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Meet AJ (Alice) Ha

Hi AJ, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
It all started with forbidden white plaster walls and cheap, waxy crayons. I remember vandalizing my homework booklets and classroom textbooks with aggressive doodles that always got me in trouble. I used to get scolded for focusing my energy on “a useless hobby” but deep down I knew it was the right way for me, and I was adamant on proving it. It took a lot of research, effort, and tears to get to where I am today. It was difficult making decisions that seemed to go against the grain in my family, but in the end I was fully supported. To be able to pursue my passion and lifeline is a privilege and honor that I am proud to carry on.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Absolutely not. Despite being aware at a very young age of what I wanted to do, I come from a very traditional family household and my father wanted me to become someone important in society—in his words—like a doctor or lawyer. In his eyes, I was a “wild child,” constantly in some form of trouble, in which I released all my unkempt energy to art. There were countless destroyed sketchbooks and heated arguments between my father and me about his hopeless dreams of my potential success. But I was stubborn as hell and continued to prove to him that this was the road I wanted to pursue. My father still had his doubts, however, my mother encouraged me to do what I wanted (and I will be forever grateful for that). I spent a couple of years in community college right after high school before getting accepted into ArtCenter College of Design, where I continued pursuing what I love. Being surrounded by so many talented creatives was definitely intimidating, followed by countless deadlines and chronic insomnia. However, in the end, I believe my struggles were never present in vain and instead are recognized as unforgettable milestones that has shaped me into who I am today.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about you’re your work?
I am an illustrator and designer who specializes in surface design. The term “surface design” is a bit of a broad description, often used to imply textile design or wall decor, however it has evolved into a more innovative field. Simply put, surface design signifies “any surface, any design”, where designers introduce a range of creative concepts onto all surfaces. Back in 2019, I went on a study away program in London and presented a collaborative installation of painted cardboard boxes with ten other amazing artists. We each painted our own interpretations of Los Angeles on the five visible sides of the boxes. As someone who was born and raised in Los Angeles, I found myself submerged in a vibrant palette in a sleepless city. I was often told that my art reminded them of something nostalgic yet a bit melancholic despite the “pretty colors”. I realized that I often left a piece of myself in all of my art, no matter how big or small. As a passion-driven designer, being able to express underlying emotions in my work to the viewer is humbly gratifying.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
Consistency and the slightest pinch of pessimism. It’s easy to be disheartened by a bad critique or being turned down for a job you really wanted. However, giving up is never the option for me (and if you low-key expect the worst, then whatever is the outcome doesn’t faze you as much). Consistency doesn’t equate to blind persistence. There are many situations where I must adjust and adapt for the better. I consider a failure to be an opportunity to improve, and by doing so, I am doing what I love.

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