Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Christmas Wish

Here's a little poem for you...

Every year I swear it,
Back as far as I remember,
I'll be organised for Christmas,
By the end of each November.

So why on Christmas Eve,
Am I shopping on the run,
For Totally Bimbo Barbie,
And a Mega water gun?

If my Visa card survives it,
We'll have presents for the tree,
(which I'll need to find this evening
in the attic after tea).

And on the kitchen bench,
I've a chicken gently thawing;
All the supermarket turkeys
Got snaffled up this morning.

I know by two or three A.M,
I'll get to rest my head,
The presents wrapped, the turkey stuffed,
Me too-collapsed in bed.

My stocking's out for Santa,
And next year I'll be wiser,
You see he'll leave me just one gift;
A personal organizer!

Merry madness 
xxx Fifi

Monday, December 07, 2009

God's Gift

13 days until my exhibition and I've been hard at work creating velvet paintings; saving Jesus until last. You might be interested to see how a velvet painting is realised, so here are the steps (after I hand cut the board to shape, stretched velvet over it and backed it with felt). I just have his hair to finish and a bit of a starburst on his chest on which to place the velvet flaming heart.

So why velvet you ask? The very essence of 'low art'.

It goes back to viewing an exhibition at Te Papa in 2006 of Bernard Roundhill's work. Roundhill was an airbrush artist- in fact THE airbrush artist in New Zealand; he led the way. As a graduate from Wellington Polytechnic Design School in the early 80's, I did quite well with an airbrush myself. It was my main tool for illustration (oh the fruit I have illustrated for yoghurt cartons!) I was tickled to see that Roundhill painted velvet for a hobby, yes, stags on mountain tops, that sort of thing. I wondered if there was a more artistic way of using the medium, so I dusted off the old airbrush and played around with velour. Two successful exhibitions later, 23 pieces of velvet art sold and I'm hooked. I like to think of my work as an appropriation of low art- finding the humour within the medium... and in creating 'Jesus' I found it ironic just five minutes ago to find on google that Bernard Roundhill had been an enthusiastic Scientologist. There, he and I part artistic and spiritual company.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Velvet Cowboy

 Ride ‘em

I watched Tony Curtis in ‘Some like it Hot’ as a kid. His very distinctive curvy lips made an impression on me at an early age as did his very comic role which almost denied those extreme good looks in his salad days. I never saw him in a cowboy hat though and I think he’d have possibly looked a little like this- clean cut and very smooth. His pocket badge, the little gun, came from a army surplus junk store on Cuba St (more recently The Krazy Lounge, now Ernesto’s). We were design students of the late 70’s, beating path to pseudo punk and falling on the wonders contained within Krazy Rick’s on the corner. There you could buy army bags, plastic baby dolls just the right size for earrings and sometimes cheap tin jewellery from Japan. I’ve had that pistol in my pocket for years; just right for a velvet buck.

The 'Brush with Velvet' exhibition opens 20th December at The Deluxe Cafe, Kent Tce, Wellington

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Velvet Dream Boys

Here's a little preview of what I've been working on lately- some of the boys for my forthcoming velvet exhibition at the Deluxe Cafe on the 20th December. My inexpert photography and lighting doesn't really do them full justice- they are silky and smooth, and so very touchable...
From left to right they are:

Ahoy There
Who doesn’t like the brooding sort in an officer’s hat?  If Clint Eastwood had been in the Navy, he might have looked a little like this perhaps. I swooned plenty whilst painting him; some people had to come and pick me up off my studio floor and revive me with gin. The hat badge is from the French Frigate ‘The EV. Henry’ which visited Wellington in 1977. A friend and I were invited aboard in a non ship girl way for dinner with the officers when we were 17. We dusted off our schoolgirl French and asked them what the ‘F’ word was en Francais. They replied ‘ A fait l’amore’. I knew then that all French sailors were fabulously romantic and completely honourable…

Pork ‘n’ Beans
If you think he looks like James Dean in ‘Giant’, you might well be right. Poor boy, gone too soon… he should have had someone looking after him; like the girls at the nanny school I found his collar badge at. I was teaching them arts and crafts and found two of these cloisonné buttons in the useful box. They were far too vintage to be appreciated by my students, so I slid them into my pocket for some use in the future. That was 16 years ago. One is on my favourite jacket, and the other a reminder that cowboys are just rough lads that need taking in hand.

