AUDI Q2 x SHENTONISTA: #Untaggable – Made By Hand

Ginette, Lecturer/Designer/Musician/DJ.
T-shirt from ASOS, skirt from Alice McCall, shoes from H&M, earrings from FrüFrü & Tigerlily, watch from Omega (mother’s).

In the vein of Audi’s new Q2, to be untaggable means to be undefinable; to mean different things to different people, or to be so good at so many things that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you do or who you are. With that approach in mind, our Audi Q2 x Shentonista campaign sees us speaking to four individuals who seem to be able to do it all—balancing different roles both at work and play, managing to stay on top of everything, and having the best of all worlds.

Ginette Chittick is no stranger to most. For years she’s been a mainstay in the local music scene, playing in numerous bands and also DJ-ing, but never one to be content, she’s also designed clothes and accessories; has lectured for over a decade; recently picked up weaving; and, closest to her heart, become a mother. Her effervescent nature lends itself well to the boundless energy that she requires in all her roles—whether it’s getting a crowd on its feet at a gig, inspiring the younger generation, or just ensuring that her young daughter gets all the attention she needs. We learn that Ginette is still very much a punk at heart: her hands-on, try-everything-once philosophy is something that she applies to all her roles and interests, and it’s this very spirit that makes her such an enduring inspiration.

Since you do so many different things perhaps you could tell us how you got started with each one. Before you became a lecturer you were a musician first…
When I was about 15 years old, I started going to jamming studios to hang out with friends and I got into an indie band called Cherry Wax. I was going out with the drummer but when he found a new girlfriend they kicked me out (bastards!). By then I’d made friends with these other girls who wanted to start a punk band. I didn’t know how to play any instrument—in Cherry Wax I was just a singer—but they were like, “Never mind, play the bass.” That’s how I picked it up. My friend just said, “Play whatever I point to”, so up till now I don’t know how to read music. I came up with my own numerical notations for the different notes I’m playing. We were the first girl punk band, Psycho Sonique, and from there we released demos and compilations and stuff. We made our own gigs and printed our own T-shirts. We also made zines because it’s such a part of the punk culture and we couldn’t find any literature that we related to, especially in Singapore. It was a very DIY experience.

How about DJ-ing?
I used to go to Home Club and my friends wanted to start a DJ collective there, and asked me to a part of it. I was like “Okay! But I don’t know how to DJ.” They said, “I’ll show you, just press this here, and press play.” The first few years was chaos; I didn’t know how to read the audience but we were lucky enough that people still came to dance. Over the years, I learnt how to mix things up a bit, but I’m still hesitant to say I’m a proper DJ or musician. I don’t want to do injustice to the people who’ve been training for this for so long.

When and why did you join LASALLE College of the Arts?
About 13 years ago. I’ve always wanted to teach and I had a lecturer named Dahlia back when I was a student myself at LASALLE College of the Arts. It was a whole new world to me because I didn’t enjoy secondary school; at LASALLE College of the Arts, they offered liberation in learning. Dahlia taught me printmaking and because of her style of lecturing, I wanted to be a lecturer too. I wasn’t sure if I could do it then, but I’m doing it now. As a Program Leader, I teach fewer hours—four days a week, so that’s a total of about 12 to 14 hours. The rest of the time is spent doing admin work or managing the program.

So why did you decide to start your own fashion label?
I’m not trained as a fashion designer, but aiyah just grab some Chinese seamstress auntie, lah. Of course it takes a longer time to get to the final destination if you’re not trained in the field, but if you want to do it, you definitely can. I just wanted to make things. I mean, my band, making zines and t-shirts, weaving, my fashion label…we just wanted to produce and do things together. It was not something we could live off but it’s very fulfilling.

What’s your weaving process like when you’re making something for a customer?
I start by asking them a few questions—for example, “Do you like geometric or organic shapes, or bright or muted colours?” If the person says they don’t know I’ll get them to look at my library of images, or I’d come up with a palette then send them a photograph. If they go “yay!”, then I start. If I’m really in the zone, I’ll take about four hours to do a standard piece. But sometimes I’ll have to unpick a section or add things to make it pop, then it might take longer. I used to weave at home but there’re a lot of fibres that fall out and I don’t want Luella, my daughter, to get to them.

Do each of your roles inform and influence the others?
I think what permeates through everything is my punk DIY ethos—try this and that, because you don’t know until you’ve done it. That is true for so many things—just try, lah. Sometimes I do wonder, “Am I a good musician? Am I weaving the correct way?” You overthink and do you own head in. I’m not saying don’t plan, but don’t keep questioning whether you can do it. In the end, as long as I’m doing and creating something, that’s good enough for me and I’m content.

