
Ivan Englund was quite a well-known Potter of that time. Ivan taught me how to do this work, his wife Patricia also taught me.
I started this as a little hobby for myself in 1961. I then got my own pottery wheel and eventually had a kiln of my own. I completed their Pottery Course and then went on to a further course, learning with the Englunds. (See Cygnets- below)
Isn’t there a mural or sign going up this year to honour your contribution in Wollongong?
Yes, as part of Wollongong Council’s Heritage and Poetry project.
What was the first larger Art Show you had pieces in?
Jennifer: he used to be in a series of shows with Leo Tobin and other people at Kirribilli and Winslow. This was a group of people, Artists who got together, and would display timbers works like tables and silk dividers, all sorts of works. This was around 1974.
One article found shows works Exhibited at Canberra which were influenced by Venice – why Venice?
Yes, I had a show at the Beaver Galleries in 1994 showing works with that influence. Being from Europe migrants have always been an influence on my works. The Venetian style works stem from visit to Venice
Jennifer – there is a mosaic in St Marks with the gold which Willie has used in his works.
Willie: As an inspiration it is, yes. This gave me a good idea of what I could work with.
Jennifer: When we went there in 1978 we looked at everything. The gondola shapes were really lovely, which Willie has used in his work. We have been back twice. We love the water.
Willie: Venice always has a lot of water, especially when the tide came in. We would sit and watch it in the market place.
Bold combination of European and Asian styles
By HELEN MUSA
TO ARTIST in ceramics Willi Michalski, national boundaries don't matter all that much these days. With contemporary communications, he says, the trend is all international now. But it wasn't always so.'
Willi Michalski rests between cultures. Living in idyllic circumstances at Church Point, NSW, he has his kiln and studio in the bush, his family most of the time in the house from which they evicted his work, and noisy cockatoos and lorikeets for companions as he creates.
Michalski's newest exhibition, Venedig, The Venetian Experience, opens today at Beaver Galleries, Deakin. In it, he is bold enough to combine the Asian ceramics techniques he has perfected over the past 20 years or so with the European subject matter to which he is heir. Artist Thor Svenson has written of the visual seduction of this exhibition, of the splashes of gold lustre reminiscent of Venetian mosaics, and of the ways in which Michalski has combined abstract designs and opulent Renaissance colours. Svenson is moved to recall Truman Capote's comment that visiting the City of the Doges is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs.
Willi Michalski is now one of this country's leading ceramists, but he first came to Australia in 1955 with anything but ceramics in mind. Europe in the post-war years seemed almost a lost cause and, anyway, at the age of 21 curiosity about the rest of the world consumed him. Settling in Wollongong, he ran a flourishing coffee shop and met potters just out of interest, determining all the same that if he ever got out of business, he would learn their craft. He had the chance to do so in the '70s and '80s, with many return trips to Europe helping him mould his vision.
Twenty years down the track, with a much more mature view of his national origins, he went to Europe over last Christmas, in part to visit family, but even more to visit Venice, a city he had long hankered after re-creating in his own way. "In going to Venice I just did what all the artists and all the Romantic poets did in the old days," he says. As in those more romantic times of artistic creation, lie too was inspired by the experience and Venedig, his newest exhibition, is a tribute to that artistic journey.
His journey was a very different one from that of artist Salvatore Zofrea, with whom Willi Michalski worked collaboratively in 1992. Zofrea, currently returning to the Italy of his birth to work on mural techniques, is an artist with far less a sense of his European origins than Michalski. His woodcuts of Australia canecutters and other working people of Australia reflect his origins in a distinct way. He migrated from Calabria at a much younger age than Michalski and just can't help being Australian.
Of his period of collaboration, very much the "in", thing these days, Willi Michalski says he was very reluctant. "I like to do my own thing," he stresses. His arm was twisted by Joseph Eisenberg of the Armidale Art Museum into doing a combined ceramics and painting exercise on an Etruscan theme with unashanted borrowing from Ovid. It is evident that Eisenberg's vision of a "marriage" between the ceramic artist and the painter is more glowing than
Some works came off; some didn't, says the ceramist. Yes, the experience was quite an adventure, since painters are always working on flat surfaces while ceramists always work with volume and, yes, the ever-curious Michalski had to learn entirely different techniques, different temperatures, different glazes, to bring off this Etruscan adventure. The biggest problem with such work is that he is by no means a copyist. It would have been frustrating if all he'd done was to reproduce Etruscan themes.
