Sally lives in Singapore and very recently published her first book, Find and Seek Singapore.. already one of our favourites and also a big hit amongst customers of the Bloesem shop.
Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, blogs?
My favourite daily online inspiration is without doubt the designfiles.net, I am a huge fan of creator Lucy Feagins as she always presents amazing original content from Australia and it keeps me in the loop as to what is going on at home - it often makes me a bit homesick as well as giving me house envy. I do follow several art/design/interiors/fashion and mommy blogs – notably jessicacomingore.com, joannagoddard.blogspot.sg, garancedore.fr, lovetaza.com, ohjoyblogs.com and my sister’s blog dianaellinger.com (of whom I am always in awe). Locally I love lilreddotfolks, woolfworks.wordpress.com, and of course bloesem.blogs.com.
I am inspired not just by aesthetics but by how people live with family and particularly by creative women in business.
I have always collected picture books as beautiful objects – whether they be architecture or artist monographs, cook books, or children’s picture books, old or new. Book shops are a must – Basheer Graphic Books in the Bras Basah Complex is a treasure trove of inspiration for me. Books are what I love and what I create, so they are what constantly inspire me. I am also an avid consumer of magazines, my favorites at the moment are Peppermint, Frankie and Habitus.
When I work I often listen to podcasts such as Grace Bonney’s ‘After the Jump’, the Creative Mornings Lecture Series, or a great TED talk. Music is also a great motivator for me.
What are your children’s favorite items in your house?
I realize that my boys are both quite different in personality and are attracted to different things. They also seem to go through stages of favoring certain ways of play. My eldest Rupert(5) loves dressing up and being ‘the character’ (rather than playing with a figurine), and at the moment he is into being Robin Hood with as many swords/bows and arrows he can get his hands on. He will customize belts into holsters – or stick his sword straight down his pants to get the desired effect, he will wear his sweaty velvetine suit all day if I let him. He has also come to really enjoy playing UNO and board games such as junior Monopoly, and enjoys collecting swap cards.
David(3) will generally tag along with what Rupert is doing, however I have noticed that when he is on his own he has more patience for drawing and painting, taking his time to colour and is good at tinkering away by himself. He is also very in to animals and is almost maternal with his soft cuddly dog collection.
They both love books and reading has always been part of the bedtime routine (to the point where 2 year old Rupert would not go to sleep unless I read 6 books!).
How do you like to celebrate birthdays and other special days in your house?
We see it as a good excuse to invite our kid’s friends and their parents over for lots of yummy food (usually a bbq with lots of salads) and make a cake (kids are easily pleased in this department) and have a good time – lots of kids dancing and running around, a sprinkler on the lawn is always a hit. Simple pleasures.
What are your all time favorite books for children?
I have lots of favorites from when I was a kid – Would You Rather by John Birmingham, Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake, as well as a beautiful and well thumbed Treasury of Animal Stories that my parents still have at their place. Anthony Browne’s books (Gorilla, Changes) were intriguing to me as a young girl and equally both my boys will ask for his books over and over again.
I remember reacting to certain picture books as a child – noticing how colour might bleed off a page, the shock of negative space, dark versus light, the interaction of the text – having an awareness of how the dynamics of the layout can contribute to whether the story visually is memorable. And this is something I think about when I design now. The overall package of the book is also significant.
You also can’t go past a well-crafted story written in verse such as anything by Julia Donaldson – my kids love all her books.
Tell us about your book. What inspired you to write it?
Taking some time off from my work as a designer and having my children really was a career catalyst of sorts. I found myself reading mountains of picture books to my kids and loving it again. Revisiting books I read as a child to my own children triggered a lot of memories of my early years and this sort of ‘sparked’ the germ of an idea to create Find and Seek Singapore.
Like other mums with littlies – you have plenty of time to think but not that much time to do. Taking that first step and starting the project was key, and staying committed to it was the challenge. So little by little I started to chip away at building the imagery of the book, forming a narrative about a boy who visits Singapore and discovers the sights, sounds and tastes of this amazing city that we infact live in.
I felt that there wasn’t a lot on the market that Celebrated Singapore through the eyes of a child. Having two very active boys that needed to be kept busy mostly outdoors meant we are always on the lookout for fun things to do, and our activities together was plenty of inspiration for the book.
Also, even though I was very happy and grateful to be taking a break from work to raise my children, I felt that I needed a creative outlet. I didn’t have enough time to commit to employment that required regular hours. So, I started working on the book partly to keep my brain working and creative skills evolving, and if nothing else to create a keepsake for my children of our time spent here in Singapore.