What is your ethnicity?
My maternal grandfather is British, my maternal grandmother is Peranakan, so my mum’s a mix; my father is pure Chinese. Shawn, my husband, is Eurasian. His mom is the “official” Eurasian race but his dad is Chinese, so Luella is like a mix of everything—but total cuteness.

Do you think it’s important for Luella to know all these different parts of her culture?
I guess so, but I’m not in tune with them either because my mother is so Chinese—she prefers Chinese food over Western food and she speaks Hokkien, Malay, and Chinese. We’re not like “Oh, we must go and find our culture and be rooted to it”, but I do want Luella to have some sort of understanding of where she comes from, and perhaps preserve the Eurasian culture for a little longer because it’s dying out. A few of Shawn’s relatives are journalists and one of them has written a book about his grandmother’s journey from the Malaysia to Singapore. In our combined family, at least someone’s doing something so I think Luella can benefit from that.

You do so many things in life. What motivates you?
Just the idea of making something. It’s no grand gesture to the world but I just want to be able to keep making and producing things. Even if, in the end, it’s something that nobody takes notice of, that’s also fine.

Do you find yourself becoming stressed or overwhelmed though?
No, if you want to do something you can always find the time for it. When I started weaving it was late in the night, after Luella slept. I’d weave in the living room or the bedroom.

But how do you manage everything?
Without my family it’d be impossible. I’m lucky because I have a strong support network at home. When Astreal, the band I’m in now, was jamming once or twice a week in the lead up to playing at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival earlier this year, my family shifted their schedules around to accommodate. My husband’s been supportive of all my other pursuits, I have a helper, and my mother and mother-in-law are super kind. Looking after Luella is very tiring—she’s always running around, and she’s in the phase where she likes to ask the same questions over and over.

How are you settling into your new role as a parent?
There’s give and take but it’s very important not to lose sight of yourself. During the first year after I just gave birth, I did feel that my body was not the one I used to know. You don’t have time for yourself because you’re always so concerned about your child—it’s really intense. You kind of lose your identity and I see that in some of my friends as well. I didn’t want to be like that so I had to get back into weaving and doing my gigs. We used to practise music a lot, and jamming would usually happen after work. My mother-in-law would bathe Luella, and Shawn would come home and put her to bed. I miss that part of the day sometimes, so when I do spend time with Luella, I try my best to be 100% present. I don’t want her to look at me and see that I’m always on my phone.

What do you think are some of the best things in life?
The best things in life are free! Free clothes, free food, free alcohol…(laughs). Family, really, and friends, and having the luxury to do the things you want to do. I’m not talking about being super rich, but maybe having enough to travel with your family once in a while.

Where do you usually draw your inspiration from?
I think you should consume all kinds of art so you have a wider visual vocabulary. Watch movies, even hip-hop videos; any kind of architecture, fine art—just immerse yourself as much as you can. Nowadays I even find inspiration from children’s nursery rhyme music videos. It’s somebody else’s art, and it’s fascinating how someone else has come up with a music video through the eyes of children. Music is also a very, very huge influence. Especially The Cure, which is my favourite band in the world. Luckily they’re still alive, literally. I’ve seen them perform once!

What is innovation to you?
When you find new means of doing something, or to make the life of someone else easier. One of the most pertinent examples is in Brazil, if I remember correctly—there’re a lot of squatters there who live in tiny homes which are very dark. There’s also a lot of waste around—specifically, mineral water bottles. So someone cut holes into roofs, fit those water bottles through the holes, and light streams in during the day. It costs almost no money but it’s just genius. It affects so many things—the quality of living, the children in there who are trying to study. It can be a small thing but the consequences are massive. That’s innovation.

Is there something that nobody knows about you?
Wah lau eh, I have to weigh, so many things (laughs)! I used to have two tattoos on the back on my neck, back when I was a little punk kid. I got them in some dodgy place when I was 16 or 17 years old for $20 and $50. One said “F*** Patriachy” and the other one was a naked woman throwing a Molotov cocktail. I got them at different times; I obviously didn’t learn my lesson. They were very ugly, probably because they were so cheap, so I had them removed. It was the most painful thing in the world, more painful than getting the actual tattoos.

What are certain things in life that you think are #untaggable or undefinable?
I guess it’s this feeling when you’re around someone, or you’re doing something that makes you feel so content—it’s just hard to explain how or why. I mean I guess you can define love, but when I look at Luella it’s just like, “Why do I love you so much?” (laughs) When we’re with her it’s just pure, fuzzy happiness. We could have gone to the park, just me and Shawn, and we’d be very happy, but it’s different. So that’s undefinable, lah! (laughs)

This is a project for Audi Singapore.

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