Monday, December 26, 2011


Today along with the rest of Wellington, I did what is normal when confronted with the calmest and sunniest of days in our oft inclement capital; I drove straight into town and hit the Boxing Day sales. It was a bun fight I tell you and my particular mission was to cover my own buns with half price pants. To ensure I had the best advice on what suited me, I took my adult daughter, a veritable savant for clothing. I also took my cash because she gets terribly hungry shopping; I blame that on her early experiences as an enfant, when in new mother desperation to get out of the house I would load her into a buggy and push her up to Merivale Mall where we would start with coffee and a bite to eat and end up in Quinns. When the February quake hit Christchurch, we both wept to see those devastating pictures of shoe boxes hanging out of the establishments exposed second floor...

“I’m after shorts” I declared, “something for our holiday next week, sort of mid length cargo kind of things.”
“Hmmm” replied the Knowledgeable one, “I’ve never really liked you in those.” I’ve worn this sort of thing camping for about 20 years now, so this was news to me. How long have I embarrassed her with my comfy strides?  Two decades apparently.

We started with the obvious, Glassons where I have bought all my previous shorts. I looked around but all I could see were tiny little frayed things that required much bikini waxing and labial tuck surgery. Some of them went up to size 16 which had me quite alarmed at the images that crowded into my head. Camel’s foot and all the humps. Luckily there was a pile of longer style shorts which the Savant delightedly assured me were the favoured style of cruise ship tourists. I ignored her and tried on 4 pairs, some with turn ups, some without. They all ended above my knees which end shortly above my ankles- height not being a terribly strong feature of my family’s genetic code. I looked quite like one of The Hobbit Dwarves on a hiking holiday. 

Kathmandu had an extra 20% off everything that was discounted by 50%. That made pants a mere $78 for something that didn’t fit either. “These are fricken boring” said the Savant, “let’s get some cake.” Their pattern cutters work with leggy Norwegian backpackers for a template. As I am  a) miserly and b) not called Astrid, we went on our way.
The cake shops were shut and I was surprised that a 23 year old can sigh just as long as she did as a tot on retail excursions; especially when we went into Max. At first it looked promising; racks of long shorts, or was it short pants? I gathered up an armful and headed off to the changing room. There were a few waiting before me and we patiently stood garments in hand. It was good practice for the shower queue at the camping ground. What DO people do in those cubicles? Are they wearing enormously complex support undergarments that require much lacing, or maybe they are Libran with the decision making ability of a jellyfish. Many foot tappings later (and more sighs from the daughter) I was in and out of the changing room in under a minute. It doesn’t take THAT long to realise something doesn’t fit- the minute it won’t pull up over your calf muscle or do up at the waist, or shows far too much bra indentation, it’s a given that you won’t be thinking ‘Maybe...’ If you do, you have far too much disposable income. Give it to me; I’ll invest it in shoes from I Love Paris.

I won’t go into the detail of every shop and pair of shorts I tried on. We could be here for hours. I certainly was. The last pair I tried on was no better than the first. I wanted cargo pants; they were pedal pushers. They were designed to forbid my knees from ever cycling again. Wide at the hip, skinny in the leg; like miniature rugby goal posts, making me feel like a front row prop trying thrash my way into them. My hand wandered towards another pair on the rack. 
   “No!” barked the Savant “they are menopausal green!” I withdrew my fingers from the sap coloured fabric as she muttered about ‘Women of a Certain Age’ and their predilection for top stitched shoes and ghastly Hulk clothing. To lighten the mood I picked up a pair of white Capri pants and suggested I buy them. Over the years we have shared many snickers about the suitability of white to cover one’s derriere. The possibility of VPL, flower print knicker show through and the ever present threat of menstrual catastrophe has meant that we have restricted (in our heads) white pants to pre-pubescent and post menopausal women. Therefore, when we see someone of an age between that band wearing them, we share a disapproving moment. It bonds us and smooths over any differences in opinion on any other topic at hand.
“Oh God Mum, you are a good ten years away from those and then you’d have to holiday in Majorca in them,” she said rather too loudly for the Yorkshire woman in white capris standing next to us.

