Insanely lovely family-sized fun

by Steve Watson in April 2022
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Art & design Craft & making

Based in Singapore, Rubbish Famzine is one family’s loving print project, created by dad Pann, mum Claire, and kids Renn and Aira Lim as a series of exhibitions and annual zines that have been published (almost) every year for the last decade. Their latest issue is titled Blood Sweat & Tears, and it looks back over the project so far, adding special behind the scenes details and a frankly mind-blowing array of special treats and surprises.

If you’ve seen any of the previous issues you’ll know these little hand-finished touches are essential to the charm of Rubbish Famzine, but for this special retrospective they’ve pulled out all the stops and made an object that’s more like a time capsule than a magazine. There’s such an abundance of love on the pages that the content feels incredibly precious – this is an extraordinary family that welcomes readers into their creative and personal lives. And the production itself matches that sentiment, with every carefully placed sticker and every ingeniously designed treat feeling like a little gift from the Lim family.

The following overview zooms in on a few of my favourite details to show what the issue is all about.

If you’re going to make an issue full of blood, sweat and tears, you’re going to need some tissues to clean things up, so the whole magazine comes packaged in this tissue box, complete with a layer of actual tissues. (Family size, of course.)

The publication and its cassette tape sit in a concealed compartment below the tissues, and I love the sense of this as some kind of editorial contraband, smuggled out of Singapore and into homes around the world.

The tape contains a recording of the family’s second release (they put out their first single Bright Eyes back in 2018). Written by the kids, with music by Pann and Aira, and help from family friend Victor Low, Blood Sweat & Tears is featured here as the A-side, with a remix of Bright Eyes on the B-side.

They also provide a handy little pencil with instructions for anyone who hasn’t encountered an unspooling cassette before.

And towards the back of the magazine you’ll find a cardboard sleeve complete with self-adhesive strips so you can make it yourself and slip it over the cassette.

Taking things right back to the beginning, they share some of the kids’ first paintings, along with pictures of them painting together.

This sketch by Renn is apparently the spark that lit the whole creative project.

It was drawn on the back of a burger tray liner, so of course the tray liner is also reproduced on the reverse.

These pictures show issue one, which was packaged in a screen-printed rubbish bag, full of crumpled up colour proofs from making the issue.

I mentioned that this issue feels like a time capsule, but they have actually made one of those before – these are the contents that were packed into 300 vintage biscuit tins for their third issue in 2014.

And because music is such a good way of evoking a specific time and place, they’ve selected some of their favourite songs and created QR code links that you can stick throughout the issue in the relevant years, so you can also hear their music while you read.

But don’t think this is the end of Rubbish Famzine – it seems that Pann, Claire, Renn and Aira haven’t finished the project just yet…

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