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.