An eye for design, a sense of humour and plenty of #realtalk… we get the lowdown on how That Papa Graham Becker does it all.
The proud papa of one incredibly adorable little gal, Graham Becker is no stranger to us at Sassy Mama HQ. One of our fellow co-working space peers, we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know this creative dad whilst watching in awe as he manages design projects, a successful start up and father his toddler. In this edition of That Papa, we hear more about Graham’s initial thoughts on how he ended up in Hong Kong, how changing a stinky diaper really isn’t that big of a deal and what not to wear when your baby is constipated. Oh yeah, he went there! Sharing some hilarious stories from every day moments, you really get a sense of how down to earth and real this dad is. We can’t wait for you to get to know Graham and his daughter Ava in our latest That Papa!
Can you tell us a bit about your background? What do you do in Hong Kong? What brought you here?
I’m from Vancouver Island and an Artistic Director at NewSeed. I also run my own art and design studio, Bekcreō. Bek for Becker and Creō is latin for create. I focus mainly on large scale art, and brand design.
I lived in Beijing for about seven years doing everything and anything: acting, teaching, spinning at clubs, jumping in studios and recording tracks. I actually recorded a track with a famous Mainland artist and was able to hear myself on the radio for about five months solid; crazy times.
Beijing became pretty hectic after the Olympics, so I then moved to London for a year. I came back to Beijing and didn’t fancy it as much any more. I wanted something culturally between England and Beijing so ended up in Hong Kong. That’s what I tell people, but I really moved for a girl… It didn’t last very long but I stayed because I love it here.
What inspired you to start your career in design?
I began art and design when I was really young, but not in traditional classes. In fact, I didn’t like art classes in school very much. It really started when my family was building our first house. I was about 8 years old and there were a ton of construction sites around the area and in those construction sites were lots of spray cans (mostly florescent pink, green, red and black) strewn about for marking measurements. I used to steal those more than penny candy, and we used to tag out half built buildings, write the names of girls we liked, write every bad word we knew, you know? The good things in life.
I started design while I was a journalist for a mens magazine. I was writing articles and then started designing a lot of the website and visuals for the stories I wrote because I knew how and it just grew into more of a design position from there. Then I started combining art and design in my own time.
What is your favourite project you’ve worked on so far in Hong Kong?
There are a couple of projects that stick out. There is a fantastic Japanese restaurant on Star Street called Moon Izakya. Unreal sushi, a young cool owner saw the work I did in Hikari, another Japanese restaurant and he commissioned two canvases and a bit of wall work. The two canvases turned out way better than I thought they would and just look so cool hanging in the top spot.
Another couple of projects I loved was designing property logo. It sounds a bit nuts, but the logo actually derived from a graffiti piece I did and works really well, using the Hong Kong skyline as a key. They also loved my art and commissioned me to do a Christmas card, which is also one of many favourite pieces.
One close to my heart was a design for a simple wedding invite for a lovely couple. They wanted England and Hong Kong visually featured and what came of that was spectacular. A client saw the invite and then wanted it as a mural. The couple being as cool as they are gave the go ahead and it went up on a wall. I also did a retro astronaut for a similar client, which is pretty cool.
What was your reaction to the news of your partner’s pregnancy?
It wasn’t planned. When she told me, I was working at home, sat at the kitchen table and she came out of the bathroom with the pee stick of doom, which I didn’t know she was testing, and said: “I’m pregnant”. My reply was, “Well, then… I guess we’re having a baby”. She cried tears of joy and kissed me. It felt great, the kiss I mean, not the pure terror I was actually feeling inside. After about an hour of F bombs, I remembered I’ve wanted to be a poppa for ages and that I was mostly ready, so after a look in the mirror and a “you can do this”, it was all joy.
How did you choose your daughter’s name?
We had a book of 40,000 names and didn’t like any of them. I like simple, classy and elegant names. I also like palindromes. Ava’s mama’s name is a palindrome, and we both agreed Ava was beautiful sounding, and for me, aesthetically, it was pretty bad ass too.
How was your experience of changing the first diaper?
No biggie. When they’re small it’s not so stinky, wait until they eat solids… it’s like eating a spoonful of wasabi.
How hands-on were you during the birth process?
As much as possible. I’m not a doctor so I couldn’t take charge, but I wanted to.
How did you avoid the dad-bod?
