Sunday, March 17, 2019

Thoughts from Dunedin

Friday 15th March

At lunchtime I applaud our beautiful tamariki for protesting climate change. Calling for global action. Inspirational. Our younger generation leading the way for the planet. I’m so proud I want to hug them all. The world is looking up.

After lunch, I sit in the audience for a panel discussion at ID Fashion when my silent phone keeps buzzing. The talk is of sustainability and the challenges ahead for designers. I look at the desperate message from my adult son. ‘This is happening in Christchurch, right now!’
I check the link. Not an earthquake.

Walking outside, there are still people who don’t know. Taking selfies, buying clothes, drinking coffee. Laughing in the sunshine. I want a megaphone so I can shout to them, ‘Stop, stop, our world is now different!’
Fashion seems irrelevant. Red is all the rage.

Saturday 16th March

I go for a walk. The New Zealand flag is at half mast. Events have been cancelled but Gun City is open. ‘6 Fun shooting activities you can have without a firearms licence! ‘The ad features a man with his tiny children, laughing and bonding over a tripod mounted weapon. Aiming at targets, finger on the trigger. Kapow. So much family fun to be had.

A visiting friend and I make our way to the mosque, buying the last sad bunch of lilies at Veggie Boys.
‘There’s been a run on them today’ says the girl at the counter.
A group of students walk alongside us clutching posies of wild flowers plucked from gardens, maybe their flats, maybe someone elses. Nobody would begrudge a stolen bloom today, headed for a memorial, an offering of sorrow. We lay our flowers down, a poor substitute for regret, but all we can do right now. Two more students tie a bunting of international flags to the railings. A young Samoan girl writes ‘We love you’ inside a heart, with pink pavement chalk.
Aroha, sorry, we are not this, this is your home, spelled out in pastels.

An official sign on the mosque gate, that has been there forever says:
‘The Messenger said: do not harm or reciprocate harm’. And something about making sure you park legally please.

Parked outside on their feet are two policemen. It’s a shock to see the black weapons in their arms. They hold them like an uncomfortable apology, shaped like death.

Huddles of Muslim people. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to intrude.
We start to walk away and there is one young woman in a hijab staring at the all the tributes.
I touch her hand and say clumsily, ‘I am so, so sorry,’ and we fall into each other’s arms and sob. I hold her tight and she holds me tighter. My friend embraces her too. There is comfort in a single act of touch. For us maybe more than this woman. We want to be forgiven for our country becoming this horror for her.
We walk home my friend and I, swiping at our wet faces.

There are green clad students partying on a rooftop. Early St Patricks Day. One boy leans over and vomits again and again and again, over the wall into the garden. A waterfall of chunks. He gets up, steadies himself and opens another beer to the cheers of his mates. Later he will climb aboard a Lime Scooter, fall off it and clog up the overburdened emergency department with a broken leg. His parents will be so proud he’s at Uni in Otago, all his future ahead of him.  He doesn’t look like the praying sort.

Sunday 17th March
I hear there’s a rush on gun sales before the law change on ownership.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Hows that novel coming along?

On Saturday I will have been here a month.
The burning question is‘ So how’s that novel coming along?’

The truth is, I find myself thrown back into my Masters at the IIML, when having been accepted with a brilliant submission, I got there and found my ideas ran off like disobedient terriers. I went through an angst filled period of self loathing, resignation that I was totally useless, a complete fraud and was not worthy. 

Then I got down to writing.

It takes a while to settle into a place before the muse can be given free reign (my story and I’m sticking to it). Every day seems distracted by something that takes me away from my IMPORTANT work. Things I didn’t finish in Wellington before I left. Getting a Residents Parking permit, so further fines are avoided. Tell me, why does every student on George, Titan and Great King Street own a vehicle? When I was a poor student, I sensibly lived at home and used my parents car, and all their petrol whilst receiving a standard tertiary bursary. Kids these days…privileged much (joking here).

Then there is meeting up with other artists, writers and going to check out the museums and libraries. And St Clair Salt water pool until it closes with daylight saving. ID Fashion this week, French film Festival the next. So busy! So much to see and do. A thousand ways to avoid writing.

But still, walking everyday to my office across the North Ground green, through the University, along the Leith. Watching students, listening to conversations whilst pretending to look at my phone. Realising YA doesn’t always mean 15 year old at school. Can be an 18 year old school leaver. Back in my day we left school at 16 most often. What is a YA audience anyway except for a yarn intended to absorb anyone over the age of 12?

