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Antarctic work wins Waiclay National Ceramics Premier Award

22 January 2022

Artist Margaret MacDonald has won the $3,000 Waiclay National Ceramics Premier Award with an artwork about climate change in Antarctica.

The ceramic sculpture ‘Ice Shelf – Scott Base’ was selected from 65 finalists, all of which are now on display at Hamilton’s Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until 10 April 2022.

Based in Wellington, Premier Award winner Margaret MacDonald is a ceramic artist, researcher, and human rights specialist. The Waiclay announcement on Friday coincided with her birthday:

“What an incredible birthday present! I will be putting the prize money towards setting up my own studio, which is just so exciting.”

Created from porcelain and stoneware clay with dry glazes, her winning work ‘Ice Shelf – Scott Base’ is part of a series documenting the effects of climate change.

“Temperatures in Antarctica are rising faster than almost anywhere else on the planet,” says MacDonald.

“Ice shelves are critical in preventing glaciers from flowing into the ocean and contributing to sea level rise. When they collapse, it’s like a giant cork being removed from a bottle, allowing unimaginable amounts of water from glaciers to pour into the sea.”

The Driving Creek Residency Award, including a $1,000 prize, went to runner up Eva Ding for ‘Route III – Teapot’. Currently studying ceramics in Dunedin, Ding will undertake her residency with Driving Creek Pottery in the Coromandel once she’s completed her studies this year.

This exhibition marks the 20-year anniversary of Waiclay, which was founded by a small committee of volunteers in 2001. Usually a biennial event, the competition scheduled for 2021 was delayed due to Covid-19 lockdowns. Travel restrictions meant that Prue Venables, an acclaimed ceramicist based in Australia, was unable to view the works in person.

“It is such a tricky experience to try and envisage a three-dimensional form with its unique physical surface, texture, colour, scale, weight and volume when the information provided is untouchable,” said Venables from her home in Melbourne.

“Just as I had hoped, amongst the works there were many different approaches, materials, techniques, contemplations of lives. It was an exciting process for me to explore such interesting work… It was a sense of life, invention and vitality of expression that I was looking for and this was met at every turn.”

Waiclay president 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 Liz Cotton said: “Despite a challenging year, the Waiclay exhibition again fills our wonderful Museum with the best in ceramic art from across the country. Congratulations to the dedicated Waiclay committee and volunteers, and all those who have contributed over the years. This is a long-running partnership that we continue to cherish.”


The 2021/2022 Waiclay winners are:


Premier Award, $3,000 prize thanks to Woodstoke and anonymous donors:

Margaret MacDonald

Ice Shelf – Scott Base


Driving Creek Residency Award, including $1,000 prize:

Eva Ding

Route III - Teapot


Merit Award, $500 prize thanks to Primo Clays:

Duncan Moore



Merit Award, $500 prize thanks to Primo Clays:

Kate Fitzharris

Different things on different days


Merit Award, $500 prize thanks to Mac’s Mud:

Kylie Matheson

Take Me to the Woodlands


Merit Award, $300 prize thanks to CCG Industries:

Helen Yau

Absolute Freedom


Merit Award, $150 prize thanks to Waikato Society of Potters:

John Roy



The Waiclay exhibition is open until 10 April 2022. Entry is free.