Instead, he chose to segment the images he saw.
Even without adventures in collaboration, Michalski's artistic life is full of excitement. The search for perfect glazes and the unpredictability of the kiln seem never-ending. So many failures, he says. But he acknowledges that he couldn't work if he knew what the perfect out come would be — that would be too predictable.
While you can tell he would hate to be considered trendy, Willi Michalski finds himself, de facto, a multi-cultural artist. Trained in Eastern-type glazes, he has nevertheless always retained a consuming interest in the Europe of his birth. "I am a multi-cultural combination," he says. Asian artists were hundreds of years ahead of Europeans in porcelain-making, especially the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese. Most of his glazing, of course, is still done the Asian way. "I use my glazes, but have changed the shapes to follow my images of Venice."
Frankly he visited Venice with an exhibition in mind. "I wanted to have a theme," he says. And that gave him a good excuse to take photographs and to document what he saw in preparation for work.
On coming home in January of this year, he got to work, largely with the mosaics of Cathedral San Marco in mind. He denies that his is a Romantic exhibition in the manner of those Germans poets, but is pleased to describe it as quite strong. Little cameos are his favourite works — with lines, circles and perhaps just haloes to stand for the angels, or part of a wing.
"I've abstracted from the images in Venice," he says, "instead of copying from Byzantine images. I've translated them into ceramics."
Willi Michalski: at rest between cultures
Beaver Galleries, for whom Michalski has exhibited before, will provide the first showcase for this Venetian exploration.
"Exhibitions don't come all that often," he explains, although his list of showings in NSW, Queensland and the ACT is impressive. At the end of the year he'll be sure to have more work ready for the Christmas market in order to make lots of money. That, in the world of Australian craft, is not so easy. "It's pretty tough," says Michalski, pointing to Crafts Council figures suggesting SI2,000 a year as a median income level for craftspeople. He survives by teaching three nights a week and because his wife is, happily, the main breadwinner, allowing him time to do his work, to spend more time with the family and the labours of life as a house-husband.
And next? Europe is still important to him. Money and exhibitions permitting, he'd like to travel there again. But strangely enough, he has never been to
"All my teachers were inspired by Japan, and so, in a way, was I."
With his sense of cultural origins, Willi Michalski needs to travel there.
Arts & Entertainment (1994, May 15). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), p. 23. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article118211659
Ceramics evoke Venice
By MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE
Willi Michalski: Venedig — Ceramics at Beaver Galleries, 81 Denison Street, Deakin; Wednesday-Sunday and public Holidays 10.30am-5pm till June 9.
Two of Willi Michalski's ceramics, showing the gondola-prow motif, in the current exhibition, Venedig.
WILLI MICHALSKI was born in Germany and while he has lived in Australia for many years he has been back to Europe many times.
The decoration on his latest body of work has been inspired by recurring images from Venice — the prows of the gondolas, bridges, square windows and arches.
Abstracted designs decorate the surface of traditional vessel forms — spheres, platters, bowls, and closed cylinder forms.
Michalski has used a limited palette — a traditional blue chun, rich, glossy black and blue, and white. He has added gold lustre, red, blue and white in patterns recalling Venetian mosaics.
For me the bowls and platters were the most satisfying forms. Most are decorated with a central design featuring the gondola-prow motif; others have a landscape pattern. These could be used for serving food or displayed, Michalski has had metal stands made to display the large platters as freestanding objects rather than hanging on a wall.
Several spherical forms with a rich, blue chun glaze are topped with lustre prows.
I found the contrast between the two colours jarring and the addition of the shapes unsympathetic to the main vessel.
On the other hand, Catalogue Nos 23 and 28, with added rosettes, are more successful. The lustre is not as prominent and the shape is more in harmony with the vessel.
The exhibition includes several smaller, glossy black forms decorated with bands of gold and coloured with red, white and blue. The decorative surface evokes the colourful mosaics of Venice.
Michalski is presenting a very personal interpretation of images of Venice. He continues to explore a limited range of glazes but has developed ways of including other colours. Ceramics evoke Venice (1994, June 3).The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article118167938
Jennifer: one of his works, which won an award for in the Port Kembla Exhibition, has black and gold and a landscape in it. This is an example of his quintessential technique.
