Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Spirits

I've been wondering what to write as a Christmas blog- post some crafts, pontificate on the new year ahead or give you a run down on all the things that have gone right for me this year? I did that 'Year in review' on facebook and it came up with marvellous stuff- it looked like my year had been one long run of successes and pats on the back. It was all LOL and 'likes' and brimming with positivity. 

I decided not to post it as a status because I didn't want to depress my friends with the fabulousness of Fifi. Like those awful Christmas summaries people send out of their year complete with their photos of amazing holidays and Dux of School teenagers. You ball those up and throw them at the wall. It's particularly hard to feel joy for others perfect lives when your own has been sucked dry. I know, I've been there- we all have at some point and then we keep silent and tired, becoming bitter and resentful until it's etched into our faces and bends our backs.

My year in review, so carefully crafted by the facebook app didn't mention the pit of despair I went down early in 2013 for not getting shortlisted for book awards, picked for residencies and for work opportunities evaporating almost as soon as they had materialised. Or the operation our son had and his jobless recovery, or the work situation my husband had endured and hated so much he dragged himself home like a grey ghost every day, wondering where his dreams had gone. The financial uncertainty our family had juggled for far too long, the transitioning of elderly parents into retirement living, the landslip in our garden, the Wellington Parking some point I lost the will and the energy to tap dance my way through. What saved me from myself were caring friends, thoughtful colleagues and supportive family. I feel gratitude every day for those people.

So this Christmas, look around you. Is there someone in your life who is struggling? Don't give them a set of novelty pillowcases- look after their kids so they can sleep. Don't just feed them slabs of ham and mince pies (although those are delicious) nourish them with a hug and a kiss. Forget the gym membership voucher- they will never go if they are down; it's literally impossible to summon up the will, even though the exercise will help. Take them for a walk instead. Buy them a coffee on the way back. Tell them they are loved and that without them, your life would be smaller. Don't give advice; listen. That's a gift too. Be kind- it may be the nicest thing you'll ever package up and leave under the family tree.

Fifi xxx

Friday, November 22, 2013

Puppy Love

You may or may not have been following Harriet's blog: 
My Experience of Walking The Dog and her walk with cancer. Harriet is a brave and gorgeous young woman who is losing ground but has packed more into her 20 years of life than most of us could hope for over three score and ten. She has friends and family who love her and her generosity of spirit and fun is inspiring.

Harriet has gathered a group of similarly remarkable friends and her buddy Rebekah Dorman decided it would be a great thing if we could all say how much we love her with as much happiness and no tears by way of a film, so she could see that (in case she was in any doubt!) before she leaves us.Via Facebook, Rebekah encouraged us all to make and share videos that she could edit into a film and this extraordinary gal, in the midst of Uni exams edited hours of video and pics into an hour long film. We had a film premier at Harriet's old school, Queen Margaret College with food and (non alcoholic) drinks and we laughed and cried in equal measures- but not with sadness, only with joy.

If I were a recruiter I would hire Rebekah in in instant. And to see all those young people there with unwavering devotion to Harriet was very reafirming. They are our future- they have empathy, love and respect in bucketloads. Harriet will not be here in the years to come but she has helped shape the world around her a little, in her own way, through showing her peers what kindness, generosity, laughter and honesty can do.

The video is on Youtube and it's an hour long. Most of it won't mean anything to you unless you know her and it's fairly personal, so I won't link it here. But I did a piece for the film because she's been campaigning for a puppy which her parents are not so into. So here's my puppy for Harriet.
If you follow the instructions and make one, then call it Hat- because that's what her nickname is and all hats off to that beautiful gal xxx

Monday, November 18, 2013

Spam and Blogger Sammies anyone?

