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!

https://www.otago.ac.nz/otagobulletin/news/otago695162.h

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.
Cheers
Fifi


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







Monday, June 12, 2017

Of Totaras and Saplings


 more than a bookseller

This is the briefest post I’m likely to write. I have problems with getting character counts down to Twitter brevity but it’s been 2 weeks of everything from the highest point to the lowest. Follow all the links to read the full stories.

Janine McVeagh and I launched a new book ‘Grandad’s Guitar’ at the Children’s Bookshop. Makaro Press published it and the champion of children’s books, John McIntyre launched it and we all had a great time with music, laughter and joy.

I got my Wearable Art entry off for judging. It’s in the science Fiction Section and if it doesn’t get into show, I’ll be questioning my very existence (part of the creative process). This is my 22nd year with 27 entries… Here’s a pic of my studio after tidy up.

Torty and The Soldier got shortlisted for the NZ Children’s and Young Adults Book Awards, so Jennifer Beck and I are very happy, and now I get to wonder what to wear at the award ceremony.

Possibly black...

Because...

This weekend John McIntyre passed away.

I’m heartbroken.

He was the best.

You can support the bookshop by Buying a Book for JohnThrough the bookstore. Go directly to the bookstore, do not pass The Warehouse on the way. If you do, drive right on past. Aim for quality and service.

That’s it, the two weeks that was. RIP.

xxx Fifi




Monday, May 01, 2017

Are you are Design Star?!




Each year for the past 3, I've been one of the judges for Brother Design Stars, and I'm doing it again this year!

I love this competition because I get to see what amazing, creative, fun things kids from all around the country send in. The prizes are pretty awesome- as a student I would have been floored with happiness to win something to help me carry on making and creating AND the schools get to win too with a massive injection of sewing technology for the school classroom.
And as if that isn't enough, the top 12 entries will be showcased on the runway as part of New Zealand Fashion Week’s Graduate Show supported by Brother!  

So...all you arty, crafty and fashion mad students, get creating and enter online now
Cos...I want to see your work up close and personal :)
xxx Fifi

PS, here's a vid to get you excited about your work strutting down the catwalk!




Friday, March 31, 2017

Mad March, much magic!




So quick as I am to post on facebook, I sometimes forget to blog! I am going to rectify that starting now!

As March ends, it's marked a busy month. We, Jennifer Beck, Scholastic and I, launched our new title, Torty and the Soldier. We are very proud of it, and think Torty, who is 200 years old, thus making her the oldest WW1 veteran would be too. She's still alive and well in the Waikato and came out of hibernation in time for the launch party!


And here is Torty herself!


If you want to make a tiny version of Torty, head on over to my Craft of the Month page.

I've also been travelling around Whanganui being a Duffy Role Model. 11 Schools in 4 days, and South Taranaki in a weeks time. It was a joyful and humbling experience to tell kids about how reading made a difference in my life, and see the excitement on their faces as they received their books. It's a great scheme and I'm proud to be a Duffy author as well as hero!

Reading is cool and achieving is cool!

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Airbrush Master

me aged young and ambitious holding air and sable brushes


I was watching Netflix tonight- a series called Abstract. Looking at the illustrator Christoph Neimann, and it made me think about my influences as a new gal on the illustration street.

When I was a design student more years ago than I care to admit to, there was a guy in the year ahead of me, quiet, gentle, kind and so very talented. His name was (and still is) Nigel Buchanan.
He was the top illustration student- there weren’t formal places you understand, but everyone knew he was the best. There were almost-as-good-as, and they were pretty stunning, but Nigel had that something. A way of looking at the world and producing imagery in a way that we all envied and tried to copy. And on top of that, he was one of the nicest people in the School of Design. Back then, it was Wellington Polytechnic, now it’s Massey University and about as far removed from our faux Bauhaus days as it can be. That might be a good thing, though I have an enduring fondness for the old school that will never fade.

One of the hardware features of our pre-computer-age classrooms, were compressed air outlets for airbrushes. One student did a deal with the then, Niven's Art Supplies (became Littlejohns) and got us a collective bargain on Aerograph DeVilbiss super 63 airbrushes; state of the art equipment. Temperamental as hell and fiendishly expensive; I still have mine, thrashed to death over the years. Nigel bought one, and whilst we, the inept, cursed over splatters and bleeding ink, bent needles and clogged tip assemblies, Nigel started producing the most beautiful illustrations, just for fun and to see what ‘that mechanical hand’ (our tutor Roger Hart’s nickname for his pet hate) could do.

I remember one evening (all our best work was done at night when the tutors had given up on us for the day) watching him spray, remove a mask, spray, remove another mask and again and again until the final reveal. A woman in a 1920’s bathing suit, rosy cheeked, curls escaping from a cloche cap. I was entranced, it was perfect. For Nigel, it was merely a test piece.

A year went by, he graduated. Another year went by, I graduated. I started trying to find work as a graphic designer. I was terrible at it and making no progress at all.  One day I visited Nigel in his studio, surrounded with his airbrush, gouache and illustration board. He told me he JUST did illustration work. ‘What?’ I said ‘no fiddling about with getting things ready for print? No type spec’ing? No Bull gum? No waxer? No overlays?’ (note, only designers over the age of 50 will understand any of this terminology). ‘No’ he said ‘I draw and airbrush stuff,' then pulled out some of the work he was doing. I knew in that instant that if I couldn’t actually BE Nigel, then that’s what I wanted to do, and set about mastering the Devil(biss), by trial and error, practicing, practicing and practicing until I had some idea of what I was doing. It finally led me into all kinds of illustration work from photo retouching and product pictures to book illustration and the occasional portrait commission. I worked through the 80’s and 90’s and retired the mechanical hand when pixels became the paint medium of choice. I wasn’t world famous, but I enjoyed a good and varied living as a commercial artist, TV presenter, writer and illustrator.

My body of work spanning nearly 40 years now, has morphed and changed until it’s barely recognizable from my first ambition (to be him). I still have my trusty old compressor but I use a cheap Trademe airbrush on occasion to work magic on wearable art and props commissions. I could not have imagined, all those years ago, looking over Nigel’s shoulder, in awe, where my creative skills would take me. I never got to illustrate the cover of the New Yorker, but I’m glad I’ve taken the paths I have. Later this year, I've been invited to show a retrospective of my work (more on that in a few months) and I will have fun trying to make sense of my many layered career.

Nigel went onto live in Sydney, than back to new Zealand I believe, and carry his on his work as a highly-regarded editorial illustrator. The airbrush made way for the Apple Mac. His client list includes The Wall Street Journal, MTV, The New York Times, TIME magazine and the New York Observer. He is still a genius in the art of illustration. He’s still my hero and you can see his work here.


Nigel Buchanan https://www.behance.net/gallery/4331127/Total-Editorial