Share with us a fond childhood memory.
My grandma is a very strong and disciplined woman who headed the household. I remember she would stay up to complete her work before she went to bed. She ran her own home business sewing Malay wedding dresses, sarong kerbaya and baju kurungs. I can sew today because I grew up at the side of my grandma’s sewing machine. She has passed on for many years but I still use her Singer sewing machine today.
Do you have a role model or an influence who has shaped your life? Share with us more about them.
My two art teachers—Han Sai Por and Chng Seok Tin. Han Sai Por is my first formal art teacher who taught me at age 12. She sculpts with stones and I think she is the one who carved the love of art out of me, who would otherwise be just a very logical, uninteresting straight talker on a normal day. Chng Seok Tin was my art teacher when I was 18. She was a free spirited person who speaks her mind, and a very faithful human being. Despite her inability to see well, she saw life with so much more clarity as compared to many.
If you could walk in the shoes of a main character from any book, which protagonist would you choose?
Morrie Schwatz from Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie. I’m nothing like Morrie—he’s such an inspiration to me. But like Morrie, the idea of ‘being a teacher until the end’ resonates with me tremendously. I taught for 20 years before joining the museum sector, so I’m still very much a teacher at heart.
What house would the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter sort you into?
Ravenclaw. I love logical riddles and views of spectacular mountains. I used to hike up the Himalayas once a year. The mountains make us realise how vulnerable and insignificant humans are in this universe: that reality grounds us when ambition sets us high. The connection with nature is important for humans to be whole.
Growing up, what was your favourite fairy or folktale? Has it remained the same over the years?
The Elves and The Shoemaker—it still is my favourite. I’ve been a sucker for shoes since I remember wearing them. I don’t spend money on my clothes but I do when it comes to my shoes. I’m so obsessed with shoes that I learnt how to make my own!
What has art taught you?
To make aesthetic choices (laughs). To know your colours, contrast and patterns, not just in fashion, but in different turns of life.
The biggest change in your life this past year would be:
Coming to appreciate and rely on my team at work, and understanding that in life, all of us are just trying to do our best.