What movies do your children like to watch, is there one from your childhood you would love to show them?
They do enjoy watching movies although they do get scared quite easily (Lion King too scary mum). They both adored Frozen which was a pleasant change from the usual boy category. I really enjoyed watching Planes 2 with them for the amazing scenery around the world, quite spectacular. A firm favorite is Epic which features a fantastical world of characters of tiny ‘leaf men’ who fly around on birds wielding swords (so of course it is popular with Rupert).
I have introduced Rupert to E.T which was a hit and I would love to show him the The Never Ending Story.
How do your children prefer to spend their leisure time?
They both love being outside preferably with friends. We have some lovely parks in our neighborhood with no shortage of buddies to play with. They love riding their bikes or scooters, kicking a ball and sometimes flying a kite. They get very tetchy if they are inside for too long, and I always joke that they are ‘like dogs and need to have their daily walk’ (or run-around time outside).
The hose, water table and sand pit are also an endless supply of entertainment.
Where would you like to go to on vacation - with or without your children?
There are so many places I have on my wish list. We have been so lucky since moving to Singapore as we have had a lot of opportunity to travel – pre and post having kids. I would love to travel to Japan for a family skiing holiday.
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?
I am both. We cook all our meals with the occasional night out. I grew up on a farm where everything on our plate was mostly home grown, country life does tend to instill a love of food, particularly seasonal produce. My mum is a fantastic and very creative cook who never seems to tire of producing amazing food to feed the family – I sometimes get a bit stuck in a rut.
Books, websites, local shops you would recommend for tips and ideas about kids crafting?
You cant go past Spotlight and Art friend. Pinterest is an absolute goldmine.
Are you a crafter or DIY person?
I would say I am more a DIY person in terms of what we do with our house. I like using found and more eclectic pieces that may need a little TLC (I found an abandoned cane chest of drawers on Changi Road which I rescued and revived), we have a lot of second-hand furniture which I love for their charm and the story that is behind them. I enjoy working in the garden and our little vegie patch.
I put my ‘craft’ on with the kids when they are at a loss for something to do, we have a lot of art supplies – inks, paints, papers, stamps, beautiful pencils and chalks – some of which I used to create the textures of the illustrations in my book Find and Seek Singapore.
What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your children?
If we have an old box or large piece of cardboard they love painting it or re-purposing it to become something else – a boat, a city, an airport, or a crocodile. They also love cooking, so we often make banana cake together.
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ advice?
- babies need to feel secure in order to sleep
- boys need to be outside and move around every day
- keep putting the broccoli on the plate
- be consistent
- make time for you and your husband
- sometimes a bit of ‘quiet time’ (code:TV) is good for everyone!
- if else fails put on some music and dance
I lose my patients with them often and I am no expert, I am forever learning.
What is a normal day with your children? What do you do on the weekends?
On the weekends we usually go out somewhere as a family for breakfast. Places such as ‘Loysel’s Toy’ and ‘South Coast’ are fantastic as you can actually have a decent conversation, enjoy a good coffee and yummy eggs, whilst the kids have space to scoot around on their scooters/bikes. We then follow this with a walk around the surrounding area. The kids love Gardens by the Bay or the Botanical Gardens for a good run around. On Sundays we might have a bbq with our friends in the park.
What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?
The kids love to travel, so they are always up for getting on a plane and flying somewhere exciting (who doesn’t). We have also had some great family trips in the car into Malaysia, across on the ferry to Bintan, or even just exploring our own backyard here in Singapore – there is always more to exlpore.
If you are living in a foreign country, how do you feel about it? How do you meet new people, make new friends? What is it that you miss most about 'home’?
I have lived in Singapore for eight years now and I am still constantly amazed by what a fantastic opportunity it has been for me and my family – in work and play. It feels like I have lived through a few important life stages here.
I think that when you become an expat you become a lot better at making friends and connecting with people of all different cultures/ages/walks of life. I hope that when we eventually do go ‘home’ we will continue to create new friends and be ‘open’ and not just caught in our own ‘bubble’. We have made some amazing friends here who are from all around the world.
Whilst spending time at home in Australia with family is so precious we want to make the most of our time here and are far better off for the experience.
Thank you Sally for sharing your home and thoughts with us! ~ irene
- Grab your copy of Find and Seek Singapore