And the creation of the little icons has made him a kind of Singapore icon himself. The Art has become the artist. He is synonymous with his creation.
But the obsession has taken its toll and now, having poured all his resources into the endeavour, he now needs to cash in some of his fame and will be selling LKY miniatures to “selected serious collectors”.
If you are interested contact him through his FB page:
Chris’s is very hopeful he will be allowed to give 9 figurines to the great man himself on his 90th birthday this September 16th. But so far he has had no official response to his request.
The 55 year old is very keen that people understand his work not as a political act but as a form of reverence for the great man.
It is done out of LOVE. Respect and most of all Sincerity. Not for SALE. you can’t buy Respect.But earn it.These are done out of Respect to SIR LKY. it is not to hold any Protest or Votes for any Party involvement. It is of my own accord that i feel that people pay respect.. This year i want to Present SIR LKY my 9 designs each one is 10 years of his achievements.And also a book from the public wishing him Happy 90th Birthday.16 Sept 2016..It is a honor doing what i am doing and Thank you PAP and the OPPIES for respecting my work.. And not giving me bad remarks or condemning my works..appreciate both Parties and making Singaporean have a better life..
– Chris “Treewizard” Pereira on FB
Chris’s Story: The longer version
Chris worked as a lecturer at Temasek Poly teaching architectural modeling. His career was going well until his mother fell ill from cancer.
“Then everything started to fall apart.”
When she died of leukemia 12 years ago, he wanted to pour his energy into a project. So he downgraded his flat in order to have the money to set up a business.
He set up a workshop in Bras Basah complex where students could go to build their models (facilities he saw were lacking). It was well stocked with equipment and supplies. It was his “dream workshop” called aptly enough: WORKSHOP.
But with a rent of $10k per month and students only paying $10 per hour to use the facilities, it was bleeding money from the word go. Eventually he ran through his savings and had to close shop. Some of his equipment was repossessed. Everything else was moved back home where he operates today.
It was during this time that he first started working on the LKY figurine idea. It took 5 years for him to perfect the design. He went through many prototypes but wanted to be sure he had a design which would do the man proud. During these years he put a lot of effort into looking at pictures of the great man and watching videos of his speeches and public appearances.
He had LKY on the brain 24/7.
But even with a design he was proud of, it took another 5 years for him to bring the figurines out into the public. He was worried about both the public and official reaction. His friends all warned him that he could be arrested and thrown in jail. Paranoia set in.
He only had the courage to step out in public with his creation in 2010, 10 full years after he was first inspired to create the little icons.
With each venture out, he got more public recognition and gained in confidence. It became a game: how many people within the official apparatus could he meet with LKY strapped to his back?
Chris has thousands of pictures of his outings with the LKY figures showing a never ending trail of greater an greater public visibility.
Among his collection of photos is a 2012 encounter with Lee Hsien Loong at the time of LKY’s 89th birthday. Chris had collected well wishes from passers by on Orchard Road and presented the collection to LHL as a gift for LKY’s birthday.
But most surreal are the photos of him leading a workshop in making model trees with a team of employees from ISD.
He now has a number of designs of the large LKY:
- Holding Starbucks coffee
- Holding piece of paper
- 1965 Lee with megaphone – often seen at rallies
- Santa Lee – with Santa hat, sack and bell
- Fist pump
- Double victory
- Wearing F1 outfit
He also has models of Tony Tan and ST Nathan.
You can see examples in his FB photo collection.
Chris is now planning to sell some limited edition 12cm miniature LKY figurines to “selected friends and acquaintances” for a price he will not make public. You can, however, contact him via Facebook to know more.
The name Mini-Mint (“MM”) refers to their “minting” process and the obvious inference to Minister Mentor (the project started before the great man was the Senior Minister or Emeritus Senior Minister).
Eventually he plans to open the “Mini-Mint Museum” (“MMM”) and marketing is already underway: so far he has design a logo for the project and has tattooed it onto his leg.
How many are there?
Chris is cagey about disclosing the actual number of figurines. He says there are “250 pieces” per design and that he is aiming for 250 designs but is currently only selling design #1.
He aims to release 4-6 designs per year which would mean that it would take over 40 years to release all 250 designs (“by which time I’ll be the same age as LKY is now“).
However there is no unique numbering system for the figurines. Every one in the first series has the marking 1/250. The second series will be all 2/250 and so on. Only he will know how many there are of each piece.
He has, however, already shown a number of the mini-mint designs in public indicating there may be more than the initial design available for those very keen to get their hands on them:
- #1 Double victory sign – shown above available for sale
- #2 Team Singapore: Two thumbs up
- #3 Single Hand Waving
- #4 1965 Holding a megaphone
- #5 Fist pump
How it’s made
A master is made from clay and baked. Then a rubber mould is created using the master. Resin is poured into the mold to make the figurines. When the resin is dry, they are hand pained. You can see an example of the raw clay figure here and an unpainted figurine here.
There are various models of figurine that Chris walks around town strapped to his back. The straps are made from black belts “because the PAP wear black belts as part of their outfit” though he specifically chooses belts from Timberland because the tree logo represents his name (“Treewizard”) and also because Singapore is the “garden city”.
The nuts used to attatch the belt to LKY are octagon shape “because LKY designed the Singapore one dollar coin with 8 sides for luck”.
Chris has clearly put a lot of thought into every detail of the design though sometimes it’s hard to know if the idea for the design came first or the story about the design was retrofitted to the final product.
Time Capsule Lee
I made the head so you can open it because LKY is a brain guy. So this represents opening the minds of an open minded Singapore. You see what I’m getting at?
I’m going all over Singapore taking pictures. I’ve got thousands of pictures here. And I’m going to put the memory chip in his head. Then we’ll seal it up. Then we can store him… like a time capsule. Then in 20 years when people open it up, they will understand why I did this – why I made the skull hollow.
Chris is a walking billboard for his various projects:
MMM – The logo for his “Mini-Mint Museum” is on his right leg.
Day Night Tree With Love – “I work day and night; I work on trees and I really love them.”
Workshop – On his left forearm. The logo for his previous venture
Magdalene – on his right forearm. In memory of his mother
“My mother was born in 1924 – year of the Rabbit. So this rabbit represents her. And you see she’s holding a teddy bear? That’s me. I was her baby bear – the youngest of 6 boys. She is also holding a knife to protect me.”
Only thing is, 1924 was the year of the Rat.
The nickname “Tree wizard” comes from making model trees. His “Angel Tree” project is very special: for $80, parents of a dying child can commission Chris to make a model tree embossed with the child’s fingerprint. “The child presses her/his thumb into the soft clay thereby preserving a bit of the child’s DNA” as a token of rememberance.