And drawing.

One of the things I decided when I was coming down was that my sketchbook was getting thin on drawings and I had lost the urge to doodle. Part of this is because I no longer feel the need to sketch something from life, because I’m a practised illustrator. So why fill up a diary with studies of fruit and suchlike? I know how to draw them and doing more bores me. The other reason to draw was to nut out designs for clients. I don’t have a client down here, I AM the client. So I bought a brown paper sketchbook (to challenge my tonality) and decided to fill it with whimsey and humour during my time here. If I draw something I have give it a different spin.

I thought I was just amusing myself, but the revelation to me today, was that this is an integral part of my project. Not these particular drawings as such, but the way I’m interpreting the world around me. My proposed project includes diary sketches and a fundamentally different view of life from my protagonist. 

Every new thing I am experiencing here is feeding my work. From losing my keys down the lift well at the College of Ed, visiting Bruce Mahalski and his Museum of Natural Mystery (and coming away with bones), to chortling at the blatantly naughty signage on scarfie student flats.

And sitting in the Student Hub today, I did what has always worked for me best when writing. I got out lined paper, a pen and started. And it’s filling me with that certain excitement that other writers will know…the one that has you wriggling about with delight. Because you are on your way.

So how’s that novel going Fifi? I can report today, that it’s going just fine.

PS- if you want to check out my sketches, follow me on instagram or facebook.
And here is Smaug of the lift shaft, waiting for my keys.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Writer in Residence- the inside oil!

Writer in Residence…it conjures up a Roald Dahlesque picture does it not? In an overstuffed threadbare armchair, crocheted rug over the knees (granny squares 101) with a leather bound desk (spotted with ink, and bearing the scratch marks of an author’s unpublished despair). Stabbing furiously at a typewriter (Olivetti Leterra 25). The residence is an orangerie circa 1922 with wooden framing, glassed panes: some slightly cracked from the insistent tapping of the peach trees outside, on a warm Francophilean day.

I am, for my sins- it pays to have some apparently, The Otago Children’s Writer in Residence for 2019.

Not France, but charming and endearing all the same. My Olivetti is a keyboard from Jaycar Electronics, hooked up to multiple screens and powered with a Microsoft Surface Pro- bought with my winnings from a World of WearableArt entry. My chair is College of Education standard issue, the desk too, with a set of draws which boasts a small selection of stationery (rumour has it there is a stationery cupboard from which one might help oneself, should a freelancer who has paid for this stuff all her career be so bold. Be still my beating and astounded heart!).
I have photocopier privileges. The residence is on the 4th floor, a room with a view of the Forsyth Barr Stadium and the Leith. There is a sign on the door ‘Children’s Writer in Residence’ and one might expect to slide it open a crack and see a woman with a multi coloured wig throwing words in the air and catching them in teacups, for further wetting of the literary whistle.

If you peeked in at me, you would find instead, a small woman with ashy hair, a room taken over with drawing board, paints, brushes, paper and skeletal models of characters made from wire and clay. There’s an Otago Uni branded keep cup and a thick wad of manuscript that has yet to find a home. YA rejections, trending to the max. It’s looking at me askance whilst I work on a new project. Sorry Wild Cards, you were so the last 10 years of my life. Let’s take a break whilst I dally with a newer, more exciting diversion, one that takes me out to dinner and pays the bill.

Having this much sought after and prestigious position comes with the weight of expectation. Mostly, actually, entirely from myself. Am I worthy? Is my project up to it? Can I deliver anything? If I do, will it ever be published. Publish or Perish, is the academic’s motto is it not? Myself and many writing colleagues perish on a yearly basis on that premise alone, such is the fickle industry we have chosen to align ourselves with. We resurrect ourselves again and again.

The reality is, though, published or not, this 6 months is whatever I make of it. The point of writing is writing. 

So, to keep myself honest to my proposal (which gives me more than a frisson of excitement when I look at it), I’ve decided to blog weekly, about my experience here, What it is to be a Writer in Residence, and how it will impact my work. I've survived O Week, settled into my new surroundings and I’ll start by thanking Creative New Zealand, Otago University and the College of Education for the opportunity and the late Robert Lord for the cottage I'm living in. 

To be continued… (and no, I didn’t wake up to find it was all a dream)

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 was my bestest!