Oh Buoy
I was at Auckland Airport and to my delight in the queue were brand new naval recruits.  I’m not sure if a requirement of entry into the NZ Navy is perfect skin and lovely eyebrows, but all of these boys had them. I was particularly thrilled to have one sit beside me all the way to Wellington, and he must have been worn out from his duties, because he closed his eyes and slept whilst I appreciated him artistically. He reminded me of Montgomery Clift in his younger days, or Gene Kelly in ‘On the Town’ or a Pierre et Gilles icon. The little medallion was bought as a souvenir in Cyprus in 1963 by my father whilst he was in the armed services and my sister took it into exams with her for luck.

 I have a selection of tattoos on velvet along with three other good looking icons to go on show- they are still being painted as I blog...so back to the easel for me today. Ciao!

Friday, November 06, 2009

First Love

When I was a kid, I'd draw my favorite things. This piggy bank sits on a shelf in my kitchen; I've had since I was ten. I'd put my 5 cent pieces in it to save up for art and craft materials and I'd always rob it before it was anywhere near full (somethings never change!) then go to Goldings Handicrafts to buy beads, felt and paint. Its rubber stopper has long since perished, but that old bit of cheap china still hasn't lost it's charm for me. I've drawn ever since I could remember, and today, washing out my paintbrushes after a day's work, I still haven't forgotten that my first true love and talent still fills my piggybank.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Two friends and their exhibition...

Domestic appliances with attitude, and whimsical game boards make up the collection of works in a new exhibition at Breaker’s café in Seatoun.

Artists Judith Eastgate and Lucy Moore show their paintings and collage work together for the first time.  Judith’s paintings on paper and board are large, bold gestural works depicting her response to ‘the magic of the everyday’.  She describes the process as 'detecting joy in ordinary corners’.

Lucy Moore’s collage works on canvas are like games from a dream world, where motifs and characters interact unexpectedly on checkerboard backgrounds.  Fantastical buildings both invite the viewer in, and keep their mystery intact.

The show runs from November 9 to November 30 at Breakers Café, Dundas St, Seatoun.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Busy as...

I've come to that stage of late October where the need to put my head down and work on my own projects has come up. So my next blog post will probably be in December with details of my exhibition opening. In the meantime, here is a poem for all of you other busy-freaks out there.

'Busy' was written and published in Next magazine a few years ago now (judging by the content- my kids are now adults) as part of my monthly column there which went on happily for 8 years of regular paid commissioned verse- quite something really! I owed it all to Lindsey Dawson, the then editor of Next, who saw something in my bold proposal of a poem and illustration combo once a month because 'you don't have one' (I said).

I'm all for entreprenurial approaches because some of the ones you fire out actually hit their target. I have big (new) plans for 2010, so watch this space...

So- over and out (for a bit) Fifi 


I think I'm like a hamster
On a madly spinning wheel,
And if you saw my diary
Well you'd know just how I feel.

Monday has two lectures,
And my daughter's dance exam,
Swimming for the youngest
Then after work, I'll roast a lamb.

Tuesday holds tutorials,
A deadline overdue,
My accountant looking worried
And the Inland Revenue.

Wednesday there’s an opening
Of a brand new arty show,
After hockey, gym and ballet
(And espresso) I could go.

On Thursday I am battling
The ins and outs of new software,
And supervise kids' homework
Whilst I strip a kitchen chair.

By Friday I'll be ready
To toss in work and down a wine,
I would- but frankly sweetie,
I haven't got the time...

Monday, October 12, 2009


So given my last post, I thought it was time I should do something about that... 

So I have started work on a new collection of velvets that go up on the wall at the Delux cafe December 20th. This one is just a tiny tease of what is to come. The larger velvets will follow on from my Pin Up gals from last summer, but this time feature gorgeous men (think Brando-esque in a sailor hat and you are on the right track).

They will be interspersed with homage-to-the-master, Sailor Jerry style tattoos like the one you see here on skin toned plush fabric, for that 'run your hand over it' viewing delight. If you can't touch the real thing...

