This week’s That Mama is Camilla Hewitson, Curator and Director of the Affordable Art Fair (coming to Singapore this May!), mama to 10-month old twins, and one of the loveliest women we’ve ever met! We spoke to Camilla about how she stays organized amidst a busy schedule, her top tips for bagging an affordable art bargain and how best to unleash your child’s inner Picasso!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career?
I’m the Director of the Affordable Art Fair and a mum to ten-month old twins, Poppy and Max! I used to work for an innovation company called What If that instructs corporate companies how to be more entrepreneurial and to “break the rules” when developing new ideas. When I was offered the chance to join a start up art fair team based in Dubai and launch the first Middle Eastern Art Fair, Art Dubai, I couldn’t resist getting off my bean bag to see how it would turn out! That launch led me to then set up an office for them in Hong Kong to promote the fair in Asia, where I happened to fall in love with the city and my future husband!
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
When Will Ramsay asked me to research where the best place to launch the Affordable Art Fair brand would be in Asia, I had another chance to explore the area and meet some really interesting people. Having been born in Singapore, I felt it would be a great market partly due to everyone’s love of shopping! But Hong Kong was also up and coming in terms of being a great spot for art appreciation to be developed. In 2010 we launched Singapore and in 2013, when I was pregnant with the twins, we launched Hong Kong.
The latter was the most successful first launch of the entire Affordable Art Fair family. To leave on such a high to have my gorgeous babies meant I knew I was coming back to something very exciting. It took time to get back up to speed after my maternity leave and for my brain to really kick into gear, but I was lucky because I eased my way back into it, working 3 days a week for the first couple of months, before going back full time.
This helped me get used to leaving the twins and helped me to find a balance that I was comfortable with, allowing me to shed some of the guilt I felt for being stretched between being a good mum and good colleague. It’s never going to be perfect, but when it’s hard I think about what’s best for the family and that helps me to focus on ensuring I’m able to cope with my work commitments, as well as be around for Max and Poppy. We’re lucky in Asia to be able to have support at home that allows me to even try and juggle the two, and I’m very grateful for that.
What are your organisational tips and tricks? How do you save time?
My husband and I have a shared calendar and that has revolutionised our family time! We now know what’s going on and when, and can plan time with the kids and our friends more easily. I’m quite an organised person at work and am notoriously lax at home so I have had to change that and plan my week carefully. My friends laugh at me but the half hour I spend on a Sunday writing down what we’ll all eat for every meal of the week saves me so much time. I then know what I need to buy at the supermarket and don’t have to think about menus or shopping again till the next week, which is a joy! When I don’t do this I notice my week is much more stressful than it needs to be and I eat some really random concoctions!
You were born in Singapore, studied in Scotland and worked in Dubai. What made you return home to Singapore?
To launch the Affordable Art Fair! We were living in Hong Kong when Singapore was picked as a launch pad for the fair. We were lucky that my husband was offered an opportunity to come to Singapore with his job so we decided to make the move. I had always wanted to come back to Singapore but we were still very sad to leave Hong Kong as we had simply loved our life there. All those lovely hikes and boat trips were a great way to spend your weekends. But equally, Singapore is a great place for the outdoors and now that we have a family, I love the fact we are able to recreate some of my childhood, which I simply adored.
How do you balance work and motherhood?
Like all mums out there I’m working hard to find the perfect balance between career, motherhood and still looking vaguely presentable! There are days when I feel invincible and like I have it all figured out only to realise I’ve forgotten to put my shoes on or have left a twin at babygroup!
Honestly, I think all mums face the same challenges and you can only do the very best you can. The most important thing for me is to have fun with the twins and also at work. I’m so lucky to work in an industry I’m passionate about, while being able to combine it with the best job in the world — being a mother. I have a deep found respect for all mothers out there, and particularly my own mother, who juggled 3 children whilst working in various guises and volunteering — I still want to know how she did it!
When I asked her recently, she said, “The sooner you realise your twins won’t follow your excel spreadsheet, the better your life will be — motherhood is about being flexible to change and adapting to situations” and when I think about it, running an event the scale of the Affordable Art Fair, it demands the same skill set at times. So in a way they are very complimentary!
