By Emily Norman
Nestled among Matarawa farmland in rural Carterton is a colonial house and art studio, in which the late, internationally renowned potter Jim Greig formed some of his most marvellous clay creations.
From an early point in his art career, Greig used clay to create works based on land and plant forms, water and the human body, however his career was cut short in 1986 when he died of a heart attack, aged 50.
His pottery has been displayed all around the world in notable museums, palaces, and New Zealand Embassy collections in London, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, Jakarta, Washington, Peking, Bonn, and Bangkok.
The work is now being acquired by Te Papa Museum in Wellington.
His wife Rhondda has since remarried but retained Greig as her surname.
Yesterday she was busy packaging her late husband’s artworks in bubblewrap as she prepared them for Te Papa staff.
The 23 pieces of Greig’s work were scheduled to be picked up yesterday from Matarawa by Te Papa curator Justine Olsen, but poor driving conditions over the Rimutaka Hill caused the acquisition to be moved to a later date.
Mrs Greig, who is also an acclaimed artist, said Jim had always had an interest in “form” and was “always trying to understand the forces in the universe that gave shape to particular forms in nature”.
However, he wasn’t always a potter.
“Jim had this great interest in flight and different craft moving like the wind, experiencing landscape in a completely different way”, she said.
“He wanted to look down on the sculptural aspects of the land which you don’t experience in the same way when you are five feet above it, so he set about organising getting his own hot air balloon in the 60s, went to Australia to train.”
Mrs Greig said Jim piloted the first hot air balloon flight in Wairarapa in a Bernina III.
“The first flight took off from the end of Moffat’s Rd, sailed over the valley, and flew over the main road.
“In wonderment cars stopped. Traffic was backed up from about Carterton to Featherston with people watching this hot air balloon in the sky.”
It landed in a paddock outside the Gladstone Pub.
“After that Jim continued flying around NZ, but as his ceramic career took off and developed, and all these invitations came to keep working on his art, he couldn’t continue with the flying.”
Mrs Greig said when Jim died there were still unfinished works in their Matarawa studio that hadn’t been glazed and fired in the kiln.
She referred to these such works as “bisque”, and some of these would be acquired by Te Papa in order to show the process of Greig’s works.
But the acquisition of works by Te Papa wasn’t the only major event this year for the late artist.
This December, Greig’s works will be exhibited at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt.
It will be the first comprehensive exhibition of his work in a major gallery in New Zealand since his death.
By Emily Norman