As the sun peeks through her window blinds, sophomore Hana Krieger groggily gets out of bed and stumbles toward her desk. Facing a day full of isolation, Zoom calls and Schoology assignments, she sets her computer aside and reaches for her makeup palette instead.
In the past two months, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to shelter-in-place orders across the U.S., the shutdown of various businesses and public spaces and closed down schools. With the increase in free time and anxiety during these uncertain times, many students have turned to various creative outlets to cope with their quarantine.
Designing a Better Mindset
From DIY mask-crafters to participants in Billy Porter’s quarantine challenge, fashion has been a common outlet for students, with Krieger being one of Paly’s student fashionistas.
Krieger said she relies on her passion for fashion to keep herself entertained and motivated by continuing to assemble and design outfits even while stuck at home.
“Usually certain (clothing) pieces inspire me,” Krieger said. “I’ll take that piece and center the entire outfit around it… Having the right accessories, hair, and makeup can really put (an outfit) together. (As for design,) I typically take thrifted clothes that I think could be cute with alterations and cut them up.”
Kreiger said dressing up helps her start off her day productively, especially regarding her academics.
“I struggle with depression and one of the biggest motivations for me going to school is being able to wear cute outfits,” Krieger said. “It helps me be in a better mindset… (and) my brain associates dressing up with school and productivity.”
Krieger said she has also been practicing new makeup looks inspired by social media and the color stories of different eyeshadow palettes.
“I love playing with color and creating,” Krieger said. “I’ll either go monochromatic or complementary… I really like editorial makeup but it’s also annoying to do on an everyday basis.”
Sophomore Jasmine Kapadia said makeup is a source of motivation for her as well.
“I feel like a lot of the time, it’s so easy to get up and fall into the rhythm of watching YouTube all day,” Kapadia said. “So if I take the time out of my day in the morning to go through skincare and do a little bit of makeup, it’s definitely something that can change up (my mindset) and make me feel better and more motivated.”
With his newfound free time, sophomore Siddhant Amberkar joined in on the trend, teaming up with his parents and sister to try out various recipes.
“I’ve always (liked) to bake, but now I can do it a lot more,” Amberkar said. “I’ve taken up making sourdough bread, which is a pretty big challenge, and baking cakes. We (also) tried making pasta for the first time.”
Two other student bakers are freshman Caroline Zhang and junior Edward Zhang. Caroline said she started teaching herself to bake during her quarantine.
“I’ve baked cupcakes, I’ve made bread, and I’ve made crepes,” Caroline said. “(For) Mother’s Day, I made my mom a cake; it was really fun. It’s something that I normally wouldn’t have the time to do.”
Edward said cooking has helped him develop more patience and contributed to his art as well.
“I feel like cooking is the type of thing where you’re never gonna get it the first time,” Edward said. “You have to keep on trying over and over again. Through cooking, I realized that if you take the time to do each step perfectly, step-by-step, the outcome is totally worth all that patience. I think that’s also helped me with my art, since I’ve taken more time to just think about what to draw and what to paint, what message I want in my art… I feel like my art’s been more matured through cooking, in a sense.”
Amberkar said his culinary experimentation has helped him relieve stress and bond with his family members.
“It makes me feel better to finish making food because you can enjoy it and feel good about yourself,” Amberkar said. “That’s nice, especially without social interaction.”
Couplets, Cameras and Career-Starters
The shelter-in-place order has restricted the limits of photography, forcing Kapadia and Krieger to find creative ways to continue their hobby.
“I do portrait photography, but due to social distancing, I can’t do it,” Krieger said. “Yes, there are self-timer shoots, but they aren’t the same. I don’t like taking photos of myself, (and) I’m not able to manipulate the shot… Now I’m becoming an exclusive earring photographer.”
Kapadia has turned to writing more poetry instead.
“Because I’m not communicating as much to other people, poetry is another way to express my feelings,” Kapadia said. “Instead of talking to my friends and working directly through that way, it’s just me and a piece of paper, and I’ll work through (my feelings) that way.”
Kapadia said she combined her passion for poetry and photography with a project in which she projected her poems “mutt” and “damn,” onto herself while her mother took photos of it. She also said that her poetry often involves coming to terms with her own ethnicity, which has been particularly relevant recently due to the rise of xenophobia, harassment and hate crimes towards the Asian community brought by COVID-19.
“Being multicultural, my ethnicity is always something that I grappled with,” Kapadia said. “I am Chinese, and it’s interesting reckoning with the fact that there’s a lot of racism going around right now and trying to look at my ethnicity as not a bad thing, trying to find positive things and reassure myself with (them).”
She said she started the project after local poetry slams were cancelled due to the stay at home order.
“I’ve always liked to perform my poems to give them another layer,” Kapadia said. “Since I couldn’t do that, I decided to try working them into photos and breathe some new life into them.”