On New Years Eve of 2019, I’m pausing to think about the year. 

Facebook reminds us daily of what happened this time last year and some years are ones we would rather forget. Some years are full of grief and sheer bad luck. We all have them, no matter what the aspirational Instagrammers tell us. The people close to us know what really went on; the struggles with all manner of things; addiction, depression, financial disaster. Sometimes you read people’s posts and think ‘Hang on, is this the same person I was hanging out with last week?!’

Social media is designed to curate all manner of things. Laughter, envy, adoration, conscience…

I like to have a laugh above all other things, and some years it’s been hard to. But 2018 was good to me. It bought me work I love and people I enjoyed the company of and working with. You hang onto those years, when things turn out, because it’s good to remember that they did, and the tricky times are blips in the road- sometimes bloody great potholes. This year the highway was smooth for me, and this is how it went. The things I did were, as a summary:

  • Props and costume on The Candlewasters Tragicomic Series watch it- here!
  • Celebrated my painted owl for The Big Hoot, in situ and saw it auctioned off.
  • Designed and built on costuming commissions for some fun projects at CK Film Design here in Wellington.
  • Pulled together a 40th reunion of people who started at Wellington Polytechnic Design School (now Massey university). It was so much fun! Go here to see the one historic photo of the time on record in the official archives. Yes thats me hahaha! I was 20. Of course we dug up many more which I won't post!
  • Created two finalist entries, 'Bower' and 'Jellytits' in the World of WearableArt, Bizarre Bra Section and watched them perform wonderfully on stage.
  • Designed and created all the costumes for Flip, a short Film by Jessica Grace Smith.
  • Saw the release of Go Girl by Barbara Else, which features 6 portraits I illustrated.
  • Constructed, with the invaluable skills of the hugely clever JosieneVM, replica historic prison guard and prisoner uniforms for the CorrectionsMuseum in Wellington
  • Designed and made couple of hilarious and awesome crayfish mascot suits for a local Govt Dept - yet to be released into the wilderness, but look out for them in the new year (still can’t show you pictures yet!)
  • Created regular monthy crafts for The Sapling (an awesome resource!)
  • Illustrated ‘Andrew Down Under’ by Anne Manchester, featuring a very cute dog!
  • Travelled for multiple school visits and workshops in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland through The New Zealand Book Council, Writers in Schools programme.
  • A Duffy Role Model Tour of Hawkes Bay- Bringing Books into Homes.
  • Co-Judged the Edible Fashion Awards in Havelock North, with Annah Stretton and Tessa Paymans.
  • Created a puffer fish puppet for The Asthma andRespiratory Foundation Education programme
  • Ran a Matariki craft workshop at The Beehive and a monthly craft session for Teen Girls at Hutt Hospital.
  • Ran writing and illustration workshops at The Hokianga Writers Festival in Rawene- a very special place in the world
  • Facilitated a Write Like an Author School Holiday Workshop over a week with talented young writers and am setting up a Draw Like an Illustrator one for January 2019 (only 4 places left!)
  • Gathered WOW entries together for a mini show for AWE in Upper Hutt with the tireless and community spirited, Melanie Avery, then helped displayed a static wearable art exhibition at Expressions Gallery.
  • Spent a month creating a special sculpture for Dress for Success using my Weta Workshop Residency, won at World of WearableArt the previous year.
  • Won The Shoes Extravaganza  Contemporary Section with my 'Milos' Greek inspired shoes
  • Finally, finally, I have had two picture books that I have both written and will illustrate accepted for publishing next year (more details to come as to what and with who). Usually I either write my own novels, or illustrate someone elses picture books.
  • Made a panel for Suffrage in Stitches (they still need a few more if you want to make one!)
  • Oh and the big one; I was appointed the 2019 Children’sWriter in residence at Otago University. Something I have dearly wanted and worked towards for years- AND the NZ Women's Weekly did an article on me because of it. So I have made my mother proud!

So yes, the stars were in alignment and if it seemed that everything I touched turned to gold this year, it’s more an indication of years of groundwork I think, making good connections with people and not letting anyone down, even if I was dog tired. I was fortunate to keep good health both physically and mentally. And as I said at the start of this post, some years are just not like that (I'm remembering that appendicitis surgery, and the year of depression...)  Oh, and I'm still not financially wealthy. Designer clothes and travel continue to evade me, but I am happy and content. That's worth so much to me.