My last two shows sold out in a few days, so I will have a studio showing before the opening so you can get first pick of the pics for Christmas. Let me know if you want to be on the mailing list for that. Now, back to work on those sexy hunks. Being an artist is sheer hell.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What Next for Fifi?

I wondered what to blog about, given the conference and WOW is over; two things that have taken up many of my waking hours for some time this year. Then whilst wondering what to make for dinner and consulting the Destitute Gourmet’s cookbook, I had it! Rather than write and draw, I feel my words have best been expressed by The Flying Lizards in this video… bon appetite.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fifi's Wearable Art 2009 entry

I can finally show you what I did for WOW now that 
the show is almost over...

Kunugi Kodama: The tree where insects gather…

The Japanese saw tooth oak, Kunugi, oozes sap which attracts moths, butterflies, stag beetles and the occasional tree sprite. Kodama are invisible to human eyes but they quietly listen to visitors in the garden, so be careful what you say!

When Patrick and Carol Toner (Made in Nippon, Japanese supplies) had 1000 kimonos in bales on their carport deck, I was invited around to pick through them and see what I could use. I picked out lightweight silk and rayons, all of which were ripped and stained. Carol tells me that Japanese villagers rarely throw out kimonos, instead they fold them carefully, tie them into bundles and store them in their garden sheds. So what might you find in a kimono down the bottom of the garden? A little wood sprite maybe…

I was very excited to see it featured largely in the official programme, because that usually indicates a prize is in order- but then it wouldn't be me if I got up there and scooped a whopping great cheque now would it? I didn't get inspired to write Glory because I perenially scoop awards. The winning piece in the section ' The Dandelion Clock' by Tracey Koole was clever, gorgeous and performed really brilliantly, so I could hardly be green eyed in the garden of delights that was the Children's section this year. Congratulations to all the designers for getting their work a) finished and b) on stage. It really is something!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spinning Gold

It’s Thursday. One week since the day before the start of the Spinning Gold Conference (18th, 19th & 20th September). As the co-convenor I am just coming right now- sleep restored, equipment back in boxes, coffee levels topped up with the inevitable post-event bill paying and administration still to be done. Judging by the e-mails flooding in from satisfied, inspired and invigorated delegates, we delivered the conference we promised.

Our awesome committee is exhausted but elated - Maureen Crisp my co-convenor says it all in her post I won't do a run down of the weekend- Melinda Syzmanik gives a much better precise of the conference in her blog. Go and read it. As for me, now that the 18 months of planning is over, you might ask what I plan to do now? Well, apart from hauling out two unfinished manuscripts I’ve had no chance to work on during that time, and visit some more schools to talk about my writing and a forthcoming Spring Festival workshop to deliver and my usual beloved spot on the Good Morning Show to make crafts for, it’s the WOW awards tomorrow night, so I plan to drink. Salute.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

God Defend our Freeland

I’ve been thinking about the planned cuts to night classes.

As a consumer of Community Education, I learned how to use a computer and relevant software when my need was great because it was imperative as a writer, artist and communicator to get with the digital age or financially die. Being a freelancer meant there were no handy work place all- expenses-paid- whilst- you- get- paid kind of courses. Night classes made this essential world available to me.

I learned to type with more than two fingers at a night class. This was pretty useful in writing up my thesis and three novels. My education as a girl was focussed on Latin and French rather that the keyboard (Girls' School streaming into everyday uselessness) and a Pittman course was priced out of my self employed $50 professional development budget.

At Te Reo classes, learned my mihimihi and how to pronounce to names of books I illustrate, greet teachers and children in schools properly on my author vists and to say Morena on the Good Morning Show without fear of mangling vowels with my Pakeha tongue.

I taught life drawing one night a week and watched students gain confidence and joy in their ability to observe and document the human form when some thought they might never find a new skill and talent in their lives.

So I have sent Stop Night Class Cuts postcards to my MP Annette King (Labour) and the Minister of Education. Annette sent me back a personal letter sympathising and suggestions on how to make my protest more visible by way of a petition- I’ve signed lots of them for others too. I haven’t heard back from Anne as yet- I expect her pigeon hole is swamped…

I wrote the following poem years ago when there was no threat to continuing education at a price the average punter could afford. When education was not the preserve of the rich or safely salaried. When getting out of the house and learning something new was encouraged. I could laugh and joke, tongue in cheek, because I never imagined for a moment that it might be taken away. Auē.

