In the last months of her mother’s life, Sharon Lam started drawing the places they had been together. From neighbourhood coffee shops and nearby lending libraries to local beaches, it was a way to revisit happy memories at a time when there were few memories left to make.
In the year since her mother passed away from ovarian cancer, Lam has continued with her pieces. Now, they’re a form of healing.
“It makes it into a more digestible form of grief for me to draw these memories out instead of feeling overwhelmed by them.”
|Sharon Lam and her family sitting outside Olive Olio's in Cadboro Bay. (Courtesy of Sharon Lam)|
They’re also a sort of time capsule for 26-year-old Lam, who fears how much she’ll still be able to remember 10, 20 or 30 years from now.
At first, this was the sole purpose of the drawings – to provide a small amount of joy to Lam and her family. But when the pandemic hit in March, and Lam’s previous work as a banquet supervisor ceased, she decided to transform her art into something more.
Using her commerce degree and the help of multiple entrepreneurial friends, she launched her online store Art by Sharon Lam in December 2020, one year after her mother’s passing. She creates the majority of her pieces using digital illustration apps on her iPad and sometimes dabbles with watercolours.
“It’s been a very constructive way for me to deal with those emotions. Turning it into a project makes it a little less daunting, I guess.”
Looking back on her life with her mom, Lam said the importance of the community meeting places in which they spent time has become very clear.
One of those was the Dutch Bakery.
When she was younger, Lam’s parents owned the Japanese restaurant, Tombo, on the corner of Douglas and Fisgard streets and, each day at the end of the lunch rush, Lam’s mother would take them for elephant ear cookies at the Dutch Bakery. In the years since, the bakery has stopped making the treat, and Lam said no other elephant ear cookie has ever tasted the same.
So, when she was commissioned earlier this year to do a drawing of the bakery as a Christmas gift for the owner’s husband, Lam knew there was only one form of payment she wanted – the elephant ear cookies.
Lam said the owner has promised to bake her a batch in the new year. Like her drawings, she knows they will be a bittersweet memory.
Her artwork can be found at artbysharonlam.com.
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