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Maple Lane grads’ design really shines

Lorraine Graves   Jul-12-2017

Tim Hsia and brother Stephen Hsia display with art work and finished toonie from the Royal Canadian Mint, Canada’s first glow-in-the-dark coin in circulation.

Photo by Chung Chow

Even though the designers of our new toonie, Timothy and Stephen Hsia, work as a doctor and lawyer respectively, they are a tribute to a wide-ranging education that started at Maple Lane Elementary.

Tim says, “Art is something to do creatively with our brains. In our work, we are so serious. Art is a way to express our creativity.”
Younger brother Stephen’s professional life is quite cerebral.



“I’m a lawyer downtown. Formerly, I was a litigator, now I do wills, estates, tax and trust planning.”

Tim says of his profession: “I’m a family physician. I work in the community from prenatal to geriatrics and I also work at a residential care facility, South Granville Park Lodge. I like having that continuity of care and getting to know a family. That’s one of my goals as a family doctor. Something I find really meaningful is serving new Canadians. That’s why I do work at the Aberdeen Health Centre where there are lot of people looking for family doctors so it’s a good way to reach out.”

Tim adds, “We both like to do art in our free time. It was a passion of ours growing up. We’d often draw together. Our parents encouraged us to draw the world around us. They gave us sketch books. We went crazy with it. Our parents took us to museums and places like the aquarium.”Stephen says he is grateful for "parents who took us to things like shows at Gateway Theatre and the teachers who taught us at Maple Lane.”

Both remember Maple Lane's longtime caretaker, Mr. Wilson, fondly. He would draw a sketch in each child’s year book on autograph day.

Tim says he and Stephen enjoy doing art in their free time, ”though," Tim adds, “My brother is a way, way better artist than I am. He’s actually my role model. He has this very good eye for things.”

Tim speaks fondly of their upbringing.

“Our parents really emphasized education, whether cultural or learning languages or music, so we were really fortunate. We really thrived in music, theatre, and the arts.”

Stephen says although coins played a part in their upbringing, “ We’re not coin designers.”

“There is a coin connection. Our grandfather was a coin collector,” he explains. "For a birthday, we’d get a collector’s coin. On the turn of every birthday, we would receive a Royal Canadian Mint coin so we effectively became coin collectors that way.”

The Hsia (pronounced “Shaw”) brothers had two designs they worked on for the Royal Canadian Mint contest. One, submitted under Stephen’s name, became a finalist. The other design that eventually won was submitted in Tim’s name though he is clear: “It’s not my coin. It’s our coin; we both collaborated together.
"We always brain-stormed together,” Tim continued. "We first drew the designs on paper and transferred them on to digital media. This was a team effort at every stage of it. We were both shocked when we were both chosen as finalists. It was definitely a team effort.”

Tim is also gracious in the praise he gives his younger brother.

“Stephen is a way, way better artist than I am,” he says.

When asked what he treasures about Canada, Tim refers proudly to being raised in Richmond by immigrant parents.

“It’s an absolute privilege to call Canada home and celebrate its 150th birthday. I think about overcoming challenges in our history and achieving many things. I’m proud of our natural beauty, from Haida Gwaii to Newfoundland. Canada is so beautiful, so raw; it has vibrant communities where multiculturalism is celebrated. I’m proud of our spirit of humility and our peace-keeping on the international stage.” And being a physician, he says, “I’m proud of our universal health care system as it shows our country is strong and free when we take care of our own.”

Stephen, who studied international relations at university, says a plane ride gave him perspective on our nation.

“One day, I flew from YVR to Newfoundland was able to see what a vast country we are with different regions. Despite our regional differences and the different people here--the English, French and First Nations, then more new Canadians, and recent arrivals--we have managed to forge an identity, a society, one that values each other. I find it remarkable that after 150 years we are as united as we are. Despite it all, Canada soldiers on.”

Tim says two Canadian values really stand out for him: “respect for each other and our ability to compromise and I think that reflects well on us as peace brokers and peace-makers, as a nation.”

He adds: "We had to make treaties with the First Nations. When things seem to be pulling us apart, we find a way to pull it together. I can’t state how proud we are to have been born in this corner of the world.”

Stephen reflects on their journey from the original design to actually seeing their coin produced, “Tim and I are just really full of gratitude. We’re grateful to a lot of people who helped us in this process. We are really honoured to be featured in this story, grateful to people who voted for our coins.”

Of the fact that some coins with their design shine in the dark, Tim says, “I thought it’s very fitting because they’re northern lights and they glow. I’m proud and amazed that this is a security feature. The mint has experimented with the world’s first glow-in-the-dark coin in circulation. I’ve never realized you can make coins that glow in the dark.”

“It’s a fun experience for all age groups,” says Tim. “There’s no extra charge for the new coin which will be sold at face value. Just bring your toonie and I give you my toonie.”

Tim says of their coin: “This really speaks to our nation’s innovation and creativity and it is actually quite amazing. We live in an amazing country. When first held a toonie I was in grade 6 [at Maple Lane]. It was a polar bear on an ice flow. It represented Canada to me. I hope Canadians will remember this glow-in-the-dark coin that features northern lights. I hope they will remember this time and treasure the fond memory of where they were, like a time stamp.”

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