Family time is taxing and tiring, but it’s also a highly creative affair for the Lims. On most weekends, the Singaporean foursome—creative director Pann, homemaker Claire, 11-year-old son Renn, and eight-year-old daughter Aira—can be found at home, creating together as family art collective Holycrap. Renn and Aira’s playful drawings and paintings, and the family’s heartfelt biannual zine, Rubbish, have warmed many hearts and even won them Singapore’s top creative award. We recently got in touch to talk about their love for making art and design together as a family.
Why did you decide to get involved in art-making as a family?
Claire: Holycrap literally started one night in 2011 before we were heading to bed. Pann said he was always meeting students, other creatives, giving talks, and sharing with them the insights into creativity, design, etc., and he was feeling really bad that he wasn’t doing the same for our kids. We both love art, design, ideas, movies, music, and we know no other way to raise our kids than through these disciplines. We also enjoy the whole process of everyone working together, sharing ridiculous ideas, talking rubbish, feeling happy and sometimes frustrated, while trying to meet the deadlines of our projects. No words can describe how much closer we’ve become as a family after Holycrap was formed.
How does each project come about? What roles do each of you play?
Claire: For every issue, we sit down as a family and discuss the content we have at hand and how we can use it for our coming zine. Pann will always be the designer and creative director on the projects. He also does most of the photography. But for our first zine, Google Translating Tokyoto, Renn and Aira also contributed a fair bit of photography. As for me, other than helping Pann out on some of the design aspects, I do most of the writing. I also encourage Renn and Aira to write their feelings down as I feel that this is another great way for them to express themselves. The latest issue, For Ever And A Day, was really quite a crazy undertaking, as we suddenly felt this need to try to compile as many ‘lost’ moments we had with the kids. We’d been toying with the idea of a time capsule for a couple of years already, but never got around to doing it. But now, with Renn and Aira being older, it was amazing to hear all their ideas and contributions to our time capsule and zine.
Aira: I do like giving ideas and find it relaxing while I brainstorm. Doing For Ever And A Day is very special to me because it reminds me about all the awesome times I had with my family.
Renn: I like to contribute weird ideas and I also always love doing the paintings and doodles. I love the time spent discussing For Ever And A Day because we had more quality time together, especially with daddy.
What’s it like working as a family? Tell me one thing you’ve learned about one another.
Pann: We’re all wired differently and the beautiful part of our project is the ability to work seamlessly together while sorting out our differences.
Claire: Working together with my most favorite people in this world is nothing short of amazing. You can accept each and everyone’s quirks and nonsense because they can accept and love mine, too.
Aira: I learned that cooperation is the way to go because working together as a family is part of learning. And knowing that no matter how annoying it can be sometimes when we don’t agree with each other, it is still very fun to work together.
Renn: I learned that everyone has their own ways and it’s not easy to create projects together. Sometimes we can argue with each other when we don’t agree on the same thing. But we still learn how to work things out.
Were there instances when you got tired juggling art and life?
Pann: I find it hard to be tired about my passion. It’s easier for me to go all the way for something I love.
Renn: When my dad rejects my work, I have less confidence in myself. But I do feel that it’s good because I know I have to improve on my work. I have also learned how to stand up for my work and how to explain it to dad and mom.
How has Holycrap influenced other aspects of your life?
Claire: There’s definitely less time for “leisure” stuff. For example, we can’t go out with friends as often, especially during weekends when we have deadlines to meet. And the kids had to forgo many friends’ birthday parties. We do feel bad about it and we explain to them why, but I’m very thankful that they’ve never been angry or throw tantrums.
Renn: I definitely learned more about discipline and empathy. I care more for others and how they feel. In school, I think I’m more disciplined. For example, I talk less in class, pay more attention to my teachers, and ask more questions.
Aira: I learned about commitment to working well with others, whether in school or at home. In school when we work on class projects in groups, I listen to my friends, and when they argue I try to stop them. I also learned how to be more patient because I’ve always been quite impatient. Mommy says I can’t sit still for long. But now I can!
Are you surprised a personal, family project has become an award-winning art collective today?
Pann: We never planned or anticipated us being an award-winning art collective. From the beginning we knew we’d always put out our best for all our projects; if not all the time and money spent would be wasted. It’s a discipline that I believe in. Claire and I have always explained this philosophy and our work ethic to Renn and Aira from day one. If we can make the project better and still have time to make the project better, why not make the project better? I guess we didn’t expect all the support from friends and strangers alike. So now, even more than ever, we will continue to work hard at what we do as a family.
The famzines are like personal family scrapbooks shared with the public. How do you juggle this line between growing up as family and an art collective?
Pann: We never thought they were two separate entities to begin with. We only share stuff that we feel is within our comfort zone. And as with everything we do, we definitely have Renn and Aira contribute their views and ideas, too. We brainstorm altogether and discuss topics that mean something to us. These days, with social media, sharing has become more acceptable. And we can also learn a lot from sharing with others as we take in their opinions and views.
I read that you have high benchmarks when selecting works by Renn and Aira. How do you handle rejection with them?
Pann: I think I’m very stringent towards myself when it comes to doing things. So if I can be selective with myself, why not share this discipline with the kids? Claire knows I can be strict, but she understands where I come from and the both of us always try to agree on our views before sharing them with Renn and Aira. I will never “reject” their work outright without explanation. I’ll show them three pieces of their work and ask them to choose their first choice, and the other two will automatically be less impressive. The kids then learn, too, how to be selective with their work. Nevertheless, they’re still kids, and at times they feel very sad or don’t understand why. Every day is a learning process for all four of us. This is simply how we approach our work and projects. Even for our zines, I’ll design maybe ten covers and the family will shortlist it to three and then to the final one.
Has the public spotlight affected Renn and Aira in anyway?
Pann: Nothing out of the ordinary that we’ve noticed. They’re still the same fun, cheeky, and naughty kids. For them, they just know that this is something special we do together as a family. And this whole art collective is like playing and jamming in an art and design band. We constantly remind the kids that we’ll always do this together. But if one day, should any of them decide to stop or have no more interest to pursue art, it’s also all right. Then daddy and mommy will carry with on this. We just hope that they’ll find another passion and pursue that with the same fervor and dedication.
What’s next for Holycrap?
Pann: We’re planning to launch Rubbish famzine issue four by early second quarter of 2015, and probably one small art exhibition before Renn’s PSLE exams [a major national entrance examination to high school in Singapore]. Basically, we’ll continue doing what we’ve always been doing: having fun!