We tried one more shop, Jay Jay’s. There was nothing for me there at all, but the Savant tried on three pairs of cute little vaguely vintage numbers. They looked amazing and were only $30 a pair. I admired her lean and (longer than mine) legs, her tiny waist and pert bottom. “Are you going to get them?” I asked breathlessly. Heck, I’d have bought all three for her; such was my delight at finding shorts to fit someone in our party of two. “Nah,” she replied, “they aren’t quite perfect.”
“Sweetheart,” I said sighing louder than she ever could, “that’s just pants.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bottoming out

My TV career then and ...then

This morning I stepped on the scales to find that I had magically gained half a stone somehow and my jeans were a great deal tighter around my derriere than last week.Two things occurred to me:

Firstly, maybe this is what happens when you hit your 50’s and spend the week before Christmas eating and drinking at a multitude of social gatherings; your body just says ‘bring it on’ and there it stays. On your middle, your thighs and your behind (never, I notice, on your chest where it would be more Nigella like). And secondly...if I was Pippa Middleton, my enlarged gluteus maximus might have bought me a publishing deal of epic proportions, well if I was 25 years younger and my sister had just married the next king in waiting of course. And too, if the bottom in question was a great deal more uplifted than it is these days, as it peers downwards seeking the comfort of any available couch. 

As I poured light milk on my porridge to counteract the maple syrup I’d liberally doused it with, my husband pointed out the Dom Post article about the Nelson couple who have ‘hit the mother lode’ with an 8.5 million dollar Lotto win. I hope it’s the friends we go camping with so that we can ditch the tent this year and all go and stay at a luxury resort on their money (they’d shout us wouldn’t they?) I’d like to rest my weighty buns on something more supportive than a camping chair this season. I refused a piece of toast proffered by hubby, not just because the bread was a bit mouldy, but because if we did go and stay somewhere posh, I’d need to look fabulous in togs and I have a week to do it.

This bought me to another realisation...why do I need to look like a 25 year old when I am clearly not? My mother and grandmother never had this compulsion. But they were never on the telly. And low... the light went on- I am not on the telly anymore! With the demise of Avalon and Good Morning moving to Auckland, my current (sporadic and tiny) TV career is at an end. I no longer need to look good on the streets in case someone sees me and it’s all over the Women’s Day that Fifi the Craft Queen wears daggy old jeans, a threadbare Glasson’s tee shirt and no lipstick on a daily basis. Not that I ever made Woman’s Day of course- it’s a scenario that we like to play out in our heads isn’t it? The fame and fortune one. It’s one I’ve been playing for years and like Monopoly (which I suck at) never goes the way you dream of. A roll of the dice and the empire you hoped to build is rubble before you even finished the foundations. 

Fame and fortune, like winning Lotto, rely heavily on two things; commitment and serendipity. The Nelson couple played those same numbers, regularly for years. On the rare occasions that I buy a Lotto ticket I go for a Lucky Dip- my odds of winning are not improved by buying a ticket 3 times a year; and...the numbers simply never come up. Likewise with my TV career. My 7 year stint on What Now as a Craft Queen and 6 years on The Good Morning Show came about not because I was set upon having a job as a television presenter, it was because I was persistently and consistently doing something I really enjoyed; arts and crafts – then someone in broadcasting noticed and wanted me to show viewers. I couldn’t have got the work if I’d taken myself off to broadcasting school and bombarded TVNZ with my CV, show reels and egg cartons. It’s not the way it works.

The flipside of such random luck is the voice inside your head that says ‘This is it baby, you are on your way and now the deals will come in- you’d better start getting professional about this!’ And then you worry about your clothes, your wrinkles, what you might say on Twitter and if your arse is too big. When I worked on What Now there was no internet or digital media; opinion and gossip spread a little slower. Getting drunk on a Friday night didn’t mean your audience would see pictures of you on Saturday all over Facebook, hair and dress askew chatting up a bartender.

