Award-winning creative director Pann and Claire Lim on family, love and creativity

HoneyKids writer Jana had a chat with uber-cool couple Pann and Claire Lim to get the lowdown on how they're creating their own brief on raising teens.

Some families enjoy lacing up their hiking boots and exploring the great outdoors together. Some enjoy their weekly family movie nights. Board games. Dinners. But not the Lims. Almost eight years ago, they started their own award-winning family art collective, lovingly named Holycrap.sg (using their initials – Claire, Renn, Aira and Pann) to produce the awesome Singapore bi-annual Rubbish FAMzine. Every weekend, the family sets aside time to meet and work on their project, which is quite a feat considering son Renn and daughter Aira were just seven and four years old respectively when they started.

But the kids are growing up. Renn is 16 and well into his secondary school years – an age where it’s no longer cool to be seen with Mum and Dad. Aira has just turned 13 and is what her dad calls, “an Aira-ny”. She’s going through all the teenage feels and then some, creating what she can in her spare time. Although Claire and Pann, both designers by trade, have followed the brief so to speak in raising their children, they admit that getting their kids to work on the ‘zine has become tougher through the years. We spoke to Pann and Claire on their successful marriage, how they’re dealing with raising teenagers, what it’s like to have a family art collective and why following one’s heart is the key to success in all aspects of life.

Boy meets girl  

Pann Lim and his wife, Claire, met when they were 20 and 21 years old on the first day of school at Temasek Polytechnic. They were both bright-eyed visual communications students, ready to change the world. Oh, and they happened to think the other was cute. What happened next is a marriage that’s endured a few months shy of 20 years, a successful advertising agency, an award-winning bi-annual famzine, and two well-rounded teenagers. It’s a success story that’s twofold: school sweethearts turned lifelong partners in crime and a strong family unit that thrives on creativity. Basically, #goals. 

Perhaps it’s the quirky half-moon glasses or the braided goatee whose length has sparked a serious debate on social media but there’s something about Pann Lim that makes his wife, Claire unable take her eyes off her husband. And it’s the same for Pann. Their chemistry is palpable, which we can also see in the way they have chosen to raise their kids – as a team. “One hundred percent of our views are the same, almost all the time,” says Pann. And this undoubtedly makes decision-making quite easy. “We are enjoying raising our kids together,” adds Claire. “I know I can call or text Pann if I need his help, and he’ll reply quite quickly.” But if she can’t get hold of him, it’s no biggie either. “I always trust Claire’s decisions. I don’t question it,” Pann says. His respect for Claire and her ability to run the household and take care of the children is apparent. And it all stems from their strong relationship as a couple. Pann openly admits he is the type of husband who, over 20 years later, still holds hands with his wife. “Our friends tease us and say we’re too old for this kind of thing,” he says. “But I believe couples need to take care of their relationships, especially after having children. Everything started with just the two of you, so you need to work on it and everything else will follow.” 

Rubbish FAMzine by Holycrap.sg Photo credit: Pann Lim

Making a ‘zine 

Perhaps its the close-knit nature of the Lim family that made it easier for them to collaborate but growing up in the Lim household meant being surrounded by vintage collectibles, having a spare room as an art studio and providing easy access to art materials. It was only natural both Renn and Aira would eventually enjoy the same things their parents did with all the doodling, drawing and painting. Finally, in 2011, Pann came up with the idea to start a project with Renn and Aira. After being a lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic and sharing his knowledge with other students, he thought his children might benefit from it too. The result? Oh, you know, just a President’s Design Award, The Singapore Creative Circle Award and other accolades from The New York One Show, The British D&AD and The Cannes Design Lions. Each project is a family collaboration that takes six to nine months to complete, complete with weekend meetings. “We can joke around during these meetings, but I’m also serious about getting the job done,” says Pann, ever the creative director.  

Surviving the teenage years 101

Most parents will tell you that past the terrible twos and threenager years, the teenage years are some of the most trying times in all of parenthood. Pann and Claire are in the thick of it, and finding it harder to schedule their ‘zine meetings with their children. In fact, the kids have started to complain about the meetings but eventually understand that the ‘zines are for them to treasure for years to come. Doodler Renn has now found a love for fishing, while Aira is obsessed with the ’80s. They have their own groups of friends, decidedly cooler to hang out with than their parents, and, like all teenagers, have their angsty emo moments. As easy as it seems to put one’s foot down and just say no to everything, Pann believes that being a reasonable parent helps in navigating these tough times.

“You can’t say no to everything. You need to say yes to some things and  explain yourself,” he says. “Once the doors (of communication) are closed, they’re closed. I want my kids to know they can talk to me about anything.” And even if ‘anything’ means not having top marks in school, that’s OK for Pann, too. “I want my kids to make mistakes because I want them to learn from them and see how they can do things better next time,” Pann explains. “We never placed any expectations on them; we just want them to know that as long as they tried their best, that’s what’s important. Anyway, in the long run, what matters most is what’s inside your heart.” Perhaps it helps to be a creative director designer – you’re always looking for ways to creatively approach problems, even if it is dealing with your children. 

Matters of the heart 

Throughout our conversation, it appears that everything Pann and Claire do, whether family or art-related, always leads back to following what feels right in one’s heart. Nothing is planned, there are no aspirations to live up to, everything is instinctive. And it all works. The Lims (Renn and Aira included) are always able to come to an agreement after discussing their problems. Perhaps it is because they are so in sync that they are almost intuitive about each other. Renn and Aira, despite being in their teens, are still quite close and even sleep in the same room on occasion. Claire and Pann are obviously #soulmates and openly affectionate, which has obviously rubbed off on their kids, too. And, in a time where kids are too cool for school, it’s refreshing to find a family that still believes in good ol’ family values.

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