Night Class

I thought I'd do an evening class,

So went and checked them out,

At our local high school,

Which left me in no doubt;

That 'Accounting for Beginners',

Was too sensible for me,

As the purpose of my life,

Is to have one and one make three.

'Culinary Cordon Bleu',

Had appetite appeal,

But I don't get time to grocery shop,

When would I cook a meal?

'Belly Dancing' looked like fun,

With tinkly bra and veil,

The thought of baring stretch marks though,

Left me feeling pale.

'Italian Made Easy',

Made me smirk a lot,

I could tell a nice young waiter,

That I like my pasta hot…

But all of these required,

Me to rush about at six

And organise a sitter,

Whilst I fed my hungry chicks.

I think I'll just create a course

That's tailor made for me,

Called 'Relaxation Methods'

-where I blob out after tea!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

An Invitation to Glory!

We're having a launch for 'Glory' at the Storylines Family Day in Wellington this Sunday. Come and join us in bringing Florence Bright into the world of junior fiction readers. Award winning author, great friend and mentor Mary McCallum is doing the honours. The launch will be followed by a craft afternoon where you can make the award you always wanted. Every book sold on the day gets a cool badge and a Pinky Bar, because Florence is a generous gal and she likes to make sure all her passions are shared!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why Aye?

So with a third novel done and dusted I am turning my thoughts towards the unfinished YA novel I have sitting on my hard drive. I blogged about this last year with ‘Write a Novel in a Week’- which is of course impossible, but I did write 30,000 words in a month…and then went to the osteopath. He must have done a good cranial manipulation because I forgot I was writing anything at all and in my usual highly distractible way, turned my attentions to painting velvet, conference organisation, Wearable Art and making book trailers. But with those things in hand and thinking about October (my life after the conference and WOW) I’ve had a gnawing thought at the back of my mind that maybe I should rewrite my 48,000 words in first person, ditch the paranormal element and avoid the blended family and gay parent references. So I dragged up the file from the depths of my ‘Writing and Publishing’ folder and had another look. I found strange words in front of me; whole chapters that I had forgotten writing. Was it a case of Being Steve? Stephen King wrote a lot of novels he couldn’t remember whilst completely stoned. But given that I cannot so much as drink a glass of wine without incurring a vicious migraine these days, I think not. And far from being completely cringed out by my efforts, I was quite intrigued. Its like by walking away from my characters for half a year, they have continued living their lives and I have just dropped by to visit. I think I’ll pop in again and have a cuppa with them- if I’m cool enough for three teens grappling with pressing issues …

From chapter 8

‘What was all that about shuffling your cards anyway?’ said Jono, picking at a bit of cone still stuck to the sofa arm. Becka hesitated.

‘Sometimes stuff happens when I play them. Shuffling seems to stop it.’

‘What, like the fortunes?’ said Jono remembering secret loves and square boxes, ‘I thought they were just fun stuff, you know, co-incidences. They’re not some kind of occult shit are they? I hate that stuff.’

‘No, no’ said Becka, ‘nothing like that. I’m sure they’re absolutely harmless.’

‘But I keep seeing things,’ Evie broke in, ‘like ghosts and creepo people. It didn’t happen until Becka got those cards. I thought I was going mental.’

Becka pulled the deck out of her pocket and fanned it out. Moonlight shone though the window of the shed, landing on the upturned faces of the cards. The joker was less bright despite the glow.

‘I think you should chuck them away,’ said Jono, ‘trash ‘em.’

‘No!’ Becka cried, ‘I think they are important,’ she stroked them, ‘and quite beautiful in a way too.’

‘Important enough to drive my sister crazy, important enough to nearly kill you?’

Jono stood up, his frame filled the window, a silhouette of disgust, ‘if you don’t ditch those cards Becka, I can’t be around you anymore.’

‘But we’re family!’ said a desperate Becka, still holding the cards, caressing them.

