Lodge alum Beth Lau is an artist and designer who is passionate about fostering arts education in the local Kuching community. Through her arts studio Little Makers Co., Beth provides a platform for young children between the ages of four and twelve to engage with art as a way of nurturing creativity and innovative thinking.
Beth was at Lodge from Form Two to Form Four before completing high school in Melbourne, Australia. While she started out studying commerce at university, she made the switch after one semester to art design and graduated from Swinburne Melbourne with a Bachelor of Design. After a stint in Singapore as a graphic designer, Beth eventually moved back to Kuching in 2015.
In 2016, a chance opportunity to work with children opened a new path for Beth in the field of arts education. Given the prevalent focus on the sciences, there is a woeful lack of awareness regarding the arts in the local education system, with many viewing it as more a hobby than a field of learning. Beth is passionate about changing this mindset, and points out how there is a high demand in large Asian cities like Singapore for art therapy classes: “The arts is part of culture, and making arts education available is just providing a section of community [a way] to express themselves [through] visual language. Arts and culture is the fabric of society.” Hence, when Beth established Little Makers Co. in 2017, it was with the goal of teaching young children a variety of art techniques and mediums, and encouraging them to explore making, creating and innovating with their hands:
In a digital era, with the rise of technology, I see the importance of ‘thinking out of the box’ and understanding the basics of creativity, which comes through experimentation and observation. Little Makers Co. is a platform where I hope to inspire innovation by reinstilling the skills in young children [and prompting] imagination and experimentation by giving them clay, paint, charcoal and ink, so that they understand the form and function of these materials by interacting with them.
Little Makers Co. started with a diverse range of educational art workshops catered to both adults and children, from watercolours, tie dying and clay art classes to batik, shibori and portraiture. Beth’s aim is to start building an awareness of arts through education in the local community, and later introduce art programs on a long-term basis for children and/or adults to pursue their interest in the arts more consistently and progressively.
It’s obvious that Little Makers Co. is a labour of love for Beth, and the studio is grounded in a desire to serve families, schools and organisations in the community. Art, Beth asserts, is “a way for kinfolk to come together and unite under a singular passion.” For example, Little Makers Co. + Friends was an initiative where artists, designers, illustrators, and mural artists came together to offer affordable workshops to the local community. Additionally, in April this year, the studio was invited to join the Small Art Town community for their Junior Arts Market. Beth’s students, aged four and above, produced linoprints and uniquely customized notebooks and bags for the event: “We even had workshops where the students would teach other children to linoprint, and that was really fulfilling to see.”
Seeing for herself how she can foster an awareness of, and hopefully a passion for, art is a highlight for Beth in her work with young children:
In April last year, I was invited to collaborate with a local preschool, for children aged two to six. We created an artwork together that highlighted the importance of arts education. A group of little children and I were just painting for the love of it, and it was so memorable when we exhibited together at Indah Cafe. Their parents brought them over, and many of them had not been to a contemporary arts exhibition before. To be part of their journey was meaningful as an educator and artist.
Finally, now that she’s an educator herself, Beth gives a shout-out to a couple of her teachers from Lodge who inspired her: “There was a teacher who taught us history, Mr Wong, and I remember his passion, gentleness and patience. He and his wife Mrs Wong have impacted me as an educator; they showed warmth, sincerity, excellence, understanding and respect for people. They are my role models, and I am grateful to them.”
Written by Jane Leong
Photos courtesy of Beth Lau