Jennifer: the biggest Exhibition he has done would be the one at Macquarie Galleries, with Salvatore Zoffrea as a collaborative in 1992.
The Erotic Pots of Zofrea and Michalski
By Thor Svenson
Oz Arts. 1994. Issue 9
Retrieved from: www.ozarts.net.au/images/oz-arts/1994-issue9
Nearly two millennia later in Sydney with the opening of two exhibitions, From the Etruscans (Macquarie Galleries) and Love Poems of Ovid (Art Museum, Armidale) in which the ceramic artist Willi Michalski and the painter Salvatore Zofrea collaborated, an attempt was made to subject Ovid (and the artists) once again to an artistic de-knacking. This time 'in the interest of public morality' someone had telephoned, complaining to the police who were promptly despatched to the Macquarie Galleries. However, after carefully scrutinizing the exhibit, the somewhat mystified constabulary, whose beat had included Kings Cross, promptly departed, wondering what the complainer had been going on about. Augustan censorship had finally and belatedly misfired.
The exhibition, a fusion featuring the contributions of Ovid, the two artists and more recent archaeological discoveries of Etruscan pottery, was no mere erotic fantasy intended to titillate the voyeurs or shock the constabulary. It had every claim to serious artistic relevancy. Michalski, who specializes in high-fired stoneware and porcelain, has, like Zofrea, a deserved international reputation. His excellent blue-black glazes or celadons and chuns are used with only that artistic sovereignty which comes from years of experience based on inborn sensitivity as well as a complete familiarity with his medium. Zofrea, whose recent fresco interpretation of Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll may be seen at the Sydney Opera House, is a master of colour, excelling in a style both pictorial and narrative.
Jennifer: The other Exhibition he participated in regularly was the Inner City Clayworkers’ Sydney Teapot Show. He would put one work or three or four in that every year for 20 years.
Why did you begin making teapots? Teapots aren’t easy to do…
Willie: Oh no, but they are great fun because each year they gave you a theme to work on and they (teapots) allow that surface space to do that as well as create something that can be quite sculptural. So each year I would try to work out something that responded to that theme or idea – and there were some great ones while I was a member of the Inner City Clayworkers; Australiasia, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them(the book- sponsored by Gleebooks) or Practicalitea – which was the best functional one .
Willi examples in 2017: Photos Courtesy Kerrie Lowe - Part of the Sydney Fringe Festival – August 25th to September 17, 2017
The Inner City Clayworkers co-op was originally created in 1979 when a group of potters, living in Glebe came together with a mind to break the isolation of their studios. Their artistry, hardened in the kiln of these communal meetings, flourished and soon the members were discussing the possibility of a cooperative space to display their work. In 1983 the location was found on St Johns Road, not far from the artists abodes and shortly thereafter a dream was moulded into reality. This historic gallery has remained on St Johns Road since and stands proud as a testimony to the artistic perseverance. The Gallery is open from 10:30 am to 5pm Wednesday- Sunday.
When did you move to Sydney?
In 1972. We lived in Neutral Bay for a while because I was always looking for a place I could establish my pottery. We began looking for a bit of land outside of Sydney and we finally settled on Church Point in 1976, and have found here quite comfortable and working well for our needs.
Weren’t you teaching while at Neutral Bay?
Yes, I started at a place called ‘The Potter’s Wheel’ and then at ‘The Cottage’. I also taught at Manly Evening College and at Mosman Evening College – I was at Mosman for 25 years.
I taught three successful classes a week and met a lot of interesting people form all different walks of life; nurses, judges, all sorts of people.
They all found it was wonderful to have a bit of clay in their hands and form it, through sketches, into something else.
Why did you take to clay and pottery Willi- solely due to the Englund’s influence or was there something else there all along?
I liked it. Clay is so versatile – you don’t have to stick to doing round pots, you can do all sorts of things. It gives you a lot of freedom. You can create something quite sculptural or something quite practical. There is something quite unique about each piece and it is also quite therapeutic to work in, that medium.
My influence was European and a Scandinavian influence as well. That is why I like to keep it very simple. I like a plain shape, very straight out and no extra extrapolations – that style is very Scandinavian.
Then I was introduced to a Japanese Potter, Shigeo Shiga, on the North Shore. I attended his classes and he gave me great ideas. He befriended me and taught me all about brushwork, (tenmoku glaze and iron glaze overlay brushwork) which was wonderful.
Through that I was introduced to all the ancient Chinese glazes and I started to specialise in this. These types of glazes require a special firing.
I used the celadon and the chun glazes and copper resin – these were all ancient Chinese glazes.
Where did you get them from?
I had to and still make my own glazes. They have all been worked out in formulae so you can work out your raw materials and then mix up your own glazes. The firing of these is quite special too as to get the greens there is a different firing known as a reduction firing where you starve the flame of oxygen and this sets off the chemical processes within the glazes during the firing.
Jennifer: We are just about to open a kiln that we fired on Sunday – we have no idea of its success or failure at this stage. You don’t know until you open the door, it’s so scary. Those bigger plates he does, which are 800 across, there is a success rate with those of 1 in 6.
Willi: it’s not just that ratio. Getting the correct firing is paramount and this teaches you that you have to live with the disasters too.
Living at Church Point, a stunningly beautiful place – does that inspire your work?
Yes, I have my shed (studio) here and we’re surrounded by the bush here, it’s just wonderful. There’s a lyrebird that comes in and sits under my roof, so many birds here.
It’s very peaceful here. I sit and put my classical music on and have time to think, so it works very well.
Those Holey vessels – where did the idea for those come from?
I just started making little candle holders with these so the light could come through and infuse the vessel with that. I then got carried away and began making the bigger pieces.
This is a very relaxing process as I’m just sitting there making a thousand holes in these.
I still like making these – they make a wonderful light as these vessels are hollow.
What are you working on now – what went into the kiln on Sunday?
This is a dinner set, plates. My daughter is getting married so I made a dinner set for her so when they eat they think of me.
So can people commission a dinner set from you?
No, not really. This is a special work for my daughter, just for her.
Will you be having an Open Studio weekend this year?
We just recently had one of these and it was our 30th Open Studio weekend in a row.
Jennifer: We will be having one again this year – people can find out more about these on his Facebook page and the website.
He also has works on exhibition at the Maitland Regional Gallery, at Manly Art Gallery and Museum, he’s part of the permanent collection they have there, and has works at Kerrie Lowe in Newtown, Purple Noon just outside of Windsor and at Breathing Colour Art Gallery at Balmain.
If people want to buy something from the studio here at Church Point they can contact us to arrange a visit.
You have been doing this for well over 50 years Willi…
Good Lord, yes, that’s a long time, I shudder to think about that.
What major shifts or process changes have you seen in your work during that time?
Actually it’s a never ending learning process.
I’m still trying to find new shapes and new forms and the possibilities and challenges these can present you with. Then there is the decoration of course and the glazes to use that will bring out that new form.
Jennifer: he used to use a lot of the Japanese browns and then was focused more on the Chinese glazes, but now is going back to the browns.
The other main branch he has gone into is working with porcelain.
Willi: yes, I started doing that the last 20 years too.
If you could limit it to three, what are the three favourite pieces of yours you have completed?
I have done some very tall silk blue bottles with very long necks, I like them
I like when I make a big plate. These big plates are like a palette – you can design some interesting work on it.
I also like coming back to my basic shapes, the round vessels – also the teapots, these too are something I’ve worked in for a long time.
What is your favourite place in Pittwater and why?
My shed – I like sitting on my deck too as I can look right down on the water, where it’s so calm. We overlook Brown’s Bay, a nice little bay here at Church Point. It’s ever so calming here. That was one of the reasons we built our home here, because of that calming effect of that water.
Jennifer: we’re opposite and on that original Brown’s Bay Farm – we look across here to his wharf.
What is your ‘motto for life’ or a favourite phrase you try to live by?
I like the simple life and having good friends and nice people around me. So having that always around you has been how I have lived my life.
Just on nice people around you – you’re known as a Master Craftsman, a legend to people in Pittwater as much as Wollongong – are you aware of that status attributed to you and your work?
No, no, no. I am quite happy with what I have achieved and what I am doing now. I don’t think it has gone to my head because I know I can fail, like any other human being, and must get on with the next work.
