This month, we have with us Siqi, The Pun Fu Master of Laugh and Belly. Siqi is a former chemist turned illustrator who achieves satisfaction from seeing people’s smiles after looking at her works. Read on to find out more about her journey from a pharmaceutical laboratory to --- the art markets!
1. Tell us more about Laugh and Belly? When did the idea start? What are you focusing on at the moment? How many of you are working on it?
Laugh and Belly debuted at art markets since 8 July 2016 as a way to destress but only officially became a full-time project on 21 September 2017.
It is a one-person-sweatshop, where all ideas, designs and packaging are done by one woman --- me. At the moment, I'm focusing more on generating new ideas for my graphic novel while still making comic strips. While that happens, new puns are made every single day. It's marvellous because my list of puns gets longer and longer.
2. Tell us more about yourself? Did you major in the Arts? Did you use to hold a full-time job elsewhere?
I didn't major in Art. The last time I was in a proper art lesson, with a proper art teacher, was in Secondary 2. It was before everyone had to decide what they wanted to stream in. I decided to stream in Triple Science. But later I dropped to Combined Science because I just couldn't understand Physics at all.
A few months after graduating from Temasek Polytechnic, I became a full-time Chemist at a pharmaceutical laboratory. Travelling from the north-east to the west became a daily routine for 1.5 years before I decided to quit.
3. What was the life changing moment or story that made you switch to your current role? Or has it always been your childhood ambition?
I'm a Christian and I believe in God. If you're comfortable and open to reading about my testimony, then read on. Otherwise, I suggest you skip to other questions because I'm not here to debate on religion. I'm here to share good things, never bad things. It's my own belief and it is my faith that made me switch to my current situation. I never regretted my decision and I truly believe that God placed me in the arts industry for a reason.
I am a first-generation Christian in my family, which means that my parents are not believers in Jesus. I chose to become a Christian without any pressure from anyone. I am actually quite stubborn and I still am. So, changing my religion was known to be a nearly impossible thing for me and for those who know me. However, all those who knew me when I was young, knew that I was already very creative. I was always the most artistic one in all my classes. My relatives would tell my parents that I'm "gifted" but I always brushed it off because, to me, it's "practice".
But, after knowing Jesus, I realised that it is really a gift. For me to draw so well, was because, on top of the given gift, I drew every day and I practised my gift every day. I doodled in my diaries, I doodled on scrap paper and I doodled on textbooks when the teacher was teaching. I always looked forward to drawing because it brings me peace in my heart.
Then why didn't I study art since I already knew my talents at such a young age? I didn't because I never wanted to burden my parents financially. Art school has really expensive course fees and at that point in my life, my family just couldn't afford it. So, I didn't go to art school and chose to study something "safer", "more practical" and "well-respected" in Singapore.
Only at the lowest point in my life while I was a full-time chemist, God spoke to me: "You're created to create." That was when I decided I had to leave my current job with that stable income. I had to fully trust in God that He will still provide for me. Without any hesitation, I placed my whole trust in Him. I left, and I'm living a dream right now. Good things do happen to those who trust.
4. What were the difficulties that you faced when starting out? Did you face any financial difficulties? Was there any pressure from your family and friends for quitting a stable job?
I am actually quite blessed because I didn't have many financial difficulties when I was first starting Laugh And Belly. I had income from my full-time job as a Chemist. Also, the income given was way more than enough for a 20-year-old-me.
However, when I told my mother I wanted to leave my full-time job a few months before I could get my bonus... She wasn't really supportive. She wanted me to stay until the end because she wanted me to receive my bonus for the year. I'm not blaming her or judging her for doing so. The world does revolve around money and we all need money to survive.
5. How did you overcome those difficulties?
On the topic of money, my mother wasn't really supportive towards my decision. But, to me, money is not really a priority for me. We communicated about it and she let me decide on my own. Money is never my motivation. If it was, I wouldn't even want to do art.
I am extremely thankful for all my friends who supported me regardless of how unwise it seemed in a worldly world. And I am extremely thankful towards my father for providing me with materials I needed to kickstart my artistic career. For example, my Wacom tablet. It is very useful indeed. Not forgetting all the love I get from all my punners that love Laugh And Belly. It is really only with their support that I can still thrive. My gratitude cup is full.
6. What is the greatest satisfaction you gain from taking the plunge?
Positive feedback from people who just stumble upon my artwork makes me very satisfied. There were people who had no intentions of purchasing anything but suddenly had intentions to support because they wanted this punny project to grow. To date, no one comes by my booth without leaving with a smile on their faces, and that is something I call an accomplishment.
7. What words of advice would you share with your younger self?
Don't be afraid of what the world thinks. Don't let opinions bring you down. Remember, people don't remember their words. Take all of their personal opinions with a pinch of salt. Do what you love and know will benefit the world. Always be thankful to people around you. Never forget where you came from. Humility is the true key to success. But remember, success is not about money. It is just a bonus. You can never take money to your grave. Be a faithful steward of the money and possessions you are given.
8. Where do you see Laugh and Belly landing 3 to 5 years from now?
I really don't know. I only focus on things that will happen now. I don't like to plan very far ahead. Actually, it doesn't do me favours at all, but it stresses me out. I just do things that spark an interest in me at that point in time. For now, I am making a graphic novel. I have no pressures on finishing it by a specific point in time. If I'm pressured, my ideas won't be good at all.
Thus, whatever happens, will happen.
9. Last by not least, where can our readers out more about Laugh and Belly?
I'm an illustrator and I am open to commissions (which means, you can hire me to draw things for you, in my own style). My clients include brands, snack companies, schools and people like you! :-) If you want to take more looks at what Laugh And Belly does, then I suggest you head to the website: http://laughandbelly.tictail.com
Otherwise, you can always find me drawing at art markets. Follow me on Instagram get constant art market updates. Instagram: @laughandbelly.