So if 2018 has been one you’d rather wave goodbye to and forget, then bid it farewell. Tomorrow is a new day, a new year, with new possibilities. Happy 2019 all, and thank you everyone for your most excellent support and aroha xxx

Friday, October 12, 2018

Weta Workshop Reward!

photo credit: Weta Workshop

In 2017, I won the World of WearableArt,Weta Workshop Science Fiction Award, for The Organ Farmer, which included an internship opportunity at Weta Workshop.

Figuring out just how best to use my time at Weta Workshop was exciting.

I was a little unusual a candidate for the internship because some years ago I had worked there on The Lion, The Witch and theWardrobe, so I already knew a bit about sewing costumes and riveting and assembling armour. But I’ve always wanted to learn about sculpting, moulding and casting and was desperate to get into those departments and find out everything. Everything I knew I didn’t know!

It made sense for me to go with a project in mind and have the experts at Weta Workshop guide me through the processes to create something. After much thought, I hit upon the ideal project. Something that would give back somewhere in the community, whilst teaching me all I wanted to learn.

I approached ‘Dress for Success’ a charity which helps people prepare for interviews and employment with the simple but crucial advantage of an appropriate wardrobe. I suggested that I design and create a one-off sculpture that could be auctioned and the proceeds go to their charity. President Rhiannon McKinnon was thrilled with the idea and with the blessing of the World of WearableArt (WOW) and Weta Workshop, we made a plan.

First, I drew up a design. I decided an oversized shoe, a firm kind of women’s boot patterned with blossoming red flowers on one side and the koiri  kowhaiwhai pattern meaning ‘flourish’ on the other, held together with a seam of gold best represented ‘putting your best foot forward.’ A celebration of the 125th year of NZ Womens’ Suffrage.

I sent my design in advance to Weta Workshop so I could hit the ground running on day one.
Jane Wenley met me at reception. Jane is amazing collectibles sculptor as well as a stunning WOW model. Such talent all wrapped up in one lovely welcoming tutor! And I needed one, having come up with my design, I had no idea how to make it. Jane took me to the wood workshop to find some useful chunks of timber as a base, which were then cut to the right size for me. She showed me how to build an armature for my model. Then I was introduced to the Plasteline sculpting compound, kept soft and pliable in something akin to a pie warmer. I was set up in the sculpting room, at a desk and lent all kinds of useful tools that were much handier than my own, whilst Jane showed me the ins and outs of sculpting and kept a gentle eye on my progress. Richard Taylor came in and gave me some tips too- about not being so tentative with my techniques but just getting stuck in with a bit of gusto. He really knows how to use those tools!

Over the week, Heather Palmer and Kat Sprowell popped in from WOW, hugs all around. I had lunch out with Jane and the crew at Park Road Post (very flash!) and learned how to use the espresso machine in the cafe like a pro. Very important, the caffeine! I learned the useful art of making dozens of replica Plasteline flowers from a silicon mould of my sculpt to speed up the process, how to smooth and refine my design and make it into what I had envisaged in the first place. I also learned that my idea of making a thing in a week was totally underestimating the time involved. I could have spent another couple of weeks on the sculpt, but I had a deadline and it was time to move onto the next department.

Rob Skene runs the moulding department and took me through the process of making a mould. I brushed silicone, made a plaster jacket and learned all about the importance of registration keys. This process took a couple of days and I would never have got my head around it if I hadn’t had the guidance and access to the materials. Now if I need to do this, I know what to buy, how much to buy and what steps are critical.

With plaster mould in hand, it was onto the casting room, where Brian Stendebach offered to mix up the resin compounds and pour the cast. I was very happy to hand this part over to the expert as it takes speed, agility and know how. I watched, fascinated as the mould was filled, layer by layer and left to set. When it was de-moulded, there, looking fantastic was my shoe! Almost. Now it needed finishing.

moulding, casting and demoulding

The finishing room is headed by Marco Wuest who set me up at a desk fitted with an extraction fan- very important when finely sanding your mould to paintable smoothness. I realised then, what work I could have done on the plasticine sculpt before I made a mould to make this process faster. After a full day with grit and dremels, it was time to go paint a shoe!

Jules German set me up in the paint room and introduced me to super-fast drying spray paints, more extraction booths and the marvels of gold foil. Paint is my thing and I thought I knew everything about it, but I learned more. I also had a nosy at the work they were doing for a film and got some good tips on making multiple stencils. Richard popped by and I took the opportunity to have him sign the shoe base with gold pen, alongside my name.