‘Not enough to include those too,’ said Jono. He opened the door and walked through it into the night.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Glory...the movie

Here it is- my foray into movie trailer land- well book trailers to be precise. It’s to promote my new novel; Glory.

Making a trailer is quite a bit of fun, and I thought I’d share with you how I did it. To start I did a bit of a storyboard in my moleskine diary. This was a dozen or so thumbnails to figure out what kind of images I wanted to show. I also looked at Brian Falkner’s great book trailers to see what he did. Brian and I have very different subject matters we are dealing with; his is action/thriller and mine relationship/comedy so obviously I wanted different shots.

I downloaded royalty free images from the sxs photo library. I’ve used Photoshop to add to them- Queen Kong for instance (it’s pretty hard to find gorilla shots complete with lipstick and underwear). When I was happy with my images- some of them from my book cover (designed by the ever brilliant Vida Kelly), I googled about for a free movie maker. There is one that comes with Windows, but I found it kept crashing and tried Videospin instead. I found it quite workable. You can drag your pictures onto a timeline and add different transitions between them.

Next, the audio... my character Florence Bright is very fond of a track by a Pop Punk band The Screeching Weasels called Cool Kids. Now I was stuck with a dilemma- having bought the CD at one stage (o.k, o.k, it was my daughter that bought it), I looked for someone I could contact to ask if I could use it as the background music for my book promo. I kept coming to virtual dead ends, so decided to use it and credit them at the end of the video. Ben Weasel, if you ever find this article, contact me and I will give you some books! In the meantime, Florence, Haley and I love your music and play it with enthusiasm.

Videospin also has a selection of sound effects so I was able to add swan, cat and bird noises into the track. There are audio controls to you can change the levels, cut and paste and generally drive the family nuts with sounds of your editing. The cat was very confused by it all and kept looking at my laptop alternately with terror and delight.

Next- the voice-over, which I wrote with the superb input of my script editor, Maureen Crisp who had no idea she was one until I sent her a rough cut of my trailer. Being very close to your book has the added disadvantage of trying to put too much in there. Maureen pared it back to a suitable teaser. The rough cut had my voice pretending to be a 13 year old on it. Now I had to find a better, more authentic voice. Hannah Copeland, the very able daughter of a friend was persuaded and we did this over her dining table with my laptop, a skype headset and Audio Recorder for Free. I recorded it in one line chunks and pasted them into my audio track.

You can play and replay it back and change things about until it is done, adding titles and fades where appropriate, then click the option to make it into a movie and its done. I’ve posted it to You Tube and hope that it might make its way to a 12 year old audience somewhere. I’m still working on optimisation and I can see a few glitches, but for a first try and costing nothing but time, I’m happy!

Friday, July 24, 2009


The link is working now! Sorry about that...go check out the scones!

It has been blowing and raining and the winter's recession is hitting our household budget.

So what better thing to do this Sunday when cafe brunches are out of reach, than to warm up with a delicious batch of freshly made scones, slathered in lashings of jam and cream (can you tell my Devonshire roots are showing?)

Now I am the worlds worst baker, but with Janie Olive's Disaster Free Scone Recipe, I assure you I am Queen of the Kitchen; a veritable Domestic Goddess! And you can be too.

Have a deliciously warm and cheap weekend!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

WOWing it again

I have just heard that my entry for this year's Montana Wearable Art Awards has got into show. Wow, that make 16 entries over um... 14 years I think. I can't show you my entry this year until showtime- otherwise it would spoil the surprise wouldn't it? But I can say it's in the Children's section. Thats all until September 24th- opening night. So if you haven't bought a ticket, go online now and find a seat if there are any left for the greatest creative show in Wellington from NZ's talented artists, performers and musicians.

In the meantime here's a slideshow of my past entries. I'm experimenting with free online stuff from Slideroll so I can make a trailer for 'Glory'. All I can say is from my writing and creating, is I am learning one heck of a lot about the internet!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Well it was a tough one...
I loved the beauty contests, sad Ophelias, talking, singing and dancing your way to second place, all of you. None of you determined to miss out on anything again...
But Rachel, you get a copy of Glory because you fessed up about always being in trouble. Florence Bright gets herself in to a fair bit of trouble too, and she also find out what she needs to do to step up and get out of it. Happy reading!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Glory at last!

