Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Q & A

I was pleased to read the wonderful comments on my post "Wearable" - my review of Fifi Colston's book - Wearable Wonders. I especially loved Kimberley's comment that her school has 15 copies!!!! Fantastic, that will be a lot of inspired students. 

Fifi has answered a few burning questions for us, read on to discover her inspiration and what she's reading! Thanks Fifi.

1.       As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?

I've been making costumes and Wearable Art for years and I love it the challenge of creating something from nothing. I think it makes for good brain gym- looking at something and repurposing it as something else. I also run lots of Wearable Art workshops for schools and community. My publisher (Scholastic) suggested I create a book specifically about wearable art for school kids, and I was delighted to oblige! I didn't want this to be a step by step 'how to make a dragon costume' I wanted it to be more of a 'how to see the dragon in the materials and world around you.'  Wearable art is not about costume- that's just the medium through which an idea is expressed. It's about story and having something to say.

I have quite a bit in the book about creating character and story which will be as useful to the young writer as it is to the young artist. I also wanted to showcase something about the WOW show and Weta Workshop. I've worked at Weta and learned and saw some wonderful things there and Weta sponsor a special section at WOW so they are quite involved. Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger gave me a great interview as did Heather Palmer and Suzie Moncrieff from WOW. Then I thought it would be great to have an interview with a WOW model and Sarah Ngan Kee answered all the questions someone might want to know about the experience. I think these interviews are a really important part of the book; a young designer can see what opportunities might present themselves when choosing to work in the arts. I started out as an illustrator and now look what I do! Costume, television, workshops, writing, illustration... I feel like this book has used all of the things I have learned so far in my creative life.

2.       Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?

Biggest challenge...working over the best summer Wellington has had for years in a very hot studio whilst everyone else went to the beach! I wrote the book fairly quickly, but the making and photographing of all the items took quite a lot longer. And then there was what to leave in and what to leave out. I tried to fit everything in that was useful and relevant, and if it's not there, it's in my next book, Ghoulish Get-Ups (out in time for Halloween!). I have had years of experience with glues, paints, tape, sewing and creating- this is essentially a download of my brain into 88 pages! When I finished the book I felt quite drained- like I had given everything and left nothing inside my head. I had to go on holiday for a week to recuperate. Luckily the weather was still wonderful and a road trip up the country restored my energies- plus I found lots of great materials for my next Wearable Art entry on the way!

3.       Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?

My audience was the students I work with 8-14 years old, but I hope anyone wanting to delve into the wonderful world of wearable art for the first time will find it a useful book. Teachers are really enjoying it as a tool for the classroom and just perfect for all those school productions coming up.

4.       Can you recommend any books that you love, that inspired or informed your book in any way?

Every single craft book I ever read as a kid including the ever wonderful Golden Hands series from the 70's that I made my mum buy for me (and then I bought a back up a couple of years ago off Trademe!) They have all extended my learning and inspired me to try out new techniques. There is also a great book called 'Costumes and Chemistry' which is all about materials to use for stage and props work and the various ways that you can ruin your health by not using proper breathing apparatus. It makes for terrifying but really useful practical help.
As far as the look of the book goes I can only say a massive thank you and bravo to our wonderful book designer Luke Kelly. He pulled all my many pictures and instructions together and made it look simply amazing!

5.       Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?

I always take a book on a plane with me- it's luxurious uninterrupted reading time. I have just this moment finished Elizabeth Knox's 'Mortal Fire' (on a plane) and was gripped right to the very last line. She has a very clever mind for creating characters and magic and it draws you into the spell; which is the sign of a really good book.

6.       What is your favourite thing to do, when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?

Being in my studio making things. It's my happy, messy space and I am never happier than when I am with a paintbrush, glue gun or needle and thread. I also love to walk by the sea... and as it happens, my studio is by the sea, so the two things combine very well.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother - noun and verb

Wouldn't it be great if there was a day that celebrated not just "Mothers" or "Fathers", but all the people who take on those roles, the care-giving  roles. Mother is a noun and a verb! I'm pretty sure for every "mum" who was celebrating Mother's day yesterday, there was someone who didn't quite fit into that category but certainly deserved a day of their own too. I'm hoping that those families chose to ignore the "Mother's day" tag and just celebrated anyway! It "takes a village" people!

To all those Mums and caregivers out there I hope you remember to celebrate and thank those that you love everyday!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

woollen pixie

I love working with wool, whether it be spinning it or sewing with it. I especially love reclaiming thrifted woollen clothes. Jumpers, cardigans all which have slipped through the wash on an accidental "hot" cycle. Not by me of course! I stockpile them over the Summer months while they are at bargain prices.

I whipped up this Hooded Pixie Coat, a pattern by the talented Lisa of the Big Little blog. I used up a small piece of woodland flannel that I was given recently. I didn't have enough to line the jacket completely,but instead I teamed some vintage sheeting with big patches of the left over flannel, I wanted to get the most out of it.

I added a few circle patches front and back, I just am so in love with that flannel and it seemed a waste to just have it tucked away on the inside. A bit miss-matched perhaps, but that's my sewing style!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


"Get up, get up, get outta your lazy bed. Before I count to three .................." If you recognise that line, chances are you grew up in NZ in the late 80's early 90's and watched a TV programme called "What Now". In which case you will also recognise the lovely lady in the picture above, Fifi Colston! 

I grew up inspired by her crafting projects, replicating many of them at home, scouting around for the items I needed, lots based around a humble egg carton. Fifi's talents extend to book illustrating and creating wonderful works of wearable art. 

Her latest book Wearable Wonders is a finalist in this years New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. You can find the rest of the nominees here, it's quite an impressive list!

Before I was offered the chance to review this book, I had already sought it out and borrowed it from my local library. My kids are starting to graduate from the "mummy made" costumes and wanting to make their own so this book seemed like the perfect resource for them.

It's not formulated with a "do this, do that" approach, more a guide and the perfect starting place for Wearable Art inspiration, perfect for the older child who needs a starting point for their own creation, really making it their own without just copying it from the book. 

my attempt at "Steampunk" goggles

The book takes you through all the planning stages, opening your eyes to the "tools of the trade", you probably already have some most of them, as for the materials needed, think = things in your recycling bin! Everything is taken into account, making sure your wearable piece isn't a danger to the wearer, practicalities of getting it off and on etc. 

a water pistol given a "Steampunk" style make-over

I think we'll have this book out again in the future when the call comes home from school that a costume is required! (I've also noticed that most schools also have a Wearable Art competition these days, you too?).