The current exhibition at Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics is a selection of works by the late Stratford-born James Greig (1936-1986), sourced from the Simon Manchester Collection. It is called Transformations.

"James was 50 when he died, and he died on the morning of an exhibition opening in Japan," says Rick Rudd, Quartz curator.

After James's death, a piece in the Quartz display went to a memorial exhibition in Japan, then was returned to Simon in New Zealand.

Part of the exhibition, and grouped accordingly, comprises early, utilitarian works.

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"It was when he was having to make a living from domestic ware … gradually he gets into more sculptural pieces."

James went to work as a Japan Foundation Fellow to research the work of Kanjiro Kawai.
Included in the exhibition are some pieces in very "Kawai" colours, standing out from the rest.

"There's a definite influence there," says Rick.

Grouped together are his more celebrated works from the 1980s.

Photographs on the wall are by Jenny Hames.

"Simon had a boxful of original 8x10s … Jenny took them for a catalogue in 1982."

Rick has a copy of the catalogue and he has framed some of the original photos.

Two of the pieces were broken and Rick had them restored.

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Secured to the wall is a large piece with a "grog" base on particle board with sculpted stoneware.

The late Simon Manchester was an avid collector of the work of James Greig. This collection is now housed at Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics and is on show in an exhibition called Transformations. Photo / Paul Brooks
The late Simon Manchester was an avid collector of the work of James Greig. This collection is now housed at Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics and is on show in an exhibition called Transformations. Photo / Paul Brooks

"He is considered to be one of the important ones from that '70s-'80s era," says Rick. "He was taught by Len Castle."

Rick has a selection of Len Castle work in Quartz.

"He [James] was training to be an architect and he walked past a shop that had some Len Castle pots in the window. He was captivated by them, contacted Len, became a student and gave up architecture." That was in 1959.

"The fact that some of these pieces are quite architectural is not surprising, in a way."

By 1962 James had married Rhondda Gillies and moved to Maungakaramea in Northland to become a full time potter.

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Between 1964 and 1967 he was resident potter in charge of Art and Design Centre Pottery Studio at Massey University in Palmerston North, conducting courses and summer schools.

In 1968 the family moved to Matarawa in Wairarapa.

In 1983 he was the first foreign potter to have an exhibition at the prestigious Akasaka Green Gallery in Tokyo. He repeated the privilege in 1985.

James Greig's work is held in major museums and art galleries throughout New Zealand and many collections around the world, including the UN Headquarters, New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Transformations is on show at Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics in Bates St until the end of the year.