MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Educator, psychologist, photographer & crocheter mom, all rolled in one – Alexandria Neoh

If you meet little Terese in our Atelier, you wouldn’t have guessed that her mother persevered for a good five months to get Terese used to coming to work with her at Trehaus. Terese, Alexandria Neoh’s 18-month-old, was so attached to mummy that it took quite a while for her to get used to interacting with other children. Alex, as we all call her, is one tough cookie and continued to believe in the power of consistency and determination. Today, both mom and daughter find their space to thrive and grow – Little T in all her development and social interactions; and Mummy Alex in her passion and businesses.

We caught up with Alex this month to ask her why she started her two businesses and how she got there.

Email Interview with Alexandria Neoh, founder of Picspirations Photography & Yarning Hearts

What inspired you to start your business?

Photography was my first passion. I fell in love with photography in 2006 when I saved up to buy my first camera – a Canon Powershot S1 – to document my travels across Europe. It was then that I became hooked to creating memories through photographs. It took a while to find my calling within photography. After dabbling in many genres of photography over the years – weddings, events and products – I discovered that it was in capturing memories for families and children that I felt most satisfied. Too often life moves at such a fast pace that it passes us by before we can fully appreciate it. It is for this reason that I founded Picspirations Photography in 2014.

Crochet was something I first picked up in primary school. However I never quite took to it till I was pregnant with Terese in 2015 (perhaps it was the nesting tendencies of pregnancy). One year on, with the encouragement of family and friends, and after crafting over 30 soft toys, beanies and granny squares, I launched Yarning Hearts.

Why a photography / crocheting business?

Although the photography industry in Singapore is relatively saturated, there are only a few dedicated newborn and family photographers. Most offer a whole range of services. I believe in choosing a particular area that I can specialise in and be an expert in the industry in. Hence I choose to invest my time in developing myself professionally as a newborn photographer through learning from industry experts overseas so that I may bring to Singapore a standard of creative newborn photography that is unique from the rest.

Yarning Hearts was set up rather organically through the affirmations and encouragement of family and friends who wanted to purchase my crochet toys. It was after experiencing the success of my first public sale in Jan 2016 at the Goodman Arts Centre Market that I decided to venture into crafting bespoke toys and items for people who would love to have them.

What gives you motivation every day?

Waking up every morning to the warm and cheeky smile of Terese and knowing that the day would be one full of adventures! And of course the feeling and desire of driving my businesses forward!

How has being a mother changed the way you work or changed the way you view work?

I am a very structured person and routines help me stay organised. Being a mother has taught me to be a lot more flexible with my plans and schedules, especially with Terese. With a kid, not everything will ever go according to plan and I have learnt to embrace this more with open arms.

What are your plans for your business?

My dream for Picspirations Photography is to become one of the established photography services in Singapore for creative newborn portraiture.  In the coming months, I am also looking at offering a special package for families who would like to document the milestones of their children professionally and at a cost that would not burn a hole in their pocket.

For Yarning Hearts, I am now looking forward to eventually designing and creating a uniquely Singaporean collection that will bring a familiar comfort and joy to all who see or hold them. I also dream of curating a Singapore Craft Fair where I bring together the different yarn-crafters in Singapore, as well as international yarn-makers, to create art and spread this love to others.

Being a teacher at heart, I also hope to eventually share my love for crocheting and photography with others, through workshops or mini events.

What brings you to Trehaus?

Infantcare or fulltime/part-time childcare was not an option for us as I wanted to be involved in walking Terese through her first few years. This was also the reason that I had decided to quit my full-time job as a psychologist to look after Terese full-time and at the same time, to start-up my photography business. Trehaus made this dream possible though it was a rather rough start for us as Terese took a while to settle in. Looking back, it was definitely a crazy idea of juggling being a new mother and new business owner, but I have no regrets doing so, for it was ever so satisfying!

What’s your typical day like coming to work with Terese?

We wake up in the morning and have cuddles in bed (sometimes our pet cat joins in), have breakfast before play time and story time in the morning. Then we have lunch before making our way to Trehaus, where Terese naps along the way. At Trehaus, she plays at the Kids Atelier while I work at the Commons. 30 minutes before the Atelier closes, I go in to spend some time playing with her before we call it a day.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Educator, psychologist, photographer, artist & mum, all rolled in one - Alexandria Neoh 1

Alex and Terese at Trehaus

Do you see any changes in Terese over the past three months, in terms of her growth and development? Has being in the Atelier helped her in any way?

YES! A HUGE change and I think most of my coworkers and the Trehaus team here can also testify to that! Terese took an awfully long time to settle into playing at the Kids Atelier without mummy around. For the first 3 to 4 months, I had to literally work within the Kids Atelier while she played there. One day in February this year, she suddenly decided that it was ok for mummy to not be there. Now she waves good bye to me when I drop her off!

She’s now one of the big Che-Ches (elder sisters) there! She’s a lot more independent and understands that there’s a time for mummy to work and a time for mummy to play with her.

Has being in this space as a coworker done anything for your business / personal and/or professional development?

It sure has! Meeting and networking with people from a whole range of professions and backgrounds has helped to facilitate my thinking of how I could possibly innovate for my businesses and provide the services that would reach out to my clients! The monthly talks have also contributed to my learning.

Do you have any words of advice for a mother like you who would like to bring an active toddler to work?

Every child is different in finding his/her way around in life. They all take their own time in settling in, some faster than others. Consistency and routine, which allowed for familiarity to develop, eventually helped Terese settle into the Atelier. And of course, patience and trust from mummy (me!) that she would eventually get there.

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Trained as a teacher and psychologist, it took Alexandria 7 years before she finally took the plunge to follow her dream in pursuing photography full-time. Besides commercial photography, she also has a keen interest in documenting her travel experiences and creating visual essays. Strongly an advocate of capturing images in camera, she hopes to use her work to inspire others to see the world through untainted lenses. She is also a self-taught crocheter and weaver.

Her photographic work has been featured at the Noise Singapore Open Call Exhibition in 2014 and 2016. In 2016, she was awarded the Noise Singapore Art Mentorship (Photography & Moving Images), which culminated in a group photo  exhibition in 2017, Beyond Home and Home. She was also one of the commissioned artists at the Noise Singapore Showcase 2016, where her mixed media art piece of crochet and photography was featured.

She is currently working with the National Arts Council in conducting a series of workshops for seniors in preparation for the Silver Arts Festival in September.