Have faith, take flight – a specially commissioned art for my little girl

I’ve always loved art. As a mum of 3, I count it a privilege to explore art with the kids and to discover colours, swishes and blobs anew. It gives me a chance to experience this essential aspect of childhood that I remember fondly all over again.

Vera also loves art. She lives and breathes in make-believe worlds of doodles and paints. Much of her free time daily is spent doing art with her fingers, and dabbling in crafts. It’s a bonding activity that I enjoy with her, like a special language shared between us.

As Vera was going to move into her own “big girl” room, I decided to commission an art piece for her new room. When I chanced upon this Penang-based artist, I was taken by her simple yet captivating style, that has such a child-like and innocent quality. I knew that she would be the perfect partner to create a unique and original watercolour painting for Vera.

I started a conversation with Yong Yee on The Commissioned’s website. In my note to her, I described the purpose and message behind the art work I was hoping to create.

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She followed up with some questions about Vera: What is her favorite dress? Does she have a pet? What’s her favorite book? I felt that this process enabled us to clarify and discuss ideas and also helped her have a better understanding of Vera. I also sent her a picture of Vera in her favourite blue dress.

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A couple of days later, she sent a sketch for my feedback / approval. I told her I loved the forest setting, and then asked if she could lengthen the hair of the fairy girl, as Vera has shoulder-length hair.

A day or two later, colour had been added to the piece! It was exciting to see!

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Every couple of days, I received an update to the piece. It was really interesting to watch the details get added to the piece.

I was also thankful that Yong Yee was really open to hear my ideas. Three-quarters into the piece, I asked if it was possible to add some rays of light from the sky. She considered my request and actually managed to pull it off really nicely!

After I approved the final painting, all that was left to do was to fill in the “story” component of the art piece.

The story then accompanies the artwork in a gallery text card. It’s also in the virtual gallery that has a unique URL for me to be able to share the piece with friends.

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Here’s a closer look at the different elements of the painting. I just love all the little details that Yong Yee put in the piece.

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Now the painting sits happily in Vera’s new room. And it’ll greet her each morning when she wakes up, or when she reads at her desk.

My prayer is that it will continue to inspire her in the days, months and years to come. To know and explore and use the gifts that God has given her, to fulfill His marvelous plans and purposes for her life.

commissioned watercolour art

Commissioning an art piece was fuss-free, inspiring, and fun. I never really knew how my idea would translate into a painting, until I saw it unfold before my eyes.

Being able to give my input along the way, and to see it materialise in the artwork itself was also very enriching. Through the experience, I’ve come to appreciate artists and the unique work that they do even more.

Would you commission a work of art? If so what would it be and who would you give it to?

 

PS. I contribute articles and tell stories on The Commissioned’s blog, in between taking care of the kids. However, the decision to commission a work of art was solely mine, as with my opinions too. And yes, I paid for the piece – the total cost was around $200 (excluding shipping as I got a friend to bring it back from Penang for me). :)

The art of gift-wrapping

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been on a learning roll. And I thoroughly feel like a learning mum…Hmm, hey what am I saying, all mums are learning mums, we learn best on the job right?

To give my creative brain cells a jiggle, I attended a gift-wrapping course with Jane Means recently, and it turned out to be pretty fun (pun intended) with ribbons and paper and old-fashioned music scores.

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Jane was a lovely host, and she shared many helpful tips on how to get the wrapping right, and ALSO…how to make the gift EXTRA EXTRA special for that SUPER special someone.

Here are some tips and ideas that stuck in my head:

1) Always stick the end of the paper at the edge of the box or the present (with double-sided tape), so that you have an invisible seam-line. (I used to just stick it right in the centre of the gift box, or leaning towards one side.)

2) Once you’ve taped the wrapping paper together, crease the line edges of the box by pressing your two fingers down every edge (think of it as the four outer corners of the box). This will help you get a clean wrapped silhouette.

3) Think about embellishments, paper design, matching / contrasting colours when you’re gift-wrapping. It’s surprising how the daily bits and bobs you have lying around at home might actually come in handy. Like these loose buttons that help to hold a pinwheel or the music score flower together, and complete the look.

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4) Wired ribbons are great to create luxurious bows. Mix up gold and any other rich and deep colour, and you get a lovely luscious bow.

5) Japanese pleats are a simple and great way to dress up any boring gift or wrapping paper! (If you want to add oomph, just make it in a fan shape by making diagonal folds on both ends of the wrap.

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She also taught us how to make gift bags from scratch. These are quite fun to do and would save you some money the next time you have an odd-shaped gift to give away.

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Here’s my favourite embellishment. Music score flowers! Just use a strip of the score, and divide it into 4 squares. You’ll also need a thin craft wire and a button.

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Step 1: Fold the square into a triangle, then fold it again.

Step 2: Hold it with the long side up, then fold it in half again.

Step 3: Now with the short side up, fold it in half. (You’ll get a shape that looks a tad like an aeroplane.)

Step 4: Holding the pointy end, use a pair of scissors to cut a round shape off the top.

