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EHS Pillars - Spring 2018

PILLARS - The Episcopal High School Magazine www.ehshouston.org

CREATIVE KNIGHTS Julia

CREATIVE KNIGHTS Julia Jiao '08: Telling Stories in 3D "Nothing beats a design that tells a story," declares Julia Jiao '08. After leaving the Rhode Island School of Design in 2012 with a degree in Industrial Design, Jiao landed an internship at Puma. Within a few months she became a major player on the All‐Star design team at Converse. Jiao felt happy and inspired at Converse, creating the next line of women's footwear, but something was missing. Jiao, a typical creative, admits she is always antsy and seeking innovation. She explored other areas of product design to further her visual language and started experimenting with 3D modeling and printing. Jiao joined a design team building prototypes, proofs, and concepts for start‐ups, where she gained valuable business skills, but the team was small and the opportunities were limited. Via networking, Jiao met two engineers, Wombi Rose and John Wise, who launched Lovepop out of the Harvard Innovation Lab in late 2014. The two were named to the 2015 Techstars class, nominated for "50 on Fire" by BostInno, and gained the confidence of investors all over the world by building custom‐made, 3D greeting cards. After meeting the Lovepop founders, Julia joined the fledgling firm of 15 to become their 16th card builder, creating intricately cut 3D paper sculptures that are engineered on software and handcrafted in the "kirigami" art form. Jiao says she has found her niche at Lovepop, where she can combine her knowledge of business with 3D modeling. Now two years into the gig, she is the lead designer of the wedding products team, working alongside sales and production, and helping to build one of the fastest‐growing start‐ups in the industry. Recently, the team worked with HBO to create "Game of Thrones" cards, and the five‐piece set is just the beginning of what Lovepop calls "an intriguing relationship we are building in the mysterious continent of Westeros." Jiao plans to stay in Boston for a few more years. "I love the company and team I'm with and can see myself growing within it," she explains. "At the same time, I would like to give back to the communities that helped me along the way. One of my interests concerns young designers or those invested in a creative field. Creative fields include the most empathic and versatile groups of people, important to many organizations, but they are often light on resources and tools. I am interested in learning how I can help young designers navigate the industry." Reflecting on her high school years, Julia says her passion for design was ignited by the variety of art classes she was able to take at Episcopal. "The classes were relevant to the trends of the time and taught collaboration and risk‐taking—two qualities important in creative fields. And the digital programs boosted me a few years ahead of my peers in college," she says. "The benefits gained at EHS keep bubbling up in my career and personal life in so many amazing ways." —Sharon Willcutts Ben Estus '09: Enjoying Every Step "Giving life to stories and characters—that's what I love to do," says actor Ben Estus '09. He gets to share that passion almost daily, as he continues his fifth season in Broadway's "The Book of Mormon," written by television "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Estus, one of EHS Onstage's high‐profile alumni, brings his trifecta of acting, singing, and dancing skills to the musical satire, playing a wholesome Mormon who travels door to door to recruit converts. The show is a rare box office smash, and Estus feels blessed to have a steady job and perform with top talent—a dream for most actors. Besides delivering memorable leads in "Dracula" and "Pippin" while at Episcopal, Estus won a prestigious Tommy Tune 32

Award for his role as Tommy in the musical "Urinetown." Estus says that citywide accolade helped him gain auditions during the first years of his career. After graduating from Episcopal, Estus headed to Northwestern University to complete his B.A. in Theatre, with a Musical Theatre Certificate. At Northwestern he balanced rigorous academics and performed in many productions, such as "Rent," "The Pajama Game," and "42nd Street." While EHS Onstage prepared him for his dream career, he says that joining the Knights wrestling team—where he was named State Champion and All‐American—provided equal benefits. "Wrestling re‐defined hard work and taught me teamwork and discipline," he explains. "George Brock and Steve Leisz toiled tirelessly with my schedule to ensure I could participate in both theatre and wrestling in high school, and I think that kind of collaboration is pretty rare." As with most live theatre productions, his role in "Book" requires eight performances a week. "You have to be healthy and in great shape, so a background in athletics is terrific." Besides Broadway, Estus has performed in regional theatre, film, and movies—and at only age 26, his future looks bright. "If students love acting and know it's something they want to do, they just have to go for it," he advises. "As in every field, there are plenty of naysayers, but the ability to handle rejection is especially important in theater. You have to love auditioning— see it as your chance to perform for the day. There's a lot of nonsense that comes along with the 'business' but if you still love the acting and the art it encompasses, it's worth it," he says. "Read a lot, do good work in class, don't be afraid to fail, and find ways to enjoy every step of the process. Everyone's road to success in this field is completely different. Keep hustling down your own road and don't pay attention or compare yourself to anyone else. If you work hard, know your lines, and show up on time, good things will always happen. And when they do—it's so awesome!" —Claire C. Fletcher Marlo Cobb Saucedo '87: Distance, Up Close Marlo Cobb Saucedo '87 was introduced to art long before high school through summer classes at MFAH's Glassell School. Art was a passion, but not a career goal. After graduating from EHS, Saucedo attended Davidson College, writing for The Davidsonian and majoring in psychology with a concentration in Spanish and French. Her first job took her to Washington, D.C., where she assisted with the resettlement of Vietnamese‐American war babies in her work for the International Catholic Migration Commission. She left that position to earn an M.B.A. in entrepreneurship from the University of Texas, all the while taking art classes in Austin. When creative friends began dropping out of the M.B.A. program at a fast clip, she was inspired to create a handwriting‐to‐line visual diary of the experience called "Escaping." Returning to Houston with her M.B.A. and working as an HTML coder, Saucedo continued to feel pulled toward visual art. After she and her husband, Alex, bought their first home in Bayou Lofts among the storied buildings of Houston's early downtown, Saucedo developed an interest in the architecture and history of Houston. She revisited handwriting‐to‐line techniques in depictions of the Houston skyline. Each work noted the building's height, architect, address, and year completed, and she sold the pieces to lawyers and architects with downtown offices. Today her medium extends to collage on canvas and board, using acrylic mixed with high‐end latex. The works feature words in English, Spanish, or French that allude to history, poetry, and opinion. Saucedo calls her style "visual art narrative." She's interested in exploring the internal and external, mind and matter, and presenting interiors at a close distance, "like the stories we hold within ourselves," she says. Having a studio in The Silos on Sawyer since 2016 has escalated her productivity and focus. "You never want to be the smartest person in the room," she says. "I'm fortunate to have talent all around me at Sawyer Yards. We collaborate, discuss our work, and bounce ideas off each other." As for the future, "I'll keep focusing on what I enjoy—color, shape, writing, and collaboration," she says. "Thinking bigger is better," she believes, "and failure is better than never trying." —Margaret Young 33

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