This week’s That Mama is Camilla Hewitson, the creative curator and Director of the Affordable Art Fair coming to Hong Kong this March. Previously a Hong Kong mama she now gets her Dim Sum fix on working holidays away from her home in Singapore. Between travelling the world to plan innovative art events and minding her tiny twins she enjoys going to the beach and exploring the great outdoors. We spoke with this bubbly mama and found out how she stays organised, her tips for bagging an affordable art bargain and how to unleash your children’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 two ten-month old twins, Holly and Max! I used to work for an innovation company called What If telling corporates to be more entrepreneurial and to “break the rules” to develop new ideas. So when offered the chance to join a start up art fair team based in Dubai to 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 set up an office for them in Hong Kong to promote the fair in Asia. It was such an amazing opportunity and I fell in love with Hong Kong 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 would be good to launch the Affordable Art Fair brand in Asia, I had another chance to explore Asia and meet some really interesting people. Having been born in Singapore it would be a great market partly due to everyone’s love of shopping! But Hong Kong was also coming up in terms of a great spot for art lovers 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 in terms of work. It took time to get back up to speed with things after my maternity leave and for my brain to really get into gear, but I was lucky because I eased my way back with 3 days a week for the first couple of months before coming back in full time.
This helped me to 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 planning to make sure 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 to be able 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 as we now know what’s going on and when, and can plan time with the kids and 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 the week for every meal 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 Hong Kong before moving back to Singapore. Why did you leave Hong Kong and do you miss it?
We were living in Hong Kong and Singapore was picked as a launch pad for the fair and 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 the city but we were very sad to leave Hong Kong also as we had simply loved life there also. 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 we have a family I love the fact we are able to recreate some of my childhood, which I simple 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, and have left a twin at baby group!
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, and able to combine it with the best job in the world which is being a mother. I have a deep-found respect for all mothers out there, particularly my own who juggled three 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 Affordable Art Fair, demands the same skill set at times. So in a way they are very complementary!
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 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. So 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 be able to have fun and learn something from our partners SunKids. The Children’s Studios are located close to the cafes so you can catch up with friends or with your other half while 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’s 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 and most importantly should 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 on to a canvas can bring to you!
Any top tips for buying art on a budget?
Look for emerging artists and consider photography and prints as mediums as they can often come with a lower price tag. Check out the Young Talent Area and Art Under $10,000 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 babies’ 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 on or in my case sometimes, to simply cut your losses and leave! Try not to think about what other people think 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 also 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 anymore, but do it anyways 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 me 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 feeding it to the ever-hopeful dog.
What do you love most about Hong Kong?
The moment when the humidity leaves and the skies turn a brilliant blue and you can enjoy those gorgeous autumn days out in the country parks or on boats to places like Tai Long Wan. Just stunning.
Favourite restaurant in Hong Kong?
I LOVE Dim Sum in Happy Valley! We used to live close by and it was a firm family favourite and still is whenever I visit.
Favourite activity to do with the kids in Hong Kong?
They haven’t visited yet but I think it will be going hiking along Dragon’s Back.
Best family friendly art galleries in Hong Kong?
I haven’t been to any yet with the twins but I would advise getting your buggy and spending some time winding your way through Hollywood Road and Sheung Wan, exploring the amazing array of galleries. If you need some respite, check out any of the funky coffee shops around, like Classified or Barista Jam.
Any fail-safe fashion boutiques in Hong Kong?
The little boutiques around Elgin Street and Staunton Street are definitely my favourite.
Best outdoor activity to do in Hong Kong?
Getting out of the city and going for a hike – nothing beats it as a stress reliever
Favourite hidden spot in Hong Kong?
I used to love hiking over to Tai Long Wan with my husband to be greeted by the best ginger fried rice I had ever tasted at a small restaurant just away from the beach. Brings back great memories.