Humans of Harker: The art of creativity

Jacqueline Au explores beauty and functionality


Helen Zhu

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always been drawn to anything art related. Whenever we had the choice of a creative project, I would always choose art; that’s just how I felt like I could best express myself,” Jacqueline Au (12) said.

Sunlight dapples the serene, architectural design of Jacqueline Au (12)’s backyard. Sleek planes of grass, wood and stone intersect a low pale grey wall. A panel of water splashes softly as it falls into a concrete pool, forming a minimalist fountain. The scene recalls a modern art piece with its clean colors and composition, envisioned from a sketch designed by Jacqueline herself.

Jacqueline and her family began the process of renovating their backyard with sustainability in mind, visiting building material sites that carried environmentally-friendly options to find stone pebbles or bamboo wood. In the center of the backyard lies a large grey mosaic of nine geometric stone tiles, intersecting to create a minimalist design. Flat stone pebbles fill the spaces between the tiles, their composition imbued with meaning.

“We tried to incorporate some symbols from Chinese culture, and then also, in a way you can see all the initials of our names,” Jacqueline said. “It’s very abstract, but we can see it as a fish because, for Chinese culture, it symbolizes prosperity and longevity.”

Focusing on simple yet powerful designs, Jacqueline’s interest in visual arts stems from her childhood. From making polymer clay charms to sketching with paper and pencil, she experimented with a diverse range of artistic mediums at a young age. More recently, she explores architectural designs and also experiments with digital programs such as Adobe Illustrator. Jacqueline also practices calligraphy, working with the art of hand lettering using a brush pen.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always been drawn to anything art related. Whenever we had the choice of a creative project, I would always choose art; that’s just how I felt like I could best express myself,” Jacqueline said.

Starting from a young age, Jacqueline also explored dance as a creative outlet. While she has performed as a member of the Harker Dance Company throughout high school, she also treasures her other competitions and performances that allowed her to experience a different side of her culture.

“In third grade, I joined an outside Chinese dance team. That was really cool because the teachers, they all speak in Chinese, and that helped me learn more about Chinese culture,” Jacqueline said.

Although at first Jacqueline shied away from performing on stage, years of practice have allowed her to grow more confident and begin to overcome her fear. Following her first group performances in kindergarten at the Harker Dance Show, Jacqueline has now performed solos on stage, something her younger self may be surprised at. Close friend Maya Franz (12) notes Jacqueline’s sense of discipline and focus in achieving her goals.

“She is so skilled at whatever puts her mind to. Whether it’s dance, or visual artwork that she does, I think what I’ve always noticed is how much she excels in the creative fields. She can be very pragmatic while also still staying in the world of creativity,” Maya said.

Jacqueline’s artistic lens and approach spill over into everything she does. Upper school English teacher Brigid Miller, who has known Jacqueline since her junior year, teaches Jacqueline this year in the Graphic Narrative senior elective class. The class piqued Jacqueline’s interest with its elements of visual arts, intertwined with design and literature.

“Her artistic spirit, that discerning eye, is really critically important in our class. She adds a voice that is confident in a professional way. She knows what she’s talking about, when it comes to the visuals,” Miller said.

Jacqueline hopes to make the world a little brighter with her actions, working with her community to solve the problems around her. When the pandemic began and quarantine first started, Jacqueline put together care packages for residents at the local homeless shelter. To add a personal touch, she wrote encouraging notes for each package in elegant calligraphic lettering.

“I like working with other people, or my community, to do something that would help others. I think they really enjoyed it, because I got a call after I did that from the supervisor that everyone was smiling and really happy. That really made my day,” Jacqueline said.

Underneath her quiet and collected composure, Jacqueline’s heart is filled with compassion. A loyal and caring friend, she always makes time to consider those around her and help in any way she can. Close friend Stephanie Shen (12), who met Jacqueline in sixth grade, treasures their friendship.

“She’s someone you can definitely talk to about anything. She’s always been a really steady friend that is always there for moral support. Whenever you want, she’ll still take time away and try to get away from her other commitments just to be there for you,” Stephanie said.

Whether she’s spending time with her friends or working on a self-driven project, Jacqueline always notices the small details around her with a perceptive eye. Within the realm of architecture, she pays special attention to the impact that can be made possible with the visual language of design. Ultimately, she hopes to create a positive, lasting effect in her environment for those around her.

“Sometimes, when we enter spaces, they can make us feel uncomfortable or [you feel that] something’s a little bit off,” Jacqueline said. “But, if you try to make it safe and welcoming, it can be. It makes it have a nicer feel to the area.”