MacAllaster House

David MacDonald


David MacDonald (1945 – ) is an American ceramicist who specializes in making patterned, functional wares which he intends for people to use and admire. His work is carefully decorated through relief carvings, which culminate in his signature linework—amplified by different glazes and their applications. “For more than four decades, David MacDonald has masterfully created richly patterned utilitarian objects from clay that have come to symbolize tremendous integrity and endurance.” He uses his personal journey and his African heritage as an inspiration for most of his work, which becomes evident in unique, textured pieces.  

The artist was born in Hackensack, New Jersey in 1945, where he graduated high school in 1963 and left his hometown to study art education at Hampton University in Virginia. Towards the beginning of his career, as an undergrad, he made pottery in reaction to relevant political and social issues—specifically the Civil Rights Movement— while developing his technical skills. Then, after receiving a graduate fellowship at the University of Michigan, he received the Master of Fine Arts degree. The late 1970s and early ’80s were when he began to really study his heritage, “looking at a variety of design sources in the vast creative tradition of the African continent” and “the myriad of examples of surface decoration that [manifest] in the many ethnic groups of sub-Saharan Africa.” His layered work, in both a physical and a personally meaningful sense, have led him to many successes in his career, including being a professor at the Syracuse University School of Art and Design.  

In 2011, MacDonald received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA). He has been interviewed for and featured in multiple publications, and his work is in the permanent collections of the Studio Museum in Harlem (NY), Montclair Art Museum (New Jersey), and the Everson Museum of Art (Syracuse, NY). While he is retired from teaching, he continues to instruct at the Community Folk Art Center in Syracuse and shows his work locally.

– Research and writing by Eva Yeo, SLU Class of 2023



“About,” “David Macdonald.” DAVID MACDONALD. Accessed February 28, 2023.

Tuskes, Marlee. “The Pottery of Syracuse Ceramist David MacDonald to Be Featured on Season Debut of PBS Show.” WAER, November 23, 2016.