Meanwhile, sophomore Colleen Wang said she has also taken to writing during her quarantine, finishing her novella, “Roses Watered by a Robot’s Tears” (now available on Amazon in both physical and digital form).
“It’s set in the distant future, where humanity has progressed a lot with AI,” Wang said. “It’s a story about a robot being allowed to learn feelings and how that affects its life and the lives of people around them.”
Wang said her main inspiration was a presentation by Kai-Fu Lee that she attended during her freshman year, which got her thinking about the future of AI.
“Another source of inspiration for me to write the book was the left-behind children in China,” Wang said. “I was thinking of possible solutions to this problem… AI (and) missing parental guidance (led to a) robot mom idea.”
She said she plans to pursue a career as an author.
“This is just the beginning,” Wang said. “I’m really excited to write more and probably bring it to actual printing publishers.”
In order to maintain her mental wellbeing and express her emotions about the pandemic, Caroline said she turned to watercolor and digital art.
“I’ve been drawing my thoughts and feelings in a log, and I do it every day,” Caroline said. “The hope is that by the end of the quarantine, I can look back at how I felt during this time period.”
Caroline said she decided to extend her logging method to others in the form of a website where members of the Paly community can send in their thoughts and feelings regarding their quarantine experience and have their responses displayed on the site.
“Through this website, I hope people come together and recognize that we’re in this together,” Caroline said. “There’s a lot of shared feelings throughout the quarantine. A lot of people (shared) that it’s helpful to have this time alone… and (that they) have been learning new hobbies and new things. It’s also like a time capsule; after this time period passes, people can go back to the website and see how people thought.”
Freshman Sean Sun said he picked up graphing calculator art, which helped him handle anxiety regarding his grades and the pandemic. So far, he has drawn art of various fictional characters and popular memes, each drawing taking about ten to 20 minutes to complete.
“I was exploring with my graphing calculator during one of my breaks in between my homework sessions and started doodling,” Sun said. “I came up with a drawing and decided to make more. My process… is first getting a reference image and trying to follow the lines to make a pixelated version of the image.”
Edward tried sculpting in addition to traditional art, while Colleen and Faustine have mainly stuck to digital art, with Faustine experimenting with oil paint as well.
“It’s my way of relaxing,” Edward said. “I also have a lot more time now so I can focus on creating a portfolio.”
Helping the Community with Creativity
Edward and Faustine have taken their interests even further, creating their own organizations to help the community through their art.
Edward co-founded the clothing brand CX Apparel with two friends — fellow juniors Joyce Lin and Jeremy Huang — at the beginning of the Santa Clara stay at home order. The brand donates its profits to Palo Alto charities, including the Ecumenical Hunger Program. They’ve donated $100 so far and plan to donate $400-500 after collecting the money from their new hoodie sales.
“The base inspiration was basically just coming from two things,” Edward said. “One was being part of (the Youth Community Service Club) and being able to work with EHP, (which made me realize) how important it is for a charity to exist in Palo Alto. The second thing was my friends because they’re very fashionable people, and they were the ones to give me the inspiration to start a clothing brand.”
As the creative director of CX Apparel, Edward said he creates the designs and guides the company in terms of their artistic themes. Despite the social isolation, the three juniors have managed to work together from the safety of their own homes.
“We FaceTime each other and talk about what’s our next theme for our next release,” Edward said. “Then we pick what (type of) apparel we want to design … Based on that, I start drawing designs that surround the theme. We go through each design and pick the ones we like… We (then) pick the colors… and that’s how it goes into our store.”
Edward said he has plans for the growth of CX Apparel after quarantine ends.
“Hopefully it is going to get bigger, because more people will feel comfortable buying our clothes and we can actually deliver them,” Edward said. “We have a lot of people who’ve bought our T-shirts who are not from Palo Alto, but we can’t deliver to them due to shelter-in-place restrictions. Once this whole thing is over, we’ll be able to actually make it bigger and donate to all over the Bay Area.”
In late April, Faustine and BASIS Independent Silicon Valley senior Sasha Afroz co-founded Artruism, an initiative of student artists who are trading their art to raise money for those who are in need.
“We have decided that we’re going to have a different (organization) for each month,” Faustine said. “For May, we’re donating to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, because due to the quarantine, a lot of domestic service workers are being laid off, and they don’t have a source of income. We are (now) moving onto supporting (Black Lives Matter) for June.”
To support Artruism, people can donate to their chosen organization, send the proof of the donation through Artruism’s Google form and commission the artists for various types of artwork depending on the amount they donated. Artists can also join their team and help draw the commissions in exchange for volunteer hours. They’ve raised $472 out of their $1000 goal so far.
“I think it’s great to know that through different ways we can help out during quarantine, even with art,” Faustine said. “Just knowing something I can do can help other people, it’s nice to have that.”