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Giving and Receiving - A Lesson Learnt out of School and Realised through Art and Design

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Convocation is the capstone of a student's journey, marking the finale of their time in school and the beginning of their professional careers. Ask any student and they will lament about the pains they took to reach this juncture - hours spent in the library, numerous consultations with lecturers, pulling all-nighters with peers, countless battles with the printers etc. Yet these recounts are almost always tinged with a hint of fondness.

As LASALLE College of the Arts' BA(Hons) Design Communication graduand Alexis Yang reminisced, "Studying at LASALLE was definitely one of the most enjoyable periods of my life. The lecturers were incredibly supportive, always availing their time to offer feedback. I also made some amazing friends whom I've shared many laughs with. I remember those days leading up to assessments and we would motivate each other to get the job done, giving each other honest criticisms and genuine encouragement."

The lecturers were incredibly supportive, always availing their time to offer feedback. I also made some amazing friends whom I've shared many laughs with.

These moments are especially bittersweet for the budding designer because unlike the three-year candidature for most Bachelor studies, Alexis took seven because of her health. At 13 years of age, she was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome. While the kidney disorder necessitated regular dialysis sessions, it did not hamper Alexis from completing her A Levels at Hwa Chong Institution, and enrolling into LASALLE.

In 2014 however, Alexis was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma which took her out of commission as she required surgeries to remove several tumours. She was one semester shy of graduation then. "It was not an easy choice to make. Of course, I was gutted at having to defer my studies, but it was nevertheless the right decision to make for me to get better," she shared.

As the proverbial phrase goes: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Not one to be defeated, Alexis used her down-time productively and found work as a graphic designer and photographer. Her grit and resolve to remain optimistic was a force to be reckoned with, which was why Alexis was one of the recipients of the inaugural Life Champion Awards by the National Kidney Foundation in 2016.

Time of My Life

Having beaten the cancer back into remission, she resumed her studies at LASALLE in mid-2017 and immediately began work on her final year project. Drawing from her own experience in making advanced care plans, Alexis conducted interviews with social workers and healthcare experts in the palliative care sector, and poured over case studies in order to conceive Time of My Life - a project aimed at increasing awareness and conversations surrounding end-of-life issues.

"Death is still very much a taboo topic so my objective was to find ways to help people broach the subject. Our loved ones need to know our values and wishes about how we would like to be cared for before it is too late," she observed. "Some people cope better than others with bereavement, and my research has led me to believe that a large part of it has to do with the ability to find closure."

Past Perfect, a Journal of Self-Discovery is a toolkit for precisely such. Functioning as a reflection diary, the journal is filled with questions to assist individuals in ascertaining who they really are and what matters to them most. It can then be shared with family and friends to initiate discussions about what it means to live and to pass on.

Alexis Yang with Yeo Tan Tan
Yeo Tan Tan (left) and Alexis Yang (right)

The journal was so well-received among Alexis's network within the palliative care sector that Yeo Tan Tan, Chief Executive of Singapore Hospice Council (SHC), got in touch. Together, the duo discussed plans to create an adaptation of the journal specially for SHC's Community Engagement Kit and it was eventually published, making its debut at SHC's Live Well, Leave Well event on 9 June.

"There was such immense satisfaction in seeing my book being put to good use by individuals within the community. Personally, as someone having benefited from their support and care, this is just one small way of mine to give back to society," Alexis said. Efforts are currently being made to translate the book into other languages.

Beyond this, the graduand appears to have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. As a branch-off from her Time of My Life project, Alexis is working with a partner to set up a video production service that focuses on creating film legacies which can serve as video messages to comfort those left behind, or documentaries to celebrate the life of one dearly departed.

There was such immense satisfaction in seeing my book being put to good use by individuals within the community. Personally, as someone having benefited from their support and care, this is just one small way of mine to give back to society.

Another side-business of hers is Pintank - a collaborative with friends that takes in customised design requests of enamel pins. Her first client was sneaker community All Men Made Equal (AMME), for whom she created this Yeezy Policeman pin specially for their upcoming gathering.

Pintank

With her hands kept full, getting hold of Alexis proved difficult but upon speaking with her, her affable and energetic spirit is infectious. We can all take a leaf out of her book as a passing word of wisdom: "Whatever project or direction you choose to undertake, make sure it is something you care about. People are able to pick up on your enthusiasm, and this demonstrates to them your level of personal investment."

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