Dressed for...Weta Workshop!

And then, all too soon, my time at Weta Workshop was over. I had a photo by the weapons wall, one last flat white, goodbye hugs, handed in my fob and walked out the door with new skills and a giant beautiful shoe that took around 150 hours to create. It’s one in a limited edition of two, the second is a blank cast, just for me. Then we broke the mould.

‘Flourish’ will go up for public auction soon, all proceeds will go to Dress For Success to further their fantastic work. And unlike Banksy, we won’t destroy it when the hammer falls.

photo credit: Weta Workshop

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

there's a Writer in Residence! (and it's me)

Well, blow me down...South!

Here's a bucket list thing I have been wanting for a very long time. Once again back to that old saying: 'Your persistence is your measure of your belief in yourself' . 

Still can't believe it, but have bought a puffer jacket for living in Dundin for 6 months of 2019!

University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence: Fifi Colston

She is an award-winning junior fiction novelist, children’s book illustrator, and non-fiction author.
"I have been playing with an idea for some time that encompasses the main strands of my creative career; writing, illustration and wearable art."
Many will know her from her time as arts and crafts presenter on TVNZ’s What Now and The Good Morning Show. Her talent has also seen her work with Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop, Peter Jackson’s Stone Street Studios, Pukeko Pictures and The Production Shed as a costumier, puppet maker, illustrator and crafts expert.
She feels “incredibly honoured” by her appointment and is ready to embrace the opportunity it presents.
The Fellowship will enable her to work on a young-adult book “with an illustrated difference”.
“I have been playing with an idea for some time that encompasses the main strands of my creative career; writing, illustration and wearable art. I find I cannot comfortably forsake one passion for another and neither can my protagonist,” she says.
Along with providing the “absolute luxury” of being able to create a major work without having to worry about how to pay the bills, she is looking forward to getting to know the Otago area, and accessing relevant research which is only available at the University.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Big Hoot!

Life has been busy since my win at WOW. I’ve worked on a web series with The Candlewasters being head of art and props, worked with a small costume company on designing and constructing some fun ideas, pottered away on my wearable art entry for this year and the biggest- literally because it was huge, painted an owl for The Big Hoot. A fundraiser for the Child Cancer Foundation.

Vodafone were my sponsors and they put together this lovely little video of my workshop selfies, painting my very large owl!.
You can see the process here!

The owls go up for public auction on the 29th May. You can visit my owl, Ruru Kakotea, downtown Auckland at the corner of Vulcan Lane and Queen Street. We removed the beautiful leather rope (plaited by the very talented Ali Middleton) for his public watch in case it was souvenired, but it will be reinstalled for the auction.

Download the trail map and the app, and go visit all the owls, they are absolutely stunning!
Over and out until my next post- in the meantime follow me on facebook and Instagram.

me and Ruru Kakotea at the grand unveiling
In situ, Vulcan Lane, Auckland

Sunday, October 01, 2017

WoW just WoW

on stage at WOW, photo by Peter McDonald

It’s been a huge two weeks, in the best way possible :)

On Friday 22nd September, I finished up my 6 week creative writing programme with Featherston School as part of the Wairarapa Project. Hopefully some of the kids I spent time with are writing stories with good beginnings, interesting middles and fine endings with a host of interesting characters.

My own interesting character, graced the stage at the World of WearableArts Award show that very night. I had on some shiny silver shoes with no particular expectation of doing anything but dancing in them at the after party. So, when my name was called as the first place winner in the Weta Workshop Other Worlds Section, I nearly fell off them. I did in fact scream.

Contrary to popular belief, I have never won a section at WOW in all the 22 years I have competed. I’ve had a couple of seconds and thirds over my 24 finalist garments and I was pretty over the moon about those. But this year, well, WOW!  I went on stage to get my trophy and hug Richard Taylor. I may have left mascara stains on his lapel; him being very tall and me being very short, and, well, I was crying at the time.

me, stunned with a trophy

In addition to the first trophy I have ever had in my life (including school), I won a money prize and am still deciding what I should buy. I’m thinking, because my old Samsung tablet is dying and my laptop kicked the bucket years ago, that to be more portable I might get a Microsoft SurfacePro. I may be a creative but that does not mean I am an Apple gal. Macs and me only get a long if that is the lipstick brand. Of course if anyone with any influence is reading this, I am happy to be given these products to unbox, use and social media about. Isn’t that what happens when you finally get famous? You get given everything you couldn’t afford before? :D 

The other part of my prize is to be flown to Weta Workshop to complete a 4 week internship. It’ll be a very short flight on the Flyer bus, as I live 5 minutes away as the crow flies. I’m very much looking forward to spending time there and having a go at a variety of disciplines!
My garment, The Organ Farmer was modelled just superbly on the WOW stage and I couldn’t have been happier. My rationale for this fairly nightmarish piece (I didn’t show the pics to my mum in case she thought I’d lost my mind) is as follows in this article and video clip on Stuff.

