Michael Trumic: A well urned career

Posted on by

Post researched and written by Jen Jeffery, Collections Assistant – Archives

Mirko (Michael) Trumic was born in Yugoslavia in 1928 and moved to Dunedin as a refugee in 1950 post-war. Trumic commented that Dunedin was ‘Not quite the tropical Gauginesque milieu [he] had imagined.’[1] Trumic had spent two years prior as a medical student before he and his fiancée fled to New Zealand to escape from war-torn Europe. Once in Dunedin, Trumic began to make friends with other European refugees, including painter Rudi Gopas. Trumic recalls that Gopas had a small studio in central Dunedin and the pair used to meet there every weekend. Trumic added that the men used to drive around Dunedin; Trumic would take photographs whilst Gopas would draw. It was Gopas who pushed Trumic to start drawing.[2] Gopas encouraged Trumic to pursue the arts, and their relationship transitioned into that of student and teacher.[3]

Michael Trumic throwing on the pottery wheel, n.d. (MS-5122/004)

Both men moved to Christchurch where they joined a lively arts and intellectual circle, as Gopas became a lecturer at the School of Fine Arts in Ilam. Trumic found himself in Yvonne Rust’s design studio and discovered clay. Trumic had the realisation that he was a three-dimensional person rather than two-dimensional. Gopas was not impressed.[4] Trumic recalls an interaction with Rust at her studio. Trumic sat at the wheel whilst Rust was trying to convince him that this was not his first time on the wheel – as Trumic remembers Rust exclaiming after he his first attempt “You must have [thrown clay before] – you made a beaut cylinder in one go!”[5] At the same time as Trumic was introduced to clay, he was working at a steel factory, where he would sculpt small abstract art pieces from polished steel. In a few years, Trumic became a full time potter, a first for Canterbury.[6]

Michael Trumic throwing on the pottery wheel, 1989. (MS-5122/073)

In 1960 Trumic established an art gallery “Several Arts”. The name portrayed Trumic’s stance on art, by simply allowing the work he admired to be displayed. This outlook made Several Arts a unique gallery of its time. Several Arts also served as a place where artists around Canterbury could gather and allowed younger artists with little experience to exhibit their works. Whilst the gallery kept Trumic occupied during the day, the evenings and weekends allowed Trumic to potter away. For ten years under Trumic’s supervision the gallery was incredibly successful, and become renowned across New Zealand and Australia.

Michael Trumic’s Pottery, n.d. (MS-5122/004)

After the success of the Several Arts, Trumic began voyaging around the South Island and teaching workshops on all things clay. This included regular ceramic classes in Christchurch for interested potters, which evolved into part-time teaching at Christchurch Teachers’ College and occasionally for universities when they demanded additional guidance.[7] In 1972 Trumic was asked to travel to Sydney for a Ceramic Study Group and workshop, to talk to artists and their teachers. Trumic was then invited to the Art School in Canberra, as a demonstrator and speaker to senior art students.

Michael Trumic’s students at Otago Polytechnic, 1990. (MS-5122/057)

In 1975 Trumic was asked by the Otago Polytechnic School of Fine Arts to teach part-time. Within a few years the part-time position grew into full-time, and eventually Trumic established the Diploma in Ceramics, Sculpture and three-dimensional design. Trumic’s students remember him fondly, however he had a strong presence, and was known to “rub people up the wrong way.” Nelson ceramic sculptor Christine Boswijk adds that Trumic was “a hard taskmaster….He taught with his belly. He was unmerciful. He took that risk to make you an artist.” [8] It was well known that Trumic could bring students to tears, but in the same breath lift them up again. In 1989, Trumic was awarded with an Honorary Diploma in Fine Arts with Honours from Otago Polytechnic in recognition for his services to ceramic education in New Zealand. This was the first Diploma of its kind presented in New Zealand. After nearly 20 years of service, Trumic resigned from teaching in 1992.

Michael Trumic’s Honorary Diploma, 1989. (MS-5122/073)

Trumic lived with his wife Wendy Wadworth, who in her own right was an accomplished artist. They moved to Loburn in Canterbury where Trumic continued to ‘potter away’ in his studio until his passing in 2012, aged 84.

Michael Trumic assisting in the building of a kiln, 1990. (MS-5122/057)

Trumic’s ceramics can be found in various galleries and museums around New Zealand including the Otago Museum and Canterbury Museum


Achievements of Trumic

  • Foundational member of the New Zealand Society of Potters
  • Foundational member of the New Zealand Professional Potters Guild
  • Early member of the Canterbury Society of Arts
  • Full member of “The Group”
  • Recipient of three Queen Elizabeth II Art Council Grants

[1] Moyra Elliot, “Michael Trumic 1928-2012,” Cone Ten and Descending…, last modified 13 April 2012, https://conetenanddescending.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/michael-trumic-1928-2012/

[2]Rosa Shiels, “Clay and Fire,” New Zealand Potters, retrieved 30 May 2012, http://www.nzpotters.come/FeatureArticles/MichaelTrumic.cfm?article=MichaelTrumic

[3] Brief C.V of Michael Trumic, n.d., MS-5122/078, Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin.

[4] Rosa Shiels, “Clay and Fire,” New Zealand Potters, retrieved 30 May 2012, http://www.nzpotters.come/FeatureArticles/MichaelTrumic.cfm?article=MichaelTrumic

[5] Rosa Shiels, “Clay and Fire,” New Zealand Potters, retrieved 30 May 2012, http://www.nzpotters.come/FeatureArticles/MichaelTrumic.cfm?article=MichaelTrumic

[6] Brief C.V of Michael Trumic, n.d., MS-5122/078, Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin.

[7] Brief C.V of Michael Trumic, n.d., MS-5122/078, Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin.

[8] Rosa Shiels, “Clay and Fire,” New Zealand Potters, retrieved 30 May 2012, http://www.nzpotters.come/FeatureArticles/MichaelTrumic.cfm?article=MichaelTrumic

References:

Elliot, Moyra. “Michael Trumic 1928-2012.” Cone Ten and Descending…. Last modified 13 April 2012. https://conetenanddescending.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/michael-trumic-1928-2012/

Shiels, Rosa. “Clay and Fire.” New Zealand Potters. Retrieved 13 April 2012. http://www.nzpotters.come/FeatureArticles/MichaelTrumic.cfm?article=MichaelTrumic

Trumic, Michael. Brief C.V. MS-5122/078. Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin.

This entry was posted in Archives and manuscripts by Hocken Collections. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* *