Any tips for mamas who have to travel a lot because of work?
Indulge in a good book. Ensure you have a bath in your hotel room so you can lounge in bubbles, and relish those crisp, clean sheets and the 8 hours of straight sleep you will get! Having said that I keep my travel to a minimum, as by day 3 I miss those little faces too much. Make the most of every minute of every day while you’re away, with breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings if need be so you can get home sooner to your little people!
How can families take part in the Affordable Art Fair?
We run Children’s Art Studios in both the Hong Kong and Singapore fairs, which allow children the freedom to get creative around art! It’s a great way for parents to be able to come to the fair with the children and know that they will have fun and learn something from our partners, Art Bootcamp and SunKids. The Children’s Studios are located close to the cafes too so you can catch up with friends or your other half whilst the kids enjoy the activities. A bonus is that the studios are free to everyone who visits the fair.
Why is art beneficial to children and what is the easiest way to make art interesting and fun?
Art allows children to freely express themselves in a way that words and actions don’t. There is a reason why art therapy is so successful for helping children overcome difficult situations. Art has so many facets to it but most importantly it should always be fun. I always encourage kids to get messy when having a go at art and for mums not to be too controlling about the process. I think adults would benefit from reminding themselves of the sense of freedom throwing paint onto a canvas can bring you!
Any top tips for buying art on a budget?
Look for emerging artists and consider photography and prints as mediums, as they often come with a lower price tag. Check out the Young Talent Area and Art Under $1,000 where you might find your perfect piece!
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a parent?
Babies cry and people are more understanding than you think. Your child’s cry will seem much louder and intrusive to you than to anyone else wherever you are. Don’t panic and just try to soothe them before making the decision to stay, or in my case sometimes, to simply cut your losses and leave! Try not to think about what other people are thinking and just focus on your child.
Any essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women?
You don’t actually need that much! Don’t get sucked into buying too many things because when they are just born you really need very little and you will be given so many incredible gifts. The present giving is so overwhelming and we could not believe people’s generosity. Also ask your friends if they have any things you can borrow. It’s all swings and roundabouts and you’ll lend things out later, so do take people up on their offers as it can all get very expensive very quickly.
Is there any activity that you don’t love to do, but do it anyway because your kids enjoy it so much?
Not yet really – but I think I’ll have to spend a lot of time on a bike in the near future and that will take me back a few years!
Best family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
I haven’t been yet but I’m told Batu Batu is very family friendly as it’s so close to Singapore and has a beautiful beach. Rob and I love going to Bali and have found lots of very family friendly spots.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Taking Bundy (our chocolate lab) for a walk along the beach with a twin strapped to my husband and I each!
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about…
Why no one tells you teething is such a pain? And it goes on for 2 years apparently… joyful.
Bedtime is smoother when….
They’ve eaten their lovingly made, home cooked meals rather than having fed it to the ever-hopeful dog.
What do you love most about bringing up children in Singapore?
I love the fact we can spend so much time outdoors.
Favourite date night restaurant in Singapore?
Luke’s or Oxwell & Co in Club Street.
Favourite activity to do with the kids in Singapore?
Going to the beach with Bundy and the twins.
Most beloved family friendly art galleries in Singapore?
Red Sea, Singapore Art Museum, and Singapore Tyler Print Institute.
Any fail-safe fashion boutiques in Singapore?
I love the label, Lulu Bare and the shop Willow and Huxley.
Who do you trust with your hair and beauty maintenance in Singapore?
Kim Robinson in Takashimaya – I know it’s surprising to realise I’m not a natural blonde!
How do you beat the heat in Singapore?
I find it very hard to beat the heat and I have learnt to accept that we are all in the same boat so it’s best to embrace it… oh and wear natural fibres — those man-made ones do nothing for a girl!
Thanks Camilla, and thank you to the wonderful Gunilla of Sugarlight Photography for the fantastic photos of Camilla and her twins!