Yoonjee Kwak

Artist Statement

The works are derived from the simple questions "What kind of vessel do I have, what does it look like?" The theme of 'Vessels of you' evokes audiences to wonder these same questions about themselves. - In Korea, when people talk about someone’s personality, we often use “vessel” as a metaphor of one’s spirit of tolerance. For instance, when we talk about someone who is very generous or broad-minded, we say, “His vessel is big”. Through this theme of works, the audience can have an opportunity to question and look back themselves.

The body of work is composed of sculptural vessels; I explore the theme through forms that are derived from minimalism, nature and geometry. The work incorporates organic and architectural elements into the structure of my open vessels and uses the shape as a metaphor for people who interact with their external character. I believe when the vessel of a person is open, they can have true connections with their environment. Therefore, my open vessel shaped pieces indicate various depths of personal relationships. In addition, through employing the natural and organic arboreal shapes, I intend to demonstrate relationships with nature. I use these natural occurrences in nature as metaphorical and literal references to represent human relationships. As nature cannot exist without the interaction of its many component parts, man cannot exist alone. In this sense, human relationships resemble the laws of nature.

I use hand-building techniques, because the marks left by the fabricating process is very direct and leaves evidence of my physical interactions with clay. When I work with clay, my interactive conversation with the clay is vital to the process. While I slowly build up clay coils from the bottom, my hand marks remain on the surface. It records elements of movement, time and my feelings. The attractive characteristic of coil- building is that it allows artists to observe progressive growth through the process of the work. The process is very similar to raising a plant from seedling to blossoming. As a plant needs water, sunshine and time to grow, my works need patience and time. The process of building up the blocks, memories of patience and time into the pieces, I am able to create a meaningful record of my practice.

-- Yoonjee Kwak


Yoonjee Kwak makes sculptural vessels to represent human beings as iconic symbols from the Korean culture. In Korea, when people talk about someone’s personality, they often use “vessel” as a metaphor of one’s spirit of tolerance. Yoonjee’s interactive conversation with the clay is vital to her process—she slowly builds up clay coils from the bottom, allowing her hand marks to remain on the surface. Through this process of building, memories of patience and time come into her pieces and she is able to create a meaningful record of her practice.


Originally from South Korea, Yoonjee currently is a resident artist at Pottery Northwest in Seattle WA after finishing her long-term residency at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, Helena MT in 2017-2019. Her works have been shown in a variety of national and international exhibitions including in Korea, Turkey, Italy, etc. as well as many states in the USA. She earned her MFA in ceramics at Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester NY in 2014 and her BFA in ceramics and glass at Hong-Ik University in Seoul, South Korea in 2012. In 2020, she was one of the recipients of the James Renwick Alliance Chrysalis Award for emerging artist in Ceramics as well as the Emerging Artist Award in Ceramics Monthly Magazine in 2016.