 Since I’ve been on Good Morning, I’ve sanitised this blog so that it has become mostly a (fairly boring) web page for craft instructions, set up a fan page for facebook so that my personal life is kept hidden from my art followers and chewed my adult son’s ear off in the supermarket car park for being surly to a check out operator...”Do you know how hard I have worked to build up a public profile? And I don’t want you jeopardising that with your attitude- you hear me?!!!” And still the offers of further greatness haven’t arrived; and at 51 with a sagging bottom, they aren’t going to- unless I take up the art of cuisine (and that is never going to happen).

And you know what? I don’t care! I don’t have to do any of the above anymore; I’m not accountable to viewers who might sit in their armchairs scoffing Cheezels whilst criticising TV presenters for their back fat (the cruel things people say on forums is unbelievable) And I’m going back to why I set up this blog in the first place. To write about stuff that makes me mad, makes me sad or makes me laugh. No-one is going to offer me a £400,000 publishing deal because of my connections and shapely rump. I don’t envy Pippa, she has her whole media scrutinised life to lose ahead of her. I’m delighted to just be ME- an artist, teacher, wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt and friend who loves drawing, making stuff and writing odds and sods to amuse myself and others. I shall also let out my waistbands.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season 

xxx Fifi

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Pretty Paper Poinsettias

Paper Poinsettias

Here they are- Pretty Poinsettia flowers as seen on Good Morning today. My last spot on the show- it moves to Auckland next year with a whole new team. Sad for Wellington and Wellington based contributors and crew, but folks, that television!

Paper Poinsettias

Sarah says she can’t keep her poinsettias alive, so I’ve come up with some paper ones for her to make instead! Simple to make with my templates and a few basic materials- and look great on a present, the Christmas tree, side plates on the dinner table or even just blu-tacked to the mantelpiece.

You will need:
  • Fifi’s Leaf and petal templates
  •  Red, white and yellow paper (if you want to make two different coloured ones- otherwise just red paper will do
  • Green paper or card
  • Scissors
  •  Large gold sequins (I found nice flower shaped ones from Spotlight
  • Tinsel coloured chenille sticks (pipe cleaners)
  • A green felt tipped pen or coloured pencil
  • A sharp pencil
  1. Trace or print the templates onto the paper- the leaves on the green and the petals on the other colours. You will need two petal shapes and one leaf shape per flowers.
  2. Cut them out. Draw veins on the green leaves. 
  3.  Punch a small hole through the centre of each shape. I used a sharp pencil for this and put a piece of thick corrugated card underneath so that the pencil made a neat hole through the leaf and petal shapes but not through my table! 
  4. Crease each petal on the flower shapes (but not the leaf) 
  5.   Cut the chenille stick into 4 (enough for 4 flowers). A pair of side cutters/pliers is good for this- don’t blunt your best craft scissors on the wire
  6.  Thread a sequin on the end of one bit of chenille stick and bend the top over so it doesn’t slide off.
  7. Thread the 2 petal shapes and then the green leaf onto the chenille stick and push them up tight. 
  8. And that’s it! You can bend the chenille stick around the tree branch to hold it on.
I'll be making these at Te Papa on the 20th and 21st December- details here. 
They are free events, so come along, bring the kids, all materials are supplied!

Merry Christmas and all the very best for the coming year, Fifi

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pretty Polystyrene Xmas Trees

Here are a couple of little Christmas trees you can make- I made them on the Good Morning Show today; my second to last apperance before Avalon closes and it all moves to Auckland. I've had a great 6 years on the show and met some wonderful people, not least the regular presenters and the crew. They rock! Thankyou to all who have watched me make things from egg cartons and more. I won't be disappearing from the craft world though; follow me on facebook to keep up with my workshops and events :)

Instructions for the little trees are here
Have fun and see you next week for paper poinsettias
xxx Fifi

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stomp through the holidays!

School holidays...something I don't have to worry about anymore with grown up children. But I do still embrace childhood myself in many of the things I do. At the moment I'm making cute furry puppets for stage events, so when I read Ruth Paul's marvellous picture book 'STOMP' I had an immediate desire to make a wee Baby Dino Puppet. The instructions are here on my Good Morning TV profile and the pictures and pattern are below. Click on the patterns to bring up the full sized image, print it out and join it- I did it as 2x A4's because not many of us have A3 printers. Have dinosaur roaring fun these school holidays!

