Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

Hello, good morning and Feliz Navidad. It's 9.30 on Christmas morning and we are off soon to brunch with delicious friends.
I left the window open in case I could hear Santa jingling across the sky. I didn't, as it happens...

However you choose to spend today -with friends, family, Netflix - I hope you enjoy it. It's all we human beans can hope for, and things are what we make them. xo

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Preparing for take off!

Well I went quiet for nearly a month. It's been off the charts busy!
Gigs - Viva Frida, Caburlesque's Christmas show, two extra cabaret gigs, the Wellington Quilters Guild, The Wellington Comedy awards too - I was nominated for the best MC award, which was uber cool.
All the while we are preparing to move, probably not putting enough into it in terms of letting all the right services know and nailing the details. But it is Christmas trade and it is finally picking up after the quake put the city into hiatus for three weeks.
So, here's my last four weeks in photos:
 Crazy Frida outfit for the first half of Viva Frida 19 Nov, Photo by Jac Lynch
 My favourite act from the Viva Frida show - Stephii Onassis and Harlie Lux bring the Two Fridas painting to life. Photo by Jac Lynch
 My two Christmas costumes for this season. The above was an appallingly ugly nativity panel I saw at Voldemart and an hour of sewing later, I had a new costume! Photo by Paradox Photography
Last year's Christmas costume - taken in, lengthened a little and the feathers replaced with vegan friendly silver embroidered organza frills. In both these outfits I have my legs out, which is something I've grown comfortable with only this past year! Photo by Paradox Photography
Made on a stolen afternoon - 70 tiny chocolate dipped Christmas puddings. It's been pretty tough here with the post quake fall out and I've not felt the Christmas spirit kick in, but making these like I have nearly every year for the last 20, really helps. Rituals have their place!
A selfie before I headed out to the Wellington Comedy Awards. I didn't win my category - Jerome Chandrahasen did and he is FANTASTIC. I was totally blown away to even be nominated as all the other nominees were stand up comedians.
 Our Fringe Festival show listing! Quite exciting seeing it in print! "Our" being mysellf, or Constance Craving, and Clever Hansel.
Most definitely not least, our new shop at 100 Tory St. The signwriters put up the new window decal this week. Since this pic was taken, the annoying builders' sign has been moved. Actually they are fantastic builders - they have four weeks only to pullout walls, fix the floor, put up new lights and ducting, new walls, and make it all ready for us. On Friday they were grinding the concrete floor ready to polish it. I've chosen a really simple, industrial feel for the studio area as much to get it done faster. The other part of the shop had big terracotta tiles and we're leaving them in place.
Photos of the interior when we get in there!

Our new branding! We can't be Made on Marion if we're not ON Marion any more. So,  we're now Made Marion Craft physically as well as online. Greg from Ash Creative did the design- my brief was that we really like what we had and didn't want to change it but we wanted to change it. He actually understood what I meant and I think he did a great job.

So, that's a bit of a whirlwind tour. I didn't hold a Thanksgiving dinner this year, it was all too much. I am so tired, and as a friend said, "white knuckling" it right now. My to-do list is a mile long,with a family wedding in March,fringe show to write, shop to move, but I am blown away as always by the people willing to help us pack up and unpack. Friends, customers, one and the same. We have a lovely team of professional movers coming in on the 29th Dec so that gives us three days to pack. BLOOMING HECK. It will be fine, it will be fine, it will be fine...

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I Feel the Earth. Move. Under my feet...

About 12.30am on Monday just as we were nearly asleep, New Zealand was hit by a 7.8 earthquake. It went on for over a minute, which for those of you who haven't been in an earthquake is about 25 "experience of being in it" minutes. The epicentre was off the cost of Kaikoura, which is on the upper North East coast of the South Island. It's the place you stop on the drive to or from the Picton Ferry for a coffee and to buy a crayfish, or to go whale watching.
Not for a while. The quake was the second largest ever to hit us since the 1920s. Or some such. Sea beds have risen, valleys have formed, it's amazing and terrifying. It was much bigger than the quakes that ravaged Christchurch in 2010 and 2011, just not centred somewhere with such dire consequences to an urban environment.
Meanwhile back in the Wellington CBD, we stood in the doorway listening to the banging and crashing go on and on and on and bloody on. When it finally calmed down, we went down into the courtyard with most of the residents of our complex, all trying to joke about it so we wouldn't scream or cry instead. In nothing but my robe, I went with MrC to the shop expecting a pile of rubble, but nope, a few unbreakables had toppled off the precariously made piles on the Christmas display. Out on the streets were groups of mostly young people in pjs, or wrapped in quilts, with backpacks. It felt like the Zombie apocalypse, sans Zombies.
Anyway, an hour of aftershocks and I was a mess. I rang my parents and we drove out to their place, which is on the flat, and new. And had brandy, it turns out. I say had, because the four of us finished the bottle before going to bed.
So, the CBD was closed on Monday, which is all very well but when 20,000 people live in it, what do you do?? We opened briefly but an aftershock was too much for me and I insisted we close again. Instead I spent the afternoon with my very calm friends Chris and Paul, eating chocolate and watching American football, and decompressing.
It has been BAU since then.
Except that several newer buildings in town are condemned, and none of the older ones which seemed to ride the rolling motion of this quake but maybe wouldn't handle a jolt from below? I'm not fussed about never finding out the hard way.
So, we here are now once again reminded that life on a sliver of land on a number of Pacific fault lines can be pretty exciting.
We are fine, if rattled; our business and home are fine. We do not mourn the two cheap wineglasses that broke, but we mourn the feeling that knowing we live on a fault line was an intellectual one, not a visceral experience.
The actual outcome is that the planned move of our business due to the building being sold earlier in the year, is brought forward to just after Christmas. The new building is newer, safer, and in a different if equivalently busy part of the city.
And last night in spite of it all, we did a show. More on that when the photos are available.
Right now I am going for a nap. I am really tired. Living on one's nerves for a week while getting a show onto the stage is a lot to handle.
TL,DR: Earthquakes suck, life goes on!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday jobs