I do know some people, one couple in particular, who have been coming to the home shows here as long as we’ve been doing them. When I visit them at their home, they have so many pieces I can have my own little exhibition – so that’s very nice.
Partial list of Exhibitions
* Pittwater Artists Trail – Founding Exhibitor – also in Winter Exhibitions
* Manly Regional Gallery – Artist in Paradise Group show - 2009
* Kerrie Lowe Gallery – Fluid Connections Group show - 2009
* Purple Noon Gallery - Trilogy - 2008
* Marianne Newman Gallery – Force of Fire - 2006
* ITV Gallery – group show - 2006
* Sydney Teapot Show – Inner City Clayworkers - 1989, 1995, 1998, 2000-2002, 2004-2008, 2009-2017
* Tizzana Winery - Artburst in the Vineyard - 2002, 2003, 2005-2007
* PLC Croydon Art Centre Exhibition - group exhibition - 2002, 2004, 2005
* Armidale Regional Gallery - 2002
* ‘The Millennium Platter’ - Ceramics Art Exhibition - 2001
* ‘The Generous Vessel’ - Potters Society, Customs House - 2000
* ‘Creative Australia’ - Craft Australia at Osaka, Japan - 1999
* Mura Ceramics Gallery - 1999
* Anita Ellis Gallery – Two man show with Terri Butterworth - 1998
* Anita Ellis Gallery, Avalon – Group Exhibition - 1998
* The Gold Coast Ceramics Award - 1997
* Gleneaon Craft Show - Rodolf Steiner School - 1996-2001
* ‘Venedig’ - Beaver Gallery, Canberra - 1994
* Craft Council of Northern Territory, Acquisition Award - 1993
* ‘The Ceramic Object’ Manly Regional Gallery/Museum - 1992
* Willi Michalski and Salvatore Zofrea collaboration and show – 1992/1994?
During World War II, the industrial town of Essen, was a target of Allied strategic bombing. The Krupp factory was an important industrial target, Essen was a "primary target" designated for area bombing by the February 1942 British Area bombing directive. As part of the campaign in 1943 known as the Battle of the Ruhr.
Post war migration: Bonegilla
Australia was experiencing a desperate shortage of labour at the end of World War II. Substantial population growth was considered essential to the nation's future - it was required for economic development and to defend the country against possible invasion. In 1947 Arthur Calwell, Australia's first Minister for Immigration signed an agreement with the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) to allow Displaced Persons from war torn Europe to come to Australia. This marked the beginning of the mass emigration of non-English speaking Europeans and represents one of the largest demographic changes in our history.
Between 1947 and 1953, over 170,000 Displaced Persons came to Australia, mainly dispossessed or homeless Poles, Yugoslavs, Latvians, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Czechoslovaks, Estonians, Russians, Germans and Romanians. They were culturally diverse, and Minister Calwell called the arrivals 'New Australians'. The press dubbed them 'Calwell's Beautiful Balts,' irrespective of their nationality.
The largest migrant reception and training centre, Bonegilla Migrant Camp received and processed more than half of the 170,000 Displaced Persons. Established on the site of a former army camp, Bonegilla's major functions were to process and house migrants, find work for new arrivals and most importantly, provide language and civics training. The focus of the camp was to train migrants in Australian values so that they could become model citizens.
Bonegilla was the longest operating migrant centre in Australia, finally closing its doors in 1971 - by which time over 300,000 people had passed through. It is estimated that today there are over 1.5 million descendents of Bonegilla migrants.
Block 19 is located 10 kilometres northeast of Wodonga at Bonegilla. An interpretation centre, The Beginning Place, is open to the public daily from 9.30am to 4.30pm. The Bonegilla Collection is located in the Albury City Library Museum.
Balgownie Migrant Workers Hostel was constructed at Fairy Meadow in 1950 and 1951 (and in use until 1982) as part of an Australia-wide post-World War II immigration program. This immigration program had wide ranging impacts upon the development and growth of Wollongong. The Fairy Meadow or Balgownie hostel, and the caravan park at Stuart Park, North Wollongong, were places where post war migrants found temporary accommodation. Due to a severe shortage of housing and building supplies in the post war period, many migrants lived at the caravan park in tents and homemade caravans, as alternative accommodation to the hostel, or boarding houses. This was until they were able to find or build more permanent accommodation. The freedom of living at Stewart Park or in a tent on the beach, where children could play, was often preferable to the confines of the Nissan huts provided at the hostel. Balgownie was one of 37 such camps established in NSW post WWII. It is now the site of the University of Wollongong’s Campus East.