Step 5: Repeat with all the other squares. Except make your final cut bigger with each piece, so that you get varying sizes of flower petals.

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What I really liked about the 4-hour course is that she didn’t spend half the session harping on how to get the perfect ribbon. (It actually did cross my mind that it could be a session where I’m supposed to master the art of ribbon tying.) On the contrary, she left the ribbon right tothe end, and gave us all helpful tips on how to tie if you’re a double-loop tyer, or a single one. So there isn’t only ONE way to tie a ribbon! “It’s quite simple,” she said, “just practise.”

Here’s my imperfect ribbon, a glorious red one, if I may add. With a bit more practice, it should be all good. The trick is the tuck the tails how you want it, BEFORE you tighten the knot. ;)

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I really love this finish too – the tailored bow ribbon. It’s really simple to do. Here’s a tutorial. (PS. The image on the right below was a capture of Jane’s new book Giftwrapped. Love the lace detail!)

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The session has also inspired me to put a bit more thought into my gifts, and the way they are presented. These pretty and simple ideas will definitely come in handy when Christmas season hits.

But you know what, I learnt something bigger too. I learnt that creativity isn’t about perfection. It’s about being bold and experimental; it’s about taking risks and just giving it a go anyway; it’s about having fun and expressing yourself.

Being mums and dads is stressful business. Injecting a bit of fun and creativity in my daily life helps me keep the stress in check.

Get more info on Jane’s Singapore courses here, or more of her gift-wrapping ideas here.

I was provided a complimentary session with Jane for the purpose of this review. All photos and opinions are mine.

What we lose when we compare

A friend of mine related this story to me.

A boy was sitting at the back of the car and telling his mother that he scored a 98 for his math paper.

His mother asked two questions. Where did you lose the 2 marks?

Then, how many marks did so-and-so get?

It was initially a celebratory moment, for the boy at least. But the parent, rather unfortunately chose to focus on the lost marks.

The world is moving at a break-neck speed, and parents all around the world are rushing their children to the next level of academic or social excellence.

As I read reports about how children are requiring mental health beds and how teen suicide rates are rising globally, I worry. I worry about my own kids, and how stress from their school, their peers, and even sometimes from us parents ourselves, will affect them later in life.

Performance stress comes from all fronts, but the worst of them all exudes from within.

The feeling that I’ll never be good enough…

As parents, we often wonder if we’re doing enough for our children, if they have enough to occupy their time and curious hands, if we’ve purchased the latest gadgets and technology for them to be able to keep up.

But our children’s grades are not a measure of our performance as parents.

And life isn’t one big race.

Since when did the human generation move forward by simply pitting ourselves head on with another one of our kind?

What happened to those good old values such as collaboration, helping the weaker ones among us, and leveling the field so that even those from less privileged backgrounds can rise to the occasion?

What really happens when we’re busy comparing ourselves (and our kids’ achievements) with others?

  • We miss out on the opportunity to be grateful for what we have.
  • We miss out on the opportunity to celebrate how much we’ve grown (relative to a year or two ago).
  • We also miss out on the opportunity to truly connect with, and make new friends.

If we the supposedly wiser ones, are unable to clearly differentiate between the things that matter and the things that don’t, how do we expect the young ones to do the same in their later years?

Here are some tips on how not to get caught up in the comparison game.

  1. Know what’s essential, stop focusing on what’s not. Character is more essential than grades; attitude is more important than ability. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that we allow our children to slack in their work, or not give two hoots about tests and assignments. Of course we still encourage them to give their best in every endeavour.
  2. Look at your child as an individual, appreciate her strengths and be honest about her weaknesses. Focus your energies on growing her in her strengths, build confidence from there, and then help her along in the areas of weakness.
  3. Recognise that academics are just one part of her personhood. Academic excellence doesn’t automatically make one successful. (Many of the most successful people I know did not ace their studies in school / did not even attend university.) Focus on building her character, self-esteem, emotional intelligence, and help her cultivate a passion about something – these are important factors to achieving success in life as well. This will help you raise well-rounded and secure children.
  4. Don’t parent from a position of fear. Don’t focus on your fears or your own failures. Rather learn to be secure with yourself and where your child is at. Focus on growth and learning; these will serve you and the generations after you, for life.
  5. Communicate that your love is not dependent on her achievements. Your love is unconditional. Knowing this will help remove the fear of failure from your child’s life.
  6. Build the soft skills too – like building friendships, teaching empathy and encouraging creativity in daily life. In this article on creativity, the author wrote that “Engaging in the creative process is a great confidence builder, because you discover that failure is part of the process.” That says it all, doesn’t it? Creativity is truly a gift that never stops giving.

When we compare, we lose the moments that are worth celebrating.We lose the opportunity to affirm our child for who he is and a chance to grow a grateful heart.

When we compare, we hinder our ability to rejoice with a friend’s success and to build stronger relationships; we forget to be teachable and humble.

When we compare, we create an atmosphere of insecurity, a culture of comparison. Our children grow up thinking, I’m not lovable, or I’ll never be good enough…

I don’t think that’s what we truly want for our kids.

What do you do to remind yourself not to compare?