Well isn't it nice to get home and find amongst the bills, a package from your publisher with multiple copies of your book inside it? This one has been a long time coming and I have to say....I'm very happy with the result! Scholastic and I are launching 'Glory' next month at the Storylines Festival Family Day in Wellington. You will get the opportunity to make your very own prize with me through the wondrous medium of arts and crafts of which I am so very fond.

Not getting awards can be very motivating- if I had, for instance, got the 6th Form Art History Prize (instead of that other girl!!!!) I never would have written this book. What prize did you miss out on that has bugged you for months or years? I will give away a copy of 'Glory' to the most entertaining story of missing out- but you have to leave it in the comments box!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Local colour

The interesting thing about a holiday is not how many tours you go on or how many cocktails you drink (although the latter can have interesting consequences) but who you meet on the way.

Vanuatu is full of colourful characters and one can spend a lot of time watching, observing and imagining lives for them. Other than the usual tourists, there are the boaties; gnarled men of fifty plus (still with long hair and weather worn bare chests) coming ashore for a bit of leg and other limb stretching, Tusker beer and Tanna coffee (the best brew mostly at Numbawan Café on the shore at Port Vila), the ex pats here for a tax and frost free living and the people from the islands around making a living of sorts in the markets, restaurants and tour operations of Port Vila.

The other interesting thing about a holiday is the small worldness of it, where whilst sipping a latte and looking out to sea a voice will come from your left ‘Fifi!’ and you turn to find an old acquaintance. Lesley Moyes in this instance. You may remember her lovely illustrations for ‘Annie & Moon’ by Miriam Smith and her gloriously detailed ‘Alphabet Apartments’ which won the Childrens Choice award in1998. She and husband Peter live in Vanuatu, (which they have done before) and were able to fill us in on all the local politics, intrigue and best restaurants. We dined finely at the new ‘La Tentation’ and Tamanu on the Beach where, if I ever win lotto, I will stay for a month.

Now I could at this point put up many photos of me drinking ‘Blue Lagoons’, eating fresh mangoes and sautéed fruit bats but in my last post I mentioned that I’d be taking my paint box with me, so these are a few of the more meaningful pictures that I will share with you.

At the market, I sat down quietly and sketched women in their ‘Mother Hubbards’; one size fits all dresses that begin to look very attractive after eating and drinking to excess for ten days. But sitting unobtrusively is impossible here as any new activity draws an interested crowd. This lady came up and sat beside me to watch as I drew- which made my task a little more complicated. The young man sitting under the tree was none the wiser as I painted him furiously before I fell into a languor myself and had a kip on the lawn along with everyone else at Port Vila during lunchtime.

We met Bob on our way to the Cultural Centre. He was very keen to sell us cheaper accommodation than we had already paid for but seeing as we were non starters, offered to shout us a coffee at his café on our way back. The museum tour by Adi, a gentle Vanuatu man, was wonderful and memorable, particularly for the traditional sand drawings he demonstrated- fluid, woven pictures from his fingertip telling tales of love, renewal and sharing as he worked. We learned about being buried alive with your husband in the old days, drumming protocol and saw colourful masks with large phallic projections ‘its all about the penis’ said Adi. We left more educated in Melanesian history and called in on Bob next door, who was a bit all about size himself. His lovely and rather much younger wife served us delicious freshly fried whole fish and rice whilst Bob gave us his take on everything. He had particular views on the local Melanesian people and I got the distinct feeling that as he ordered everyone around in Bishlama (the Vanutau pidgin) that come the revolution, his head would be the first one on a stake…

The holiday finished with more food, more coffee, more beer and it was time to beat a hasty retreat back to Wellington, because if we stayed much longer, I would have ended up eating more dainty morsels and become larger in life than I ever intended. Back to climb our 47 Hataitai steps just in the nick of time. I call this image The Ghost of Holidays Future.

On the flight back I sat next to Drew Bowdon, a friendly returned kiwi musician who I enjoyed the easy company of. He gave me a copy of his recently released CD Be Still. Very nice it is too. Check it out. You can easily imagine you are on the shores of somewhere warm with the surf roaring and good times at hand; which is my idea of the very best kind of holiday…