I'm Ailian. I grew up in Singapore in the 1980s and now live in the San Francisco Bay Area in the US. Last year, I drew and wrote one childhood memory a day for 100 days about my memories of growing up in Singapore. This year, I want to share my memories with you as a book.
The 100 Day Project
It all began with the 100 Day Project. I learned about an artistic exercise called the 100 Day Project, where people choose a creative act and do it for 100 days. I loved the idea. I love creating projects that are driven by nothing more than my wanting them to exist. So I decided I would do this, I would do a thing for 100 days. The next step was to choose a topic. What would I do for 100 days?
Last year, I went back to Singapore for a visit after having not been home for many years. It was Chinese New Year, my favorite holiday as a child. On the trip, I started asking my father about my family's history, and I was told so many fascinating stories. At the same time, Singapore was about to celebrate her 50th year of independence. Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, had recently passed away. And I was about to become a permanent resident in the US. I found myself fascinated by history, memory, and nostalgia. I wanted to tell my Singaporean story.
So I found my topic:
I would draw and write one childhood memory a day for 100 days about my memories of growing up in Singapore.
When I shared my childhood memories with others, I was surprised to find that not only did those stories resonate with other Singaporeans, people who grew up in cultures quite different from my own also identified with them. Someone was reminded of how her family also made bak zhang dumplings at home for the Dragon Boat Festival. Someone memorized the same Tang Dynasty poetry in school. Several people had similar rectangular box pencil cases. Lots of people who were little girls in the 1980s still know all the songs from The Little Mermaid.
But even for people who didn't share the same experiences, there was something common about our childhoods that made the memories resonate. The details are specific, I find, but the emotions are universal.
As personal and intimate as my memories felt, I was told over and over that my stories reminded people of their own childhoods. A few people were inspired to call their mothers and fathers to help recall their childhood memories and talk about old times.
Making Space for Artistic Pursuits
I am not a professional artist. I work for a technology startup, and spend most of my day on emails and in meetings making decisions on technical problems. In the early days of the project, my drawings were little more than stick figure drawings. I was slightly embarrassed to post my drawings on my blog, Instagram, and Facebook. But as my skills and confidence grew, I started imagining more and more elaborate scenes, and the drawings evolved into full, detailed illustrations.
People who have followed this project have remarked on how inspiring it was to watch a non-professional take on an art project, make a serious effort in improving her craft, and complete the entire series as a side project. Some people have been inspired to start creative side projects of their own. This project is about nostalgia, but it is also about people finding space in their lives for artistic pursuits.
Publishing the Book
I want these memories to persist as a body of work. Every single one of the 100 days was actually shared online while I was creating them, but I want them to exist as a curated, crafted book. The experience of recording the memories was nostalgic, contemplative, introspective, and I want the book to feel that way.
I have never published a book before, but I had a vision in my head for what I wanted the book to be, so I turned down a publishing contract and decided to self-publish. In the process, I had to research online publishing services, learn about layout and iterate through many of them, choose fonts that evoked the right feelings, learn to adjust color curves, figure out how to use InDesign, test different cover materials, switch printing services to keep costs down - just to name a few. I could go on and on about the detailed care that has gone into the book - and I did! You can read 3600 words about the making of the book. At this point, the effort to publish the book has probably surpassed the effort to make the 100 drawings.
I could simply print one copy for myself (or ten for my enthusiastic family), but I wanted to do a Kickstarter because I want this book to find a larger audience. I have so enjoyed friends and family telling me how much the memories resonate with them that I hope more of you can experience that delight.
All rewards are some combination of (1) the book, (2) art prints, and (3) me drawing your childhood memories.
(1) The book:
- ~150 pages
- 6x9 inches
- Hardcover, dust jacket, blue linen bound with gold text on spine
- The 100 drawings and writings
- 3 never-published-before essays: (1) Introduction to the Project; (2) A History of Homes; (3) Epilogue - Going Home Again
- All books can be autographed upon request :)
(2) Art prints:
- 4x6 inches art prints on acid-free paper with archival inks (it's actually printed on 5x7 paper, but the print area is 4x6)
- You can choose any day out of the 100 as your prints!
(3) I draw *your* childhood memories:
- Send me a photograph(s) from your childhood. A childhood home or an everyday scene. I will draw them in a similar style to what's in the book.
- There are 2 versions of this reward:
- At USD$130 The Narrative, I'll make a drawing based on your photograph and send you the drawing, along with a book and an art print.
- At USD$500 The Legacy, I'll make 3 drawings based on 3 of your photographs. Then I will scan the drawings and have them printed as art prints. So you'll receive the 3 drawings, the digital scans (in case you want to print more), and 3 art prints on archival paper. This package also includes 4 books and 4 art prints from the book.
If you'd like a reward combination that is not offered - for instance, you'd like to order 10 copies, or you'd like 1 book + 10 prints - contact me, and I'll work something out for you.
Risks and challenges
- The risks are very low. I have printed a full test print of the hardcover book. It just needs some final editing, then we're ready to go.
Video music: Memories - Bensound.com
Video photographs: Gan family collection
- (21 days)