Ivan Englund taught art at technical colleges in Victoria, Canberra and Wollongong, bringing with him his enthusiasm for clay and the brush (Ivan was painter and potter) and meeting up with fellow potters whenever possible to exchange information and ideas.
In 1956, a small gathering of four people, Peter Rushforth, Mollie Douglas, Ivan McMeekin and Ivan Englund, met at Rushforth’s house in Beecroft to form the Potters’ Society of Australia (PSA). It was a grand vision – this was a group that aspired to support potters nationwide. Two years later the PSA had its first group exhibition at the Macquarie Gallery in Bligh Street, Sydney. It was a stepping stone that marked the new path being taken by ceramic artists, away from the hobby groups of ‘well-dressed ladies in floral hats’.
Like the Elephant’s Child in Kipling’s Just So Stories, Ivan Englund was a man possessed by ‘satiable curiosity’ about this mysterious medium of clay. As with any explorer, he set out to chart a piece of this unknown territory, notebook in hand, inspired by the work of the other Ivan, Ivan McMeekin. In his thesis for the Fellowship of the Sydney Technical College on Illawarra rock glazes (1962) he wrote:
“It is a natural thing for a potter to be aware of the clays and minerals of the countryside in which he lives and works… For potters must be close to the earth where their materials are; pots are of the earth and from the earth.”4
It is this quality of earthiness that people who knew Ivan often refer to, when speaking of the man and his work. Willie Michalski, for whom Ivan was teacher, mentor and friend, comments:
“Patricia Englund (Ivan’s second wife) was tall and elegant and made tall and elegant pots. Ivan was down to earth, with big hands, and made big earthy pots.”5
One of Willie’s favourite stories about Ivan was, when he was first introduced to him, Ivan asked him what part of Germany he was from.
Willie said, “I come from an industrial part of Germany. I was in Essen. ”
Ivan responded, “I used to drop bombs on you!” Both men were agreed on the idiocy of war.
Inspired and encouraged by Ivan, Willie took up ceramics, enrolling at Wollongong Tech. From the end of the 1960s to the 1970s, he also shared workshop space with Ivan and another ceramicist, Karl Preuhs (who, being of German origin, has a similar story to Willie’s), as part of a group of painters, sculptors and ceramists who called themselves the Cygnets, their building being on Swan Street. Willie reminisces, “We all inspired each other. Had some great parties as well.”
Willie recalls he and Ivan hunting together for experimental glaze materials at the local blue metal quarry, climbing under the rumbling conveyor belt to gather the shaken down rock dust. Karl Preuhs, who worked as an industrial chemist, helped out with the analytical side of glaze development.
Karl describes Ivan as “an artist, with a greyish beard, distinguished and learned, although he never thought of himself that way… [He] was a great help in my life.”6
Willie adds, “He was definitely the catalyst. I still have some pots of his.”7
5 Michalski, Willie. Interview with K. Weiss 2008
6 Preuhs, Karl. Interview with K. Weiss 2008
7 Michalski, Willie. Ibid.
Article from The Journal of Australian Ceramics 47#1
Ivan Englun picture/photo: Page 14, Pottery in Australia, Volume 1 No. 1, May 1962
Extracts retrieved from: https://australianceramics.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/ivan-englund-a-tribute
By Vern Norrgard - December 2017 - on YouTube at link above
Wilhelm Michalski interviewed by Alex and Annette Hood in the Alex Hood folklore collection.