If you want to have a six pack, don’t drink six packs. Just to be clear I don’t have a six pack, I drink draught so, I have a keg. So to answer your question, I didn’t…
What do you hope your daughter gets from you and what do you hope she doesn’t get?
I hope she gets my tenacity and thirst for knowledge. I hope with all my might she doesn’t get my crazy or my naughtiness.
Did you make any custom art work for your daughter’s nursery? What was it?
I haven’t done any artwork for her. All the books I read said to keep their rooms really sterile and plain so they don’t wake up and freak out. I’ve done a lot of design for her though, I’ve created a cool brand for her, a name stamp, and any artwork that she does gets proper treatment, framed and canvassed.
What’s your favourite part of your parenting routine?
Cuddles before bed.
Who plays good cop and bad cop between you and your partner?
We play both good or bad cop at the same time, so she can’t run to the other. She’s pretty cheeky and has been walking since 9.5 months, so we definitely need as many officers on the force as we can get.
Favourite baby-friendly place and activities in Hong Kong?
I like Baumhaus: good coffee, classes and treehouse. Outside is tough, I think pools in Hong Kong are like human soup and there’s more garbage at the beach than fish, so we go on lots of mountain and hill hikes.
How do you keep the romance alive after having a kid?
Wait, what? People do that? That’s possible? Just kidding. In all honesty, you just have to plan it. Make it happen. You don’t have any spontaneous romantic nights out anymore. You can surprise the other half, but that takes a lot of planning and lying which is weird, so you just plan it. Date night.
What’s the hardest part of being a dad?
Dads don’t have breasts. Well, I guess some do, but I mean “functioning boobs”. There are actually quite a few of those around too. What I mean to say is that I can’t breastfeed my child, and for the first few months that’s one of only three things babies do. It’s frustrating you can’t help with that, and that they just want mama…
What’s the best part of being a dad?
Smiles and cuddles. When you have a child, you really learn the depth of love. You think you love something or someone so much, and then boom, this wave of love sinks into your very being, and becomes a part of everything you are and do. It’s wild.
Who does your daughter look like, you or your partner?
When she’s happy, she looks like her mom, when she’s crying, upset or grumpy, she looks like me.
What’s your favourite characteristic of your baby?
Her empathy and intelligence. When she looks over and sees a baby crying, you can see her start to feel what that other baby is feeling and then she starts to cry too. Empathy is a powerful thing and something I think we all lose as we get older.
How old does your daughter have to be before she can date?
I’m going say it’s okay to date at 16 but in order for her to date that person, they must meet the family first, that way we can size him or her up. I hope she’s a lesbian; I just know all too well what guys are like.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before becoming a dad? Biggest lesson learned?
I think it’s communication. The other hard thing about being a parent is not knowing what the problem is. Learning that through subtle gestures and well, not so subtle screaming is the biggest thing learned. Being able to understand what the hell is going on is huge.
What’s the funniest parenting story you can share?
Funniest story, was a realisation. She was about 4 months old, I had been going crazy working like a madman and killing myself with extra hours at work and helping out at night. I felt like I needed to treat myself, so I went out and bought a wicked pair of jeans, and a really nice (i.e. way too expensive) white t-shirt, had my hair chopped and a proper shave. Took a shower and got ready to go out, put on the new digs, thinking I looked pretty fly for a white guy, sat on the sofa to cuddle my little girl who was having a bit of a hard time with constipation. Then as soon as we hugged, she let loose the biggest pumpkin soup poop in history, all over my brand new clothes. We just laughed and laughed and then she started laughing because she felt great… we all just ended up howling. It was then that I realised it wasn’t about me anymore, not in the slightest. I would buy a million over priced shirts for her to poop on if it made her happy.
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
Work is great, I love what I do and we’re really good at it, which always feels great. But work is time away from her, so you try to become more efficient and kick ass so you can earn the dollar dollar bills.
Do you have any tips for soon-to-be dads?
Yeah, just be there. I know so many dads that just weren’t around. Instincts are strong; listen to them. Unless they are telling you to run. If you’re nervous, that means you care, and if you care that means you’ll be fine.
Favourite date night spots with just your wife?
I love cooking us food, and talking about the week in the kitchen, with good red wine, lots of wine, red red wine…
Thanks to Kim Bacon Photography for the wonderful photos of Graham and his adorable daughter, Ava!