The judge at the Whangārei Quarry Arts Centre's Open Ceramic Awards said he judges ''50:40:10''.

''Fifty per cent is the covet test. Do I want to own it and how greedily? Forty per cent is the test of time. Will I still want it in 30 years? Ten per cent is for technique. I'm a bit of a sucker for technique.''

The calibre of entries at the Whangārei competition was high and the quality between the supreme and three merit winners very close, judge and renowned potter Peter Lange said.

There were meant to be two merit awards but he added another on the spot because he couldn't choose between three.

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''I don't necessarily look for good taste or virtuosity. I like evidence of hand, clay and fire - all three if possible.''

Lange picked Whangārei potter Greg Barron's wood-fired porcelain piece as winner of the Premier Award, describing it as having an elegant form and beautiful surface.

''Craftsmanship of the highest order. Masterful glazing and firing. A quiet and timeless treasure. This one will last a lot longer than me.''

Cammie Blaisdell from Nelson won a merit prize for her earthenware piece, Transitions, which Lange described as ''an exquisitely made and glazed piece with evocative imagery of death and rebirth. It would make a great tattoo".

Lange described the high-fired earthenware Spoonbills by merit winner Lynda Harris, from Kerikeri, as a ''generous strong form with a surface made for well-executed imagery. Beautifully painted and relaxed illustrations of our precious bird life".

Finally, David Huffman, from Whangārei, also won a merit award for a small flame-washed coin jar of wood-fired stoneware.

''I kept coming back to this one after almost overlooking it the first time around,'' Lange said.

''It's quite modest, with a very simple but pleasing form, fortuitous firing effects and, praise the Lord!, some wonderful carbon trap.''

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He congratulated the Northland Craft Trust for organising the awards.

''It's a grand first prize, and a great start to what I hope will be an ongoing annual event in the diaries of NZ potters.''

This year's award had a first prize of $1000 and three merit prizes of an annual membership in the National Society of Potters.

Auckland-based Lange is a winner of national awards as well as recipient in 2016 of the NZ Order of Merit for his services to ceramics.

New manager of the Quarry Arts Centre, Sally Lush said the trust hoped to build on this year's success and hold the event again next year, with a bigger prize pool.

This year's competition attracted about 75 entries from 45 potters.

The winning works will be exhibited with many for sale at the Quarry Arts Centre's Yvonne Rust Gallery until September 10.