Monday, January 21, 2008

Potter creates memorial sculpture for historian & author Michael King

Story in New Zealand Herald Monday January 21, 2008 By Shenagh Gleeson

The memorial to Michael King is in a reserve at Opoutere, near Whangamata. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Coromandel potter Barry Brickell knew the writer Michael King only fleetingly.
But his esteem for King, who died in a car crash nearly four years ago, was enormous.
Now a memorial sculpture created by Brickell has been erected on a reserve overlooking Wharekawa Harbour, a favourite spot of King's and his wife, Maria Jungowska.
The couple were killed when their car crashed and burst into flames off SH2 at Maramarua on March 30, 2004.
They lived at Opoutere, just north of Whangamata, for about 10 years.
Brickell, who operates his pottery alongside his Driving Creek Railway in Coromandel, said he wanted to create a memorial to King to acknowledge his great contribution to New Zealand literature.
"I regard him as an extremely important literary person. I think he's the most important literary figure since Janet Frame. His History of New Zealand is beautifully written and a great indigenous history."
The renowned potter spent two years corresponding with King's daughter, Rachael, discussing the idea and its implementation. He came up with a form that met the family's approval.
There are four separate tiles, one bearing a quote about Opoutere from King's 1999 book, Being Pakeha Now:
"In the rise of mist from the estuary and the fall of rain, in the movements of the incoming and outgoing tides, I see a reflection on the deepest mystery and most sustaining pattern in all of life. That of arrival and departure, of death and regeneration."

Brickell hand-modelled the tiles out of Driving Creek clay and used "a lovely old-fashioned stamp letter set" for the words, which were in-filled with white slip.
The second tile features a dinghy with a fish on the bottom, reflecting King's love of rowing out into the estuary for a quiet spot of fishing.
The tiles were fired in one of the Driving Creek wood-burning kilns and then set into a concrete plinth.
Brickell says he brushed the concrete to expose the aggregate and give it a stone-like texture. On the back are two bird tiles. The plinth was installed at the reserve on a hill under a tree just over a week ago by a group of family and friends.
Brickell said the group had a picnic and it was a relaxed and jovial occasion - as King would have wanted.


Rachael KIng said...

Thanks for posting this Graeme. The reporter tried to email me in the weekend but I was away at a wedding. If given the chance I would have pointed out that the memorial stone was actually for Michael and Maria, not just for Michael. I chose the quote from his book because it was about Opouere, a place they both adored.

Rachael King said...

Oops I mean Opoutere.