Monday, October 03, 2011

The RWC and me

I've been slightly caught up in the RWC in a very peripheral way. I care about Dan Carter's groin (who doesn't?), I'll be gutted if the All Blacks don't win, I was amazed at Ireland beating Australia. I even made some rugby crafts for the Good Morning Show (pic below). But I think my general view of rugby as a whole is best summed up by this poem I wrote for Next Magazine some years ago...

Testing Times

When I was but a little lass,
And rugby ruled the nation,
I holidayed in Hastings
With a pen pal on her station.

One night we were awoken
With excited urgency,
And dragged into the living room,
Where sat a large T.V.

Around it men were crowded
With smokes and jars of beer,
All yelling 'Get the boot in'
To a fullback at the rear.

My eyelids drooped as I sat down,
But the women pulled me up
And showed me to the kitchen,
Where we did the washing up.

We also buttered forty scones,
And heated up steak pies,
Then made a batch of pikelets
Whilst the men scored armchair tries.

So I never really did become
A big fan of the game,
The sport itself is fine, I'm sure's the cooking that I blame.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

WOW a-dress

It's been all about the World of Wearable Art this last week. I had an entry in show that I held private hopes for which were realised with an Honourable Mention; which also puts it in the winners line up. Not thats that is why I enter at all. In February each year when I'm gathering materials and sketching my ideas, winning is the last thing on my mind. Making the piece is all and finishing it is everything. Getting to the line up is a real acknowledgment...
This year I was invited to give the designer's address at the Judges Forum, the day after Award night. One designer asked if I would send him a copy of my speech. I said I'd put it on facebook- seeing as this feeds straight there, I am managing both spaces quite efficiently! Anyway, here it is excactly as I read it. Enjoy...

WOW 2011 Address

In 1995,with a baby in a buggy and preschooler on a leash, I saw the strangest and most inspiring thing. A Wearable Art mini show at Merivale Mall in Christchurch. Donna Demente’s ‘Pallas Athene’ stunned me and I knew I had to try my hand at this too. I got together with Sylvia Campbell and Robyn Martin and together we created the Mid Winter Wonder Bra. We were over the moon when it got into show and that sealed my fate; to become that odd breed of person- a WACO - Wearable Art Compulsive Obsessive. This year my 18th garment is on that stage. I’ve entered almost every category over the years, I’ve even been an International entrant when we took off to live in the U.K for a couple of years (I made the most postage efficient bra possible) I work in Television and Film directly as a consequence of my WOW portfolio. A good many of my pieces are in the WOW collection and the others come to schools and events with me when I run WOW workshops.
I have a very large attic.

When invited to talk today about my journey through WOW, I felt honoured. I’ve sat in the judges forum audience for years, sometimes elated by the night before success, at other times, caving in with private disappointment at my lack of a prize... but always blown away by the previous night’s show. In this place I have come vowing never to make another piece again, arms folded, glaring at the judges, ungenerous about the spotlight on others- until I see the category entries for next year.
So I wondered what I’d say today knowing you might be in one of those spaces. I could talk about the garments, what I made, how I made them, what things I have won... or not, how many column inches I have made in the paper (more than a few).  But... because there are many here who wonder if they have the courage to enter for the first time, to become part of this international WOW community I am so very fond of, I thought I’d just read this, it’s called:

Useful lessons from Fifi
  • If your garment is featured large in the catalogue at dress rehearsal Wednesday, don’t buy new shoes on Thursday.
  •  Buy new shoes only if you can afford them on Tuesday.
  • Buy the shoes YOU like, not what your partner likes
  •  A partner’s opinion is not necessarily the best measure of your entry’s worth. 
  • Ignore your partner at all times whilst creating your art, unless they are an artist.
  • Even then, ignore them 
  • Take your partner out to dinner when you’ve sent your entry off and say ‘I’m back!’
  • It is possible to get film costuming work out of your WOW portfolio.
  • It isn’t possible to work in film for less than 10 hours a day.
  • If you do work in film, buy your partner dinner occasionally and say ‘Remember me?’
  • Hot glue is no substitute for epoxy resin
  • Epoxy resin is no substitute for rivets
  • Rivets are no substitute for a great idea  If you wake in the night with a great idea, write it down in case you can’t remember it in the morning.
  • If you can’t get back to sleep after waking in the night, it’s probably the right idea- you may as well start  making it right away.  Yes even at 4 in the morning- its good training for the last week before hand in.
  •  Aside from Bunnings, Pete’s Emporium and the tip shop, Heather Palmer  is your best resource. 
  •  When you find 1000 units of something in a box at the tip shop it’s o.k. to be excited!
  •  Find somewhere good to hide it from your partner.
  • If your partner finds it, take them out to dinner and say ‘I’ll tidy up in three months time’
  • Always wear a respirator when using sprays and chemicals.
  • Never drink and spray.
  • Never drink and carve.
  • Never drown your sorrows, only toast your achievements. Finishing a WOW entry is just that.
  • If you ask your daughter’s boyfriend to model your bizarre bra, it could go one of two ways... 
  • If he says ‘that’s really cool’, tell your daughter he’s a keeper. It’s good to have supporters.
  • You will see the floor of your lounge again...
  • It may have fabric stuck to it, so might the cat.
  • White cats are a very bad thing to have around your UV garment, unless your piece is all about fur.
  • Make sure you don’t pack up the cat with your entry.
  • A fridge box is good for containing your WOW creation.
  • Bond and Bond & Noel Leemings biff theirs on Thursday mornings.
  • Saturday is the cut off day for Mainfreight.
  • Sending your partner out to find a box late on Friday afternoon then screaming that it is the wrong size when they bring it back in the back of the car, not the trailer, will cost you many dinner dates; remember what I said about pre-spending prize money...
  • It doesn’t matter if you don’t win- unless you bought shoes you can’t afford.
  • If you think someone else’s entry shouldn’t have won, go and see it up close at the WOW Museum in Nelson. You’ll understand instantly.
  • Do not glare at your entry when it is returned- recycle it into something else.
  • Never throw out the recycling; it might become your next WOW entry.
  • Don’t try to be the next Supreme Award winner- you have no idea what that looks like; only the judges do.
  • Making wearable art is a game; have fun with it. Play full out, use team where necessary.
  • Above all, be yourself in your work.
Thankyou Trelise, Nigel, Suzie , Heather, Gabrielle, Esme and the WOW team.
Climb on board Newbies...

·         Note: My work, Vena Immaculata was entered in the 'Under The Microscope' Gen-i Creative Excellence section. Clean red blood cells gush from a vein to meet the deadly beauty of breast cancer.

Three women I know have breast cancer. It’s a battle to keep fatigue and anaemia at bay; red blood cells are knocked back by the treatment. Photos of the cancer cells reveal them to be like delicate frilled bouquets. Beauty disguising the beast? The battle between good and evil; almost religious in its intent. Breast cancer used to be known as “nuns’ disease.”As far back as the 14th century, the disease affected nuns more than any other group of medieval women. Researchers say it’s because the nuns did not give birth or breastfeed. Nature’s extraordinary punishment for such holy sacrifice...

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Fifi Colston Creative

So I’ve been a bit slack on the writing front and it’s all due to facebook. 

Currently I’m not writing, which is in part due to making Wearable Art and illustrating a mammoth book (I mean big, not about woolly elephants),  but mostly because I’ve been getting my kicks and rewards from social media.
However my status the other day read: 

I am beginning to think only in short status updates- I daren’t take up Twitter because I will only be able to have smaller and more pointless thoughts...

I look back at some of my blogs here on Fifi Verses the World and I got quite heated and opinionated about some things; all in the nicest possible way of course.
But also...the posts were longer than a finger width. In short, I wrote. This has its upsides; publishing at the touch of a button, instant feedback= instant gratification. But like all sweet things, they tend to go to your hips and in no time you are lazy both in mind and body. Blogging at first seemed like the ultimate distraction from my novel writing, but facebook...well  that’s a whole new procrastination game.

