Once upon a time there were a brother and a sister who loved art. Together with their parents, they formed a local art collective called Holycrap.sg. “We (husband Pann Lim and herself) both love art, design, ideas, movies, music, and I suppose we knew no other way to raise our kids than through these disciplines,” said their mother, Claire.
The children, Renn, 12, and Aira, nine, created an exhibition — When Renndom Met Airany — about growing up together, and about their inspirations. This was to be exhibited in a cafe-cum-gallery at the newly opened National Gallery Singapore last November.
However, the exhibition had to be taken down as the method of presentation was not approved by the National Gallery. The young artists have since bounced back from that incident and have come back stronger than ever, with their exhibition art book going on sale at Goodman Arts Centre last week. We caught up with their mum, 41-year-old Claire, to get a peek into her life as an artsy mother of two!
Why did you decide to start Holycrap.sg?
It was Pann who came up with this ‘crazy’ idea! Late one night in 2011, right before we were about to fall asleep, Pann suddenly started a conversation with me about how he was always meeting students and other creatives, giving talks and sharing with them the insights into creativity and design. He felt bad that he wasn’t doing the same for our kids.
He felt it was time for the two of us to embark on some kind of a ‘project’ with Renn and Aira. Since they were young, both the kids have loved drawing, painting, doodling and day-dreaming (a very important aspect of their creativity) so it made sense to gather all their energy into something more tangible. We wanted something the whole family could get involved with and create more memories together.
How has becoming a parent changed you?
Now that I have been a parent for the last 12 years, using the word ‘changed’, is odd because it is not like I have become another person, different from who I was before. Being a mom has been nothing short of amazing and feeling blessed as I believe that it has made me want to be better, to be stronger, to simply be there wholeheartedly for Renn and Aira.
What’s a typical family day or weekend like?
Weekends are super precious and important to us because that is when the kids get to have Daddy around all day. In Pann’s line of work (he is the creative director of Kinetic Design and Advertising), the hours are long and if they are lucky, he will get to tuck them into bed. If not, they only get to see him in the morning when we send the kids to school. We love spending time at home, watching movies, and cooking.
But since we started our art collective back in 2011, most of our weekends are also dedicated to art, with the kids painting a lot when they are preparing for their yearly art exhibition. Or we could be busy brainstorming, writing stories, and designing for our bi-annual family magazine, Rubbish.
What have you learnt about yourself as a parent?
I am still constantly learning everyday. Growing up with Renn and Aira, to be the person who is meant to guide them, nurture them, love them and discipline them is overwhelming but in the best ways possible.
Even when things get rough, like when they behave badly, talking back to me, not doing what they are told, I embrace all that as much as the good times and moments. It is like we are feeding off each other everyday, so I am learning from Renn and Aira as much as they are learning from me.
How do you get your children to strike a balance between school and their artistic endeavors?
Pann and I have a very simple rule. All we want from them is to put in their utmost best in everything they do.
Of course every parent would love to see their child be a top student but we have never placed any expectations on them since the day Renn started primary school. Even when we saw that he was struggling with his studies, we did not start him on tuition till much later.
Many might argue that could have ‘harmed’ him further (in terms of studies), but this was the ‘balance’ we believed in. We made it very clear to both Renn and Aira that as long as we know they had put in their best, their grades really did not matter because there is something much more important than academic performance, and that would have to be what their heart is made of.
What’s the most interesting thing that happened while producing When Renndom Met Airany?
Building the When Renndom Met Airany art catalog has been nothing short of hysteria! Our tables and floor were littered with papers and books. With hundreds of inserts and over 200 staples going into each book, it took us over half an hour to put together just one catalog! And we had to make 400 of them! But we absolutely loved the entire process, with the four of us sitting together and getting things done by hand.
What’s your takeaway from the National Gallery incident?
There was plenty to learn from the incident at the National Gallery Singapore. Even for us adults, the blow was quite hard to stomach. So it was rather traumatic for Renn and Aira when we had to break the news to them. The look of shock and disbelief in their eyes shocked me actually.
The first thing they said before breaking down was “What did we do wrong? Why did they have to remove our art work?” For days after that, they occasionally still asked if they did something wrong and whether they could go back to Gallery & Co.
But I fully embrace all that happened because such bumps in the road are just as important as the awesome moments. Renn and Aira may be kids and they may not fully comprehend all that had taken place and why.
But I believe they still learnt many important lessons such as integrity, graciousness, compassion and yes, grit! The determination to carry on with heads held high, to look forward to the next step, to continue doing what they love despite the knocks. Along with their blood, sweat and hours put into Holycrap, this simply shows that we are in this together for good!
How would you describe your parenting style?
I never thought of having any particular ‘style’ or ‘method’ when I became a mom. But I suppose I knew instinctively that I would constantly evolve and grow along with my kids; adapting and trying my best to be in sync with Renn and Aira’s own traits and personalities.
The most important aspect for me as a parent is always for both parents be on the same page with all matters pertaining (especially when it comes to disciplining) to the kids. The children must never feel that one parent loves them more than the other and similarly they must never have the impression that one parent will always ‘play nice’ and the other is the ‘law-enforcer’. Pann and myself discipline and love them in unison.
“The best thing about being a parent is…”
“…receiving unconditional love from your children.”
Images courtesy of Claire Lim.