Ceramicist Brianna Kwan ’23 Wins Two Scholastic Art Awards

Brianna Kwan
Brianna Kwan ’23

Congratulations to Brianna Kwan ’23 who won two Scholastic Art Awards for ceramics, a Gold Key Award for “Tangled” and a Silver Key for “Washed.”

About the Awards

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are the nation’s oldest recognition program for students in Grades 7-12. Students are honored at recognition ceremonies and their work is exhibited regionally. Gold Key entries are automatically considered for national awards, including Gold Medal, Silver Medal with Distinction, Silver Medal, and scholarship awards.

Creating “Tangled” and “Washed”

In seventh grade, Kwan took Yonghwi Kim’s P’22 Hand Building Ceramics class. As a ninth grader, she joined the Ceramics Club where she first learned how to wheel throw. Because of COVID restrictions, “the next time I touched the wheel was second semester in junior year in Mr. Kim’s Wheel Throwing class.” Kwan, a senior, is now taking an independent study with Kim in which she studies East Asian Stoneware. 

“Whenever I’m on the wheel, I feel like I have no other worries.”

“Whenever I’m on the wheel,” Kwan said, “I feel like I have no other worries, and the only thing I have to think about is making the piece I am making. The best part is seeing a piece come out of the kiln after glazing to see the final result of throwing, trimming, and glazing the piece. The most challenging part is coming up with a new pattern or design to glaze a piece with. I like for every one of my pieces to be unique in design so after a while, it becomes difficult to think of new patterns.” 


“‘Tangled,’” Kwan explained, “is a piece I threw in my Wheel Throwing class last year and glazed this year. I just wanted to venture out to new bodies other than the usual vase and bowls and Mr. Kim suggested making a lidded piece so I said why not. He guided me through making the lip of the body and the process in making a lid that fit snugly. I was going for a nature theme in this piece and, to make it less plain, I decided to go with an ombre aqua glaze. It was also my first time working with glaze wax, which is what I made the vine pattern with, and it is a material I will probably use in the future.” 

Brianna Kwan Tangled ceramic piece
“Tangled” by Brianna Kwan ’23

About “Washed,” Kwan said, “I always had the aspiration of creating a vase with a thin neck because it seemed like a challenge I could only ever see as the work of other people on displays. There is a lot of skill required to make sure the piece doesn’t collapse, isn’t too thick, and uniform throughout the whole piece. With the help of Mr. Kim in my independent study, it took me three tries to finally achieve what is now ‘Washed.’”

“I was pretty ecstatic to be winning two awards with one of them being a Gold Key,” Kwan said about the honors. She had submitted writing entries in the past, but “only browsed the previous winners for all the categories and the Ceramics & Glass section struck me because there were so many intricate designs all made from clay!” Now she says, “Little did I know that I would become a part of art award winners and possibly inspire other ceramicists to submit to the Scholastic Awards. The best part was telling Mr. Kim and sharing the excitement with him because none of this would be possible without him.”

“I was thrilled to hear that Brianna won two prizes in the competition,” Kim said. “I believe it is the result of her hard work and artistic talent. Always taking on new challenges with enthusiasm and an open mind, she is a student with a clear sense of purpose and a hard-working attitude. She always knows what she wants to make and why she wants to make it, and she enjoys planning out every step of the way. In other words, she is a student with well-formed artistic basics. Her artistic temperament and skills have influenced many students and contributed to the positive effects of our ceramics program.”

Brianna Kwan Washed ceramic piece
“Washed” by Brianna Kwan ’23
Looking Ahead

“I definitely want to continue in the arts at Penn,” Kwan said. “I have hopes of starting a Ceramics Club at Penn and mentoring interested students to share the art of wheel throwing. I am also going to continue another form of art—martial arts at Penn and join the Club Taekwondo Team.”

There will be a New York City Scholastic Awards Regional Gold Key Exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art with an Opening Reception on Friday, March 24, 2023, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM. The exhibit will be on view until May 21.

Brianna Kwan Tangled award certificate
Brianna Kwan Washed award certificate