Arty Expats

We meet four expats who have made their passions their day jobs and turned their hobbies into highly successful businesses

by / Published: 6 Jan 2015

Arty Expats
Considering taking up something new? January is the ideal time to put your plan into action. We meet four expats who have made their passions their day jobs and turned their hobbies into highly successful businesses
Originally from Holland, Yvonne has been in Malaysia for 13 years during which time she has successfully turned her main passion into a thriving, successful business.
“I worked in the fashion industry in Holland mainly doing styling and photoshoots. Styling comes naturally to me, I am always looking for the right balance of colour in everything I do.”
Malaysian photographs all elegantly displayed and framed. “Being an expat is such a transient way of life. People come and go all the time. I create things that expats leaving KL can take with them to remind them of the happy times they had living in this great city.
Our products provide memories that can then be shared with friends and family in new locations. My photo collages make fantastic leaving gifts. I will offer to take the family to a number of colourful locations around KL, such as China Town and Little India, to carry out a photoshoot. I then put the pictures together in a stylish collage and have it framed.”
“I would advise anyone who is considering taking up a creative hobby to avoid sitting in front of a computer. It is so important to get out and see the world. Take your camera, keep your eyes wide open and take pictures of anything and everything that takes your interest.
“It is crucial to have a passion in your life — find yours and follow it.” 
With her bubbly flamboyant personality and funky laid-back style you can tell instantly that Sarah is one of those naturally ‘creative people’ that I always feel slightly envious of. Sarah trained and worked as an architect in London and Hong Kong among other places, but when she moved to KL she decided to take her natural talent for drawing and design down a slightly different path.
I have drawn, sketched and painted for as long as I can remember, but coming from a very scientific family meant that I channelled my arty side into an architecture degree rather than going to art college."
"But when I had my eldest son, I was given a real opportunity to get out of the office and to focus more on art. That said, I still keep my knowledge of what’s going on in the architecture industry up to date.”
I am highly motivated by travel and we have been lucky enough to have travelled quite extensively, which has really fuelled my passion. I use my pictures and sketches to diarise my memories from these travels. A photograph captures a memory in some ways, but when you sit down at a table in a café and sketch the things around you, you have much more time to properly take in your surroundings.
The thing to remember is that there is no right and wrong when it comes to painting. Everyone has their own style and they just need to go with it. Best thing to do is to try out a workshop — just come along and give it a go."
"I will encourage you to try a variety of things, to experiment. The only commitment is time. It is a fantastic way to escape and even though you may start out nervously, you will end up being excited and enthusiastic about what you’re doing; it’s a brilliant way of overcoming your fears.”
Nicolas, or Nic as he likes to be called, epitomises everything a musician should; he’s cool, laid back, suave and, being French, is charming too. He is hard to miss when he arrives at the studio with his guitar slung casually across one shoulder and his light blue pianika tucked securely under his arm—that, and the fact that he’s our only male arty expat.
I was always more interested in writing songs rather than in the technique involved with learning to play an instrument. So instead of having lessons, I taught myself to play the guitar by recording songs from the radio, playing them back and trying to imitate the notes on my guitar. After all, there was no YouTube back then!”
Although a well-known musician on the KL music scene, playing birthday parties, gigs and balls across the city, Nic still pushes himself to try new things.
“I took up the clarinet in the summer as a way of challenging myself and next up will be the drums!”
So what advice would Nic give to any budding musicians out there? “I will say the same thing that parents should say to their kids — try as many instruments as possible from all different families. If you don’t get on well with the piano, try the trumpet. If that doesn’t work out, pick up a violin. There is a musical instrument out there for everybody; it’s just a case of finding out what it is. Most importantly, it’s all about having fun!”
Ceramic artist
Being married to a diplomat and having worked for the Foreign Office herself has meant that Astrid, who is originally from Denmark, has called numerous countries home over the last few years.
Until she arrived in Malaysia she had always managed to work in her chosen field, but when her initial job came to an end, she went all out to find ways to fill her days.
Out of tennis, golf, music, Malaysian culture, hiking, mahjong and art appreciation, to name a few, Astrid found that it was a ceramic class that held her interest and hooked her in.
“I started to attend a class in Subang Jaya with a Danish friend of mine, Lone Skriver. In the beginning we had lessons, but now we go along and have a bit more freedom to use the studio to make our own things.
Although she had never done any pottery prior to arriving in KL two-and-a-half years ago, Astrid is clearly a natural.
In a relatively short space of time, she has created some beautiful pieces including pots, jewellery, plates and vases, which she has showcased at numerous exhibitions across the city and sold for upwards of RM2,000. 
Astrid’s ambition is infectious and inspiring, as she reveals her impressive plans going forward. Not content to just be an unarguably talented potter, Astrid is looking at the long term.
Malaysia really is a great place to live. There are so many things to do that I don’t think I would ever have time to do them all. But the beauty is that anything you want to do, you probably can do here, so think about what it is you want to do and do it!”

Photos Delvin Xian | Image Rom
Art Direction Andrew Chan  
Hair Joey Yap  /  Make-up Kay