Cybernetic regeneration of vital tissues       
In 3446 the Cyborgs come to a realisation that humanity might have a purpose. Their experimentation however, produces unexpected results. In a heartbeat, this lowly host experiences strange new feelings previously unknown, opening up a world of sensation as the fleshy graft takes hold.
My process is on facebook- click through to see how I did it. Don’t forget to like and follow my page; it makes me feel wanted!
Photos of my final piece by Werner Kaffl who was an absolute pleasure to work with.

The organ Farmer. Photos by Werner Kaffl

I finished up the amazing week that was, by flying to Queenstown, and doing a week long tour of Southland schools with Storylines, along with Des Hunt, Scott Tulloch and Barbara Else. We visited and talked to 3 schools at day for 5 days from Queenstown to Invercargill. The weather was awesome, the kids bright eyed and bushy tailed and we had a wonderful time passing on what it is to be writers and illustrators, and in my case a costume designer too.

looking at Torty and the Soldier
I round off the next week with a free wearable art workshop at Te Papa on Wednesday for kids, and the Storylines National Children’s Writers and Illustrators Hui where I’m presenting a workshop on presenting. It’s what I love, and find fun but others find terrifying. I will help people get over their fear. After that, I can collapse. Oh hang on…I have a giant owl to paint for The Big Hoot!

Woo hoo!

xxx Fifi

Monday, July 24, 2017

World of WearableArt 2017 is...go!!!

The anxious wait for the results of the first round of judging for the World of WearableArt came through a week ago.

This is a day when nothing gets done in a WoW designer's life from 9am in the morning whilst you try and distract yourself by refreshing your email inbox 30 times a minute. As you can imagine, this wears out your keyboard and the patience of everyone around you, be it at home, work or on holiday. As my partner and I work from home, sharing the same office studio with the cat, I had two to annoy all day with my distracted demeanour and attention focussed only on my screen. The computer, my tablet and my phone. Changed days from when I first started entering in 1995, when results were sent out by snail mail which could arrive anytime in the week, depending on where you lived and the postal service!

The private messenger groups we have all formed were buzzing with anticipation, nervousness, impatience and then finally celebration, relief or sadness depending on whether the email started with 'Congratulations...' or 'Thankyou for entering...'

The designer facebook forum started to fill up with pictures of simply amazing pieces that weren't selected. We aren't party to the judges criteria, or to the curation of art for the show. You can only make a piece from the heart, to the best of your ability and hope for the best. If the section has a brief, answer it, if not, design your own brief.

My piece for this year was selected for the Weta Workshop Costume and film section, the theme is Science Fiction. Part of the 2017 brief is 'Create an extra-terrestrial being from an alien world or a human being as you can imagine them living in the year 3446'. 
I've reimagined something in the cyborg realm. Other than that I can't tell you anything except to say it's super creepy and it took me a while to show my family what I'd made in case they thought I'd lost my mind. I love what I've done and once again I pushed beyond the boundaries of what I know I can do into the territory of what I could do if I used my grey matter and learned a few new skills. Each year I learn more and this is what keeps me on the WoW marathon. It's bootcamp for the creative being.

Come the award night, I'll be able to post my entry all over social media, so you'll have to wait until September 22nd. I can however show you the piece that didn't get in. Yes, there's always the one that got away. My friend Vicky Robertson and I made this from a selection of recycled items.  Her own gorgeous piece got into this year's show too, but whilst our combined entry didn't, we had fun combining skills and effort, and drinking wine when it was all over!

It was for the Illumination section where things light up under UV light, with the theme Float, Fly Flow. Thank you to Werner Kaffl for the photography and to Shonty Rogan for the studio and coordination to get our WoW pieces captured so brilliantly on one fine day in Trentham!