“I’m doing it to promote myself” I said. Its true- social media is a must do for the modern artist and writer. But really? really I’m there to gossip. I had an impressive 400 strong list of friends- but really, really I knew maybe 100 of them in some way though family, work or play. And with strangers I added liberally to my list came restraints:
  •  Edit the family and holiday photos to make sure no-one who watches me on TV might trawl through and single out my children to target for whatever purpose (though they’d bite off more than they could chew with MY grown offspring).
  • Say nothing about my political views in case the teachers/possible clients/secret police took offence and blacklisted me because I vote differently from them.
  •  Never ever swear in case someone who just loves my egg carton creatures swooned with shock at the language.
  • Keep all jokes light and seemly so that I might fit into any parish hall on any occasion.
  • Delete bawdy comments in case any of the above took offence at anything my friends might say.
Oh it went on and on until I was heavy with self censorship. I was banned book all by myself.
So...I did what I have resisted since joining facebook. No, not left it (didn’t you know, you can never REALLY leave?), I love it as a gossip and news feed unreservedly. No, I  have created a ‘page’ and invited everyone to join me there instead. On Fifi Colston Creative you can keep up on a daily basis with what I’m doing creatively and be offended by absolutely nothing. Your kids and your granny can look at it and be inspired not confused. You can find pictures of my work and instructions for my crafts and be the first to hear about any workshops I’m running.  Go and check it out.

So what about all my other friends; the ones I have actually met and had a conversation with- I went to school with, drank wine with, had babies in Plunket with? 

Oh they are still there in my personal page. They won’t get Fifi diluted. They all know who I vote for, what my views on parking wardens in Wellington are (well actually EVERYONE knows that!) and what tickles my sense of humour. They know my family, my friends and I know theirs. And there are a few who I have never met except through facebook but who I find inspirational, supportive and incredibly entertaining. 

And this blog? I’ll continue to post- sometimes it’ll be a poem, sometimes crafts and sometimes something with insight. And you can help create me- yes that’s right, create me. Social Media is a conversation; not passive voyeurism. Read me, talk to me on my page or let me know what you think in the comment box and I’ll give you the information and art you need and want. 

Looking forward to a whole new conversation!
Cheers Fifi

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Soggy Saturday

I may have posted this one before, but looking outside at the rain, it seems appropriate to post it again. I wrote this for my regular Next Magazine column whilst we were living in Bristol- it rained there just as much as it does here...possibly more.


I told the rain to go away
And come again another day.
It did and now it’s with regret
I find myself so sodding wet.

My car today was down the street;
I ran to it on soggy feet,
My brolly fighting with the wind,
Turned inside out and had me pinned

Against a wall where gutters gushed,
Awash with leaves and humus, mushed.
It all cascaded down my neck;
A filthy shower, made for Shrek.

My jeans, a trendy baggy pair,
Dragged a denim driftnet flare,
And I craved a retro 80’s taper
Instead of street-cool litmus paper.

When I was young, we used to say,
Rain was the Almighty’s way,
Of showing he was feeling blue…
I hope he doesn’t get the flu!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wearable Art Workshop for kids!

photo Courtesy of Brancott Estate Wearable Arts

School holidays... what better time to come and do a Wearable Art Workshop with me? I'm running a kids workshop at Wellington's amazing Zealandia sanctuary on Tuesday 26 July 10am – 1pm. 

All materials and morning tea are provided- just bring your enthusiasm! You'll come away with a great piece of wearable art made from recyclable materials. Good for boys as well as girls! 

To book a place, go here

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Happy Hat Box!

Ra whanau ki ahou!

Yes it’s my birthday and to celebrate, I made a hat box birthday cake! This is a great way of catering for the different dietary needs of friends. We have three celiacs in our family, so it’s really vital not to get the cupcakes mixed up! 

Here are the instructions for making this cake- sorry you’ll have to find your own recipes for the edible bits (baking is not my strong point- my son is better at that; I do the art and he does the cooking!)This is a really easy craft but looks so gorgeous! I did one for a friend for her wedding, themed it with sea colours and decorated it with driftwood and paua shell. You'll have loads of crafty fun with this one :)

Here's me making the craft on the Good Morning Show today- complete with a terrible cold (made better by kisses from Brendon Pongia and Matai Smith. Ka pai!