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South Waikato potter wins $3,000 Waiclay National Ceramics Premier Award

6 December 2019

South Waikato potter Fiona Tunnicliffe has won the $3,000 Waiclay National Ceramics Premier Award for 2019 with a mid-fired clay work called ‘Blue Horse’.

In announcing the award at Hamilton’s Waikato Museum tonight, judge Kasumi Ueba said, “I love animals, and this work conveys both the character of the horse and the natural clay used to form the piece.  It’s style, character and natural lines give it great appeal.”

Ms Ueba said the work also imparted the artist’s own distinctive vision. “The solemn expression on the face provides a poignant element, and there’s a sensitivity and balance in the decoration used on the piece.”

The work was selected from 48 finalists, all of which are now on display at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until 8 March 2020.

Ms Ueba, an internationally-renowned Japanese ceramic artist, said the exhibition reflected a great diversity of work reflective of an outward-looking, young, multicultural country, and artists motivated to draw from many ceramic traditions.   “In Japan there are strong ceramic traditions developed over 1,500 years and exhibitions are focussed on specific themes.  This exhibition is a very interesting reflection of the diversity of New Zealand ceramics.”

Waiclay Awards Chair Janet Smith said: “Each Waiclay exhibition is unique and reflects something of the personality and approach of the judge.  In New Zealand we have an openness of ceramic expression because there are no long-established traditions and so there are no boundaries.”

Waikato Museum Director Cherie Meecham said: “Since its inception in 2001, the Waiclay National Ceramics Award has become a focal point every two years for ceramic artists around New Zealand, attracting 160 entries this year.  To win it is a major achievement.”

Fiona Tunnicliffe, based in Putaaruru, has won numerous accolades for her work over a 30-year career as a full-time potter. She is a member of the NZ Society of Potters and the Academy of Fine Arts and divides her time between making works and teaching. She supplies galleries throughout New Zealand and has also exhibited in Australia.

The awards presented this evening were:

  • 2019 Waiclay National Ceramics Premier Award of $3,000: Fiona Tunnicliffe (Putaaruru), for Blue Horse, mid-fired clay.

  • 2019 runner-up and winner of the Peters Valley School of Craft Residency Award together with a $1,000 travel grant: Maureen Allison (Whangamataa), for Lithosphere, wood fired clay.

  • 2019 Waiclay Merit Award of $1,000: Blue Black (Christchurch), for Misfits, raku clay.

  • 2019 Waikato Society of Potters Award of $750: Elena Renker (Auckland), 3 Faceted Tea Bowls, wood fired stoneware.

  • 2019 Primo Clay Award of $500: Trish Seddon (Waikato), Coral Skulls, porcelain paperclay.

  • 2019 St Andrews Village Award worth $220: Liz Sharek (Auckland), Wild Thing, raku clay mounted on wood.

Details of the exhibition are available on the Waikato Museum website All artworks in the exhibition are available for sale.


Putaruru-based ceramic artist Fiona Tunnicliffe with her winning work.

Editor’s Note:

The Judge’s comments on the other winning works included the following:

Lithosphere: “The plain clay has great texture and colour; it gives a sense of the primordial and primitive. The white salt crystals growing out of the clay make it a living object that will change over time.”

Misfits: “The rough form and luscious glaze work well together to create work that is elegant and full of action.”

3 Faceted Tea Bowls: “It is a surprise to find Japanese tea bowls made with such skill outside Japan. With their weight and balance and Shino glaze, they could be used in any tea ceremony in Japan.”

Coral Skulls: “The combination of realistic animal skull elements with the coral forms creates mythical, fantastic characters. They reflect a closeness to animals and to the beach in a very New Zealand way. There is great detail in the finishing, making them good pieces to sit on a mirror.”

Wild thing: “This just grabbed me with its power and its heart. It’s a stylised plant that is alive, offering a rich palate of colour and glazing, and throwing a shadow that amplifies the piece.”


For more information, and photo available, please contact:
Crystal Beavis, Partnerships and Communications Manager
Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato
ph 07-974-0535, 027-808-8761