Danse de Lumière
Inspired by Guimard’s Chandelier

The float, fly, flow theme lends itself to a performance piece based on a reimagined interpretation of the French architect, Hector Guimard’s work of 1914. Three separate models, with wing spans and lightshade head pieces, come together in formation, to create multiple concepts for a chandelier. We scoured recycling centers and dumpsters with a portable UV light for the parts that make this entry up. Lampshades, a beer keg bladder, venetian blinds, curtaining rods, spa pool filters and lastly a harness repurposed from a previous UV finalist entry.

We purchased the black morph suits and split rings.

The entry is open to choreographic interpretation. All parts are easy to wear, UV reflective and provide huge scope for movement; floating, flying and flowing across the black stage. We considered the performance aspects of dance in this creation and what would work for performers to create the final ‘vision’ of light.

When it comes back to us, we will take it pieces and recycle the useful bits and back to the tip shop, all the rest will go. 

So- this first pic is not the entry- it was our inspiration!

Hector Guimard's Chandelier
It's hard to post a transforming, evolving dance, but try and use your imagination here!
The dance in three movements...

And here's what our models, Adrienne and James wore in the daylight. They were awesome even with the flu!

So, until I post again.... À bientôt!
x Fifi

Monday, July 10, 2017

Torty and the Soldier- the illustrators journey

The NZCYA book awards are coming up soon and apart from deciding what frock to wear, I’ve been thinking about the illustration journey I had with Torty and the Soldier, so beautifully written by the very expert author, Jennifer Beck.

When Lynette Evans at Scholastic asked me if I’d like to read the manuscript with a view to illustrating another ANZAC book, she also mentioned the magic word ‘tortoise’. She’s a clever woman… I have a very soft spot for these hard-shelled creatures.

My oldest sister and I had a one each as small children in Britain. Mine was called Sooty after the Sooty and Sweep Show (which left me with a lifetime love of puppets) and my sisters was Big Ears which was irony I missed at the time, given the lack of them on her shelly companion.
Tortoises have a tendency to roam far and wide in search of lettuce leaves which usually are in the garden proud neighbours place 4 doors down. They are the Peter Rabbits of the reptilian world. They also hibernate and I remember them in shoe boxes in the bottom of the wardrobe, wintering over. Sometime during this period of pet ownership, our family moved to Ghana in West Africa, and my parents line to this day around the tortoise disappearance whilst packing was ‘they wandered off.’ No amount of plying with wine will make my mother change that 50 year old story.

The book’s heroine, Torty (her real name) wandered off, all over the Greece and into the sight of Stewart Little (not the mouse), in 1917 where the story begins. I was entranced by her adventures bought to life by Jennifer’s writing and said yes to taking on the job of illustrating the book.
Normally, for a book based on realistic style illustrations, I would find models and photograph them to work from. So I paid Torty a visit when she was out of hibernation and residing with family in Havelock North. She has an enclosure that boasts a nesting box and plenty of access to grassy lawn and shady bushes, all with a tortoise proof fence, 25 cm high! She’s a feisty old lady of 200 years and I made my husband hold her whilst I photographed her from every angle. She gave him a good kicking in the process. I also visited the Weta Workshop- made replica of her in the Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa. She's in a wooden crate and a very good likeness indeed!

As for Stewart and his brother, I had no real idea what they looked like apart from Stewart’s military records. Brown hair, hazel eyes. I was also running out of time to find models, so I tried a different method for the first time. I used a 3D programme called DAZ where I could create people and move them around from all angles. I am no expert with it, but managed to get what I needed by a fair amount of trial and error. The rest was interpretation with watercolours on paper and some digital textures layered on after the scans were done.

The story moves backwards and forwards through time so we needed to make a distinction between the illustration. I used monochromatic sepia watercolours for the backstory and invited colour into the ‘present’ storyline. Our designer Leon Mackie did a terrific job in a subtle way of dividing those storylines too. And every time I see our cover I sigh with gratitude that Scholastic use great book designers!

A book takes time, and by the time everyone in the team has finished their part of the creation, a year has gone by and you are well into other projects. So it is a delight and an honour that when I’ve almost forgotten the months of work we put into it, it is shortlisted as a finalist for the awards. The ultimate acknowledgement. Many thanks to the judges, and I’ll look forward to a night of celebration with some of New Zealand’s best writers and illustrators of children and young adults books.

Some of the illustration process

3D modelling