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