NCECA is pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of the newly established Helene Zucker Seeman Fellowships. Friends of the late Helene Zucker Seeman generously established two annual fellowships for women in the ceramic arts, each in the amount of $2,500. The first fellowship, Helene Zucker Seeman Curatorial, Research, and Critical Writing Fellowship for Women, has been awarded to Heidi McKenzie. The second fellowship, Helene Zucker Seeman Emerging Artist Fellowship, has been awarded to Cathy Lu

Helene Zucker Seeman: Curator, archivist, art historian, author, mentor, wife, mother, friend.  This list describes the varied roles Helene Zucker Seeman played, but it only hints at who she was, what she achieved, and how deeply she affected the many people whose lives she touched before hers ended tragically and all too soon the summer of 2010. To learn more about Helene’s life and work, please visit: About Helene

Heidi McKenzie: Helene Zucker Seeman Curatorial, Research, and Critical Writing Fellowship for Women

Heidi McKenzie: The chapter I will contribute to the international reader, Craft is Political, will be framed by feminist geographer Minelle Mahtani’s thesis that the paradoxical space of hybridity fosters innate power to affect change within fractured societies. The chapter will engage with the politicized sculptural practices of three emerging Canadian female ceramicists and the liminal spaces they inhabit: PJ Anderson, a mixed-race Jamaican/Métis who weaponizes the traditional burnished pots of her ancestry; Monica Mercedes Martinez of mixed Chilean heritage, whose transcontinental work addresses the atrocities of Pinochet’s regime; and Habiba El-Sayed, whose mixed Egyptian/Guyanese heritage informs her post 9-11 anti-Islamophobic work. 


  • PJ Anderson, Glorification #3 (from the Weaponization series she made after living through the shootings in the 2019 El Paso shootings)
  • Habiba El-Sayed, Would I have Called you Teta? (performance art – making Egyptian moulded cookies out of porcelain)
  • Monica Mercedes Martinez, Castas (mixed porcelain and terracotta mixed. self-portraits)

“My studio practice engages issues of identity and belonging. Through abstract portraiture, I capture self, an individual, or a culture. I began incorporating photographic imagery on clay in 2014 to viscerally depict the fragmentation of body, and have moved on to explore image as archive. This body of work speaks to my personal histories through photographic imagery coupled with abstract representation. My work is informed by the everyday lived experience of my mixed heritage. In the 19th century, my ancestors travelled from Ireland to Canada and India to the Caribbean in hopes of a better life. In the 1950s, my parents married at a time when interracial marriages were illegal in several American states and extremely uncommon in both Canada and the U.S. I grew up on the East coast of Canada, one of a handful of brown faces in a sea of white, at the corners of “Canadianness.” Holding space and making place for people of color matters. Telling my family’s stories matter.”

Cathy Lu: Helene Zucker Seeman Emerging Artist Fellowship

Cathy Lu has a BA in Chinese Language and History and a BFA in Ceramics from Tufts University. She received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. “My work revolves around the manipulation, appropriation, and de-contextualization of traditional Chinese art imagery and presentation as a way to explore how Eastern imagery is seen and understood in the US, and how ideas of cultural ‘authenticity’ and ‘tradition’ interface with contemporary trans-cultural experiences. My materials are rooted in traditional Chinese art, working mostly in ceramic – based sculpture and watercolors.”

NCECA’s purpose is to promote and improve the ceramic arts through education, research, and creative practice. The NCECA Helene Zucker Seeman Curatorial, Research, and Critical Writing Fellowship for Women has been created to encourage, support, and develop research, curatorial work, and critical writing in the field of ceramics. Monetary support received through this fellowship may be applied to direct costs associated with research related to and/or production of an exhibition and to support an emerging female-identifying artist. We are thankful for the efforts of Maggi Cowlan and friends of Helene Zucker Seeman for establishing these fellowships that support our purpose and mission.