Lovely spam, wonderful spam
Lovely spam, wonderful spam


Lovely spam
Lovely spam
Lovely spam

Spam, spam, spam, spam

(Monty Python)

One of the reasons I post less on my blog and more on facebook is because sometimes I'm not even sure my posts here get read. My pages get viewed I can tell that from my stat counter, but actual blogging has almost become, at least in my experience, the sort of MySpace of forgotten posts, only trawled through by spammers and bots who leave such gems as: 

'You made some really good points there. I checked on the net for additional information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this web site. Look into my homepage (www.spammy mcspam)'


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I appreciate, cause I found just what I used to be having a look for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye. Look at my webpage (www.spammy mcspam)'

All in reply to how to make a Hat Box Birthday cake. Reading has become a non essential part of the blogosphere it seems.

When the wonderful world of blogging was opened to me, I thought that I'd be suddenly picked out of the masses for my pearls and gems and be offered book deals or columns in online media. I've posted some of my wittiest and poignant pieces on this blog since I started it in 2005. I've shared poems, pictures, insights, crafts, creative news and the odd outrage about the policies in this fair country of ours. I've been happy, I've been sad and I've been honest, all to be noticed I suppose.
But I never expected it to become a spam sandwich short of a picnic. Which is what the trawlers are.

Happily I can report that my most popular post and template is for how to make an ANZAC Day poppy, closely followed by how to make paper poinsettias. I get up to 200- 300 downloads a week for these. I often wonder where they go and who uses them, if at all. Or if spammers are making darts from them. So I was extremely heartened when I had this lovely comment and picture from Melanie Kirkpatrick in Australia on my facebook page:

To commemorate Remembrance Day, students across our campus made over 2000 poppies and 'planted' them as a tribute to our brave servicemen and women. It was such a visually moving tribute to our service personnel. Our Campus is situated near a joint Army/RAAF base and we have just under 80 children enrolled who are from 'Defence Families'. I am employed as a Defence School Transition Aide and I assist these families to settle into our school and the local community as quickly as possible so as to minimise disruption to the families and to the children's education. I also support families when a member is on Deployment or an extended exercise. Educating the students and the community about Remembrance and ANZAC Day is a role I take very seriously and it is a role which is very close to my heart, as I also belong to a 'Defence family'. Thank you for your poppy template, the children really enjoyed this activity and I'm so proud of every single one of them. Kindest Regards, Mrs Melanie Kirkpatrick Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.

Melanie, I'm proud of them too and thankyou for using the template :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Back to the Drawing Board- in a good way!

My old and beloved copy

I was going to burble on about inspiration and education and my heros of the art world. Instead I'm going to just give you two links to two things. 

One is David Jones' Sketching The Portrait in Oils class that I started last week and I have already learned a whole new way of drawing. I thought I was pretty good at it but David is a master, and he's really young. He's teaching this old dog some much needed new tricks (I have got lazy in my drawing approach). I have fallen in love with drawing again after one class. My pencil and sketch diary are my constant companions!

The other is this- and I am VERY excited. The IllustrationMaster Class in Amherst, near Boston. Children's book writer and illustrator and long time buddy, Ruth Paul went this year and I was inordinately jealous. But it's her turn for green eyes now, because I have signed up for 2014 and she's too snowed under with book deadlines to go ( a nice problem to have!). But even more exciting is that the Brian Froud will be there- the illustrator of the first book I bought when I was a design student that impressed me more than anything I'd seen since I was 6 and received RieCramer's 'The Silver Thimble Story Book'. Brian and Wendy are running a special focus on illustration and I'm doing it! I'll be taking my battered and loved old copy of The Land of Froud, my paints and brushes and a sponge; my grey matter.

I love learning and most particularly when it concerns what I love most- creativity. And when I come back from it, I'll share. To 2014- a year of magic :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bizarre Bras and Blogs

Gosh, I feel like I need to revamp my site here- it's a bit old hat and I need to start devoting a whole special section to workshops and public speaking- lordy I love a micrphone! But I like my wee blog as well- so maybe I'll venture into Wordpress and redesign a few things so I can profile fun stuff like the Bizarre Bra workshop we had at The Roxy. I designed a template which my attendees cut out and taped together over bubbles and canapes and then created fabulous wonders with a whole bunch of materials I bought along.

I really love getting together with people, having fun and making things. There is much pleasure to be had from the tactile world- the very act of putting two materials side by side then sewing, glueing, cable tieing or riveting them together is creation. It is fundamental to our very being. No wonder we enjoy it so. It's what people are designed to do :)


Monday, October 07, 2013

Post WOW

Well, WOW is over for another year and what a fine season it was! After last year's disappointment of not getting into show (lesson here: don't do something that is 'just a bra', do something that is THE bra), 2013 has turned up great times. Wearable Wonders has gone into reprint,  I did talks at Te Papa to school groups, a presentation to over 300 people at the Designer's Forum, a pre show dinner talk at Shed 5 for 90 corporate guests, a pre show showing of a private WOW commission for Finishing Touch made from their fabulous stationery products, the exhibition of some of my past garments at The Roxy Cinema, a Bizarre Bra workshop there and a charity auction of Vena Immaculata, my 2011 entry- which raised $1000 for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.

So I feel I have been given and given back. And with 'Angel's Trippy Trumpet' getting an honourable mention at the awards, I also received the completely stunning new WOW book. It is a must for anyone considering entering or simply to drool over. You get to see such glorious details- this really is a fabulous book. I'd love to see it and some of the garments at The V&A in London. They would fit right in and stand right out all at the same time.

So what now that this month of wearable art indulgence is over? Well, I was in the studio on Sunday with my $2 shop Barbie doll, spray painting her a particular colour for my 2014 creation... yes, I have been bitten early. I might also do another bra too. And in the meantime I'm working on an idea for Bling My Bra- there are talks of a catwalk and guest entries; I can't enter the competition myself because I'm a judge, but I do have some exciting materials to play with and I need to keep my hands busy, and this is a fabulous event in aid of The Breast Cancer Foundation and this year there will be a groovy band at the exhibition night. Interested? Consider it a prelude to the 2014 WOW Bizarre Bra section. Go on, you know you're busting to have a go!

This post is decicated to Joanne Cunningham, my good buddy and seeker of adventure at Wellington Polytechnic Design School back in the day. She passed away September 22nd 2013 from breast cancer. She was 54 and it was too soon.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Awards, rewards and paying it forward

Angel's Trippy Trumpet

Well! It's been a pretty exciting week full of WOW- World of Wearable Art. I was absolutely thrilled to get an Honour Award for my piece 'Angel's Trippy Trumpet' in the Man Unleashed- Psychedelic Revival section. It's a Datura flower that opens up to reveal the trippy journey inside! No models were harmed (or stoned) in the making of this ;)

The show was as usual absolutely incredibale and I was was stoked to spend a day with the international designers, have a peek behind the scenes at my old work haunt Weta Workshop and then talk to a very large crowd of over 300 at Te Papa. Hopefully I've inspired them to enter next years show! That evening I did a dinner talk for a corporate group and we had Vena Immaculata, my 2011 entry (which also recived an Honour Award) modelled by Ria Simmons, a wonderfully talented dance and drama student for the duration. The client was also a sponsor of The NZ Breast Cancer Foundation, so it was fitting to have Vena there, as it is about "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?"

Last week an old friend of mine from design school days, Joanne Cunningham, a talented artist and photographer lost her battle with breast cancer. She was 52. Two other close friends have undergone treatment for this and it seems that so many people I know have had brushes of varying strokes with the disease. It is hard to know what to do other than make casseroles for family when someone you know is going through this. And heaven knows, I am no great culinary provider. I wondered what I could do effectively to make a useful difference. And then I had it- I could auction off a relevant artwork and have the proceeds go to The NZ Breast Cancer Foundation, who support so many who are affected.

So,Vena Immaculata is going up for auction- with ALL the proceeds going to The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. We are holding it at The Roxy in Miramar with an auctioneer and if you aren't in town you can participate on Trademe for the bidding. We will have a big screen with the auction page live on the night. Preceeding the auction, I'll hold a workshop on Bizarre Bra making- a hands on fun event with bubbles and canapes.

Go to the Trademe auction page here:

and here is more info on the workshop and night :)