Creator: Michalski, Wilhelm, 1933- (Interviewee)
Hood, Alex, 1935- (Interviewer)
Hood, Annette, 1948- (Interviewer)
Available in the National Library of Australia catalogued HERE
Wilhelm Michalski born 1933 in Esssen, Germany speaks about his grandparent's origins; his childhood; his father working in coal mine; evacuating during World War II to a farm; Essen and Cologne flattened by bombing; method of bombing; Ivan England, his first pottery teacher; his apprenticeship; his mother's death; his marriage to his first wife; migrating to Australia; had culture shock arriving in Melbourne; sent to Bonegilla Migrant Camp; living in Fairy Meadow, Balgownie Hostel Camp; community living; working in steel works; buying block of land out of Wollongong; establishing successful coffee shops; working with Hans Schuster; German cooking; his marriage break up (1961); his interest in pottery; his artistic desire; how he started the Pigalle restaurant; remarrying; moving to Sydney, Neutral Bay; describes his work; being a teacher at 'The Cottage' in Mosman; teaching at Mosman Evening College; his exhibitions; his joint exhibition with Salvatore Zoffrea; preparing his annual shows at his studio; pottery glazes; visiting Japan; Bob Connery; European and Japanese techniques; his influences, Australian landscapes; ski lodges; his early café work catering first for the migrant population; Australian conservatism gradually fading; cultural differences; his family.
Milhelm (Willi) Michalski is a highly respected and successful ceramicist and potter. He migrated to Australia in 1955 and set up coffee shops in Wollongong, N.S.W., while working at his trade as a fitter and turner in BHP steelworks. In 1961 he began pottery classes and in 1970s married again and moved to Church Point (1976) where he set up his own studio. He began teaching pottery making and has been teaching for 10 years. Michalski specialises in reduction firing and manipulating glazes.
Recorded on March 29, 2006 at Church Point, N.S.W.
Digital master available ; National Library of Australia ; nla.obj-208941074.
Numbering Note Timed summary (5 p.)
Access Conditions: Access open for research and personal copies, written permission is required for public use during the lifetime of the interviewee.
Artist Of The Month February 2018
Willi Michalski – Studio Potter
93 McCarrs Creek Road
Church Point NSW 2105
Phone: 02 9997 1933
On Facebook WMCeramics
For the past 30 years master ceramicist, Willi Michalski, has been creating one-off pieces in his Church Point studio on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Willi has spent decades researching and refining his technique for glaze-on-glaze decoration and, gas reduction firing, with resounding success. Over the years he has developed his own unique style, often creating generously sized pieces, with immediately identifiable sculptural forms.
Ceramicist Willi Michalski
For almost as long as he has been potting, Willi has been teaching others the skills required to see a ceramic creation through to completion. He has taught literally thousands of students throughout his time at Mosman Evening College, and through private lessons. It brings him great joy to see the excitement on the faces of his students as they see their finished piece for the first time.
Over the course of a long career, Willi has been highlighted in solo shows, group exhibitions as well as his well-attended annual home show. His works are represented in public collections in Australia, as well as in private collections both in Australia and overseas.
Willi Michalski is known particularly for his subtle yet beautiful glazes and for his remarkable large-scale platters and sculptural pieces. He continues to pot from his home studio tucked away amongst the trees in Church Point, NSW.
Willi Michalski prepares for another kiln firing May 2015 - photo by Jennifer Michalski
Like so many artists, who draw inspiration from the land they live on, Willi is heavily influenced by the landscape surrounding his studio on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. His works reflect the forms and issues linked to the environment he is immersed in.
Willi Michalski Ceramics are individually hand-made by the artist in his Sydney studio.
To commission a unique Willi Michalski Studio piece please CONTACT US.
Each year Willi has an Open Studio Weekend or a Christmas Sale - or both. Keep up to date by visiting his facebook, instagram or website pages for the next event.
Shipping: Pick up is from Sydney’s Northern Beaches or shipping via Australia Post at additional cost.
If you would are from interstate or overseas, please contact us for a shipping estimate.
Beautiful porcelain clay bowls with elegant chun glaze. Both hand-thrown in McCarrs Creek, NSW, and both have Willi's maker's mark.
These would each (or both) look beautiful on a shelf alone, or as part of a still life, and would be equally as lovely for use in everyday dining.
Small 10x16cm with a small red copper flush - $110 - Medium 11x19cm, all white $140
Wondrous holey vessels
We could all use a little more beauty in our lives and this sculpture of a small bird on a pillar is just the thing.
Calmly minimalist, handmade on the beautiful Northern Beaches of Sydney, this piece is utterly unique.
Finished in a classic white glaze, measuring 225mm x 70 mm, featuring the marker’s mark (at base).
225mm x 70mm – hand sculpted bird on pillar – $140