Today I did some catching up. It's my one day off and I am very particular about how I spend it.
First, I set a cake free. By now it is probably crumbs.
Not quite finished at point of photo but you get the idea.
 Shopping for yummy fresh food from several amazing shops was fun. I got it into my head that I wanted to make a chicken pie. That meant: free range chicken thighs, likewise bacon, the holy Trinity of carrot, onion and celery, parsley, and lemon. I had the stock, pastry and other herbs already.
This of course wasn't remotely as a result of watching Pie Week on The Great British Bake Off. Nonono. I am also not obsessing over Bombe Alaska either. Ahem.
My chicken pie. No Soggy Bottom as it is just has a lid. Mary Berry you won't catch me out!

Anyway I also ironed a lot of shirts, (for brownie points), did a lot of dishes, and sorted a lot of messy paperwork and sewing stuff, and washed my makeup brushes. Which I do after pretty much every time I use them, because EEW.
For the education of those not into hard core makeup, I do this thusly:
  1. Put a bar of Sards Wondersoap in a flat container with hot water.
  2. Dampen the bristles in the water then rub on the soap enough to clean it.
  3. Leave to sit all soapy for a few minutes while I do the other 20 or so brushes.
  4. Run about an inch of hot water into the half sink and shake the bristles in it until well rinsed.
  5. Smooth bristles into shape, and lie the brush on a hand towel where I leave it to dry for several days.
 The trick is to not immerse the whole brush in water, as it weakens the glue holding the bristles and metal bit, and they fall apart. Ask me how I know.
So there you go, you (possibly) heard it here first.
Happy Sunday!

Thursday, November 3, 2016


It's 7pm on Hallowe'en Saturday - I have four, FOUR places I could be tonight but the only place I want to be is here on the couch for as long as it takes to get to bed time, probably 9pm! NANA!!
I taught a class today, a new one about "Making a pattern from an existing garment." I had a lot of inquiries around this idea so I programmed it, two weeks in a row because of the demand and only being able to take 4-6 people, and both are full.
It was a fantastic class and reminded me how much I love to teach. No photos, as I am to busy doing the work for that.
But I do owe you some photos so here you go!

 Me as Edina Monsoon with dear friend Ross. Friends for 38 years and counting! He came to the second evening of the AB Fab movie opening. Out of two 200 seat shows, only about 8 guys turned up!
 A little too much bolly. Jack was Patsy and Indy is Bubble.
My black lace fit and flare dress - bought unadorned and then adorned with these lovely red rose motifs. It took me ages to sew them on but I love that kind of thing.

And finally THIS happened! Please note the total lack of sequins!
I finished the dress on Labour Weekend and have worn it since but so far no pics. I LOVE IT. Can't wait to show you! 
We're in summer frock weather most days now, and the one I am wearing has rips under the arms. So three new dresses this summer, two more to go.
I'd best get on with it! My output has been pretty slow these past couple of years...

Monday, October 17, 2016

My new frock and adventures with boas

Busy here! I have been dealing with the influx of customers that comes with the World of Wearable Art, while trying to get our Fringe show registered (it's not until February but we have to have everything done that you'd normally do a few weeks before it, done by 10 October! Did my head in!)
So I didn't have much time or inclination to make any new costumes for the Burlesque Baby show on the 15th October.
A gorgeous magenta dress arrived from city chic with lots of time to spare. It is the same gorgeous shape as the last two - with the draped tulip skirt. But so boring, like a bridesmaid's gown. Not OTT enough for Constance!
Then blings arrived and WOWZERS!!! The pink ones I got for the dress were too matchy matchy, but a pair of white iridescent ones were perfect, and I trimmed, arranged them and then stuck them on with Aleene's Tacky Glue. All class, me!

Strike a pose! Why not, complete with duckface!

Not content however with this dress, I felt it needed more FOOFLES. And as my only boa was red and did not go, I knocked one up at work during the day. A roll each of organza wrap in hot pink and silver floral mesh, each corded up the middle then the gathering pulled up. I sewed them together and voila! Up close it has the tacky desperation of a night before the kid's party costume attempt. But on stage it just read as puffy structure. YAY!
So there you go. sometimes RTW can deliver, with a bit of extra bling
BTW the fine bias is a dream and so easy to apply. I've not finished and there's nothing to see yet, but I will share it when there is!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

People are Strange...

...As Jim Morrison once sang. And as did I on Saturday night emceeing at Caburlesque Weird and Quirky. I had very little time to get costumed and made up so I went for a simple look; matching my makeup to the faces on my costume. As you do.

Here I am at the curtain call, with Douglas Sievers-Jarrett and La Femme Fantail.

So why such a fast turnaround? Because until 5pm, I was emceeing a wedding in the country!
My daytime look, pinup inspired. Wearing the black lace dress with red rose appliques.
It was a glorious wedding, incorporating Druid, Christian and legal ceremonial elements. Emily the bride declared that she and Richard got "All kinds of married" and that was a great way of putting it!

I know I've been quiet these past few weeks, but of course that's because I've been so busy. I am working on a costume, making those kale edged organza frills for the bottom. Negotiating with the supplier of our bias bindings to make a super narrow satin one for the edges of this. It's going to be such a pain in the pattoottie to attach but it will be worth it I feel.
I have until 10 October to get all the details for our Fringe Festival show locked down so that is my priority. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Technology dependence

I am trying not to be Chicken Little, worrying the sky is about to fall on us.
The reason for this sense of impending disaster is technology failure.
Our condenser dryer started to, er, stop. It chose a time when we were a whole full time person down at work, another reason for the sudden quiet. Thanks to our incredibly generous neighbour Dan, we have been using his dryer when he is out and we are in, and that has been such a blessing as apartment dwelling doesn't give one many options in winter.
This innocent white box is now sitting in the middle of the floor, as the cupboard doesn't allow for access to its important bits. To do this, David had to take the doors off the cupboard. Erk. They are also a trip hazard. Apparently it needs a new controller, so that's $600 plus to regain our drying capabilities. Erk again. Waiting for parts...
Then, both the printers decided to be difficult. The one at work can't work out what paper it has in it but won't listen to me. I finally fixed it over the phone with the Canon helpline. The answer was to tell it that all paper was "others". Hmm.
The one at home has adopted a self conscious endangered species breeding programme approach to life. I send things to it, and nothing happens. But the next day, all alone upstairs, it may suddenly give birth to the document. Or not.
It's all rather tiring in a week where I need to print place cards for a friend's wedding on Saturday, I need to print invoices and labels all the time, and actually when I have owned both less than a year, I kind of resent this precious behaviour.
Pictured with no document spewing forth, as is fit under the circumstances.

Sewing and other aspects of life are happening, just time constraints and lack of photos and experienced staff being covered by enthusiastic but inexperienced staff has kept me busy.
This week, I am concentrating on getting cakes made for the wedding that can be eaten by those who cannot eat gluten, dairy or chocolate, sorting place cards, supervising the completion of a bridesmaid's dress and getting my responsibilities as emcee under my belt. 
I am emceeing an early wedding, we're back into the city then I am emceeing a cabaret. The bride in the morning is the emcee I share the rotation of the show with. So naturally it's my turn! I have an alternative emcee on standby if it all gets too much.
I am very excited by this wedding which will be such a celebration of life and love.
I just wish my technology would get the memo; that it has ONE JOB. Sheesh.

Monday, August 22, 2016

40th Birthday 1940s style

My lovely friend Yvonne put a lot of time and love into a 1940's Blitz party for her 40th Birthday. It's a stunning theme for a party, so much fun to be had!
Yvonne hired The Fringe Bar which is our home away from home, and decorated it with bunting, posters and a great photo booth, Here's a great photo of the whole party and bar.
Here's Yvonne (right) with her friend Heather. Both were dressed in Hollywood Glam. They aren't as blue as this normally, it's just the coloured lights. Yvonne performs as Amber de Luze and her guest list was a cocktail of family, burlesque friends, diving friends and work friends.
MrC went as an ARP warden in a gorgeous old English policeman's jacket from his own costume rack. Here he is being silly with the delightful Simone, who is lots of fun and performs as Miss Ooh La La Paree, in her naughty Airman outfit.
Now here is a special photo - from the left - Lisa who stage manages most of the shows I write about on here. Andrew aka Sound Bitch, who works the lights and sound and edits all the videos I post. Debbie his wife who produces Caburlesque and DIY Burleskiwi and gave me my first paid gig. These guys really are responsible for Constance's success! Thank you! And Delwyn who was in the very first show I emceed along with Yvonne, and is just a darling.
Another group of lovelies! Left Janine Swanson aka Betsy Rose Lee, