Ceramics student wins national Gold Key at Scholastic Art Awards

Abby Bamburg, Entertainment Editor

Step 1: Come up with an idea. Step 2: Consider possibilities for construction. Step 3: Knead clay, mold piece and add decorations. Step 4: Glaze and put piece in kiln. Every detail must be perfectly executed.

Senior Crystal Gutierrez won a Gold Key at the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards on March 15.

Students from all over the nation compete in this contest.

At the regional level, a student can win a Gold Key, Silver Key, Bronze Key or an Honorable Mention.

If a student receives a Gold Key, a picture of his or her piece will be sent to New York where a committee judges it for national awards.

Gutierrez won the Gold Key at the national level in the ceramics division for her piece, “Autumnal Nova.”

Gutierrez’s artwork was one of 33 in the nation that was chosen for a Gold Key in the category of ceramics.

The winning artwork will be displayed at Carnegie Hall on June 1. There will be a special reception for parents, students and teachers.

Gutierrez made four pieces — each representing one of the seasons. Her piece representing autumn won the award.

“Everyone in the room was making squares, and I was like, ‘I want to do something different,’” she said. “So, I decided to do a color shade and implement colors of the fall, like the greens and browns and a leaf texture to symbolize leaves.”

Gutierrez’s clay structure was about 14 inches tall. Ceramics teacher Michael Johnston said Gutierrez won because her piece was unique, well thought-out and well executed.

“It had an interesting textural design on it, which related to the piece itself,” he said. “It was a great concept to begin with. It was also a little bit larger piece. It probably was a little bit impressive because of the fact that it was larger than most entries in that category.”

Johnston said Gutierrez’s knowedge of ideas and craftsmanship set her apart from other students.

“A lot of times you have students that have great ideas and don’t carry them out,” he said. “You also have the students that can throw well on the wheel, but they don’t have the greatest ideas. She did a great job putting it all together, so it was well constructed, and there wasn’t any technical problems. The glaze was also masterfully sprayed so that, from start to finish, the piece came together.”

Gutierrez said Johnston motivated her to get things done.

“Whenever I’m stuck, he will throw out some random ideas that will actually work or inspire me,” she said.

Because there are so many participants, Johnston said the award is a big deal to everyone involved.

“You know that you’re pretty much the best of the best,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there, so to be that good is overwhelming, almost.”

Gutierrez said she didn’t think she was going to win the award.

“There are so many other talented artists, even in our school,” she said. “I thought I had no chance. I would look at everything else and think my piece is not going to get a Key. But it did, so it was really surprising.”

Johnston said he enjoys seeing students get credit for their hard work because most do not realize how talented they are.

“It is really rewarding to see students that may never have thought that their abilities were as good as what they really are recognized to be,” he said. “Maybe they need some positive reinforcement that what they’re doing is on par with some of the best students in the nation.”

Gutierrez said although ceramics can be a lot of work, it can also be a huge stress reliever.

“I really like colorful things and things that are textured,” she said. “I just don’t like plain, old slabs of clay. I can just go in there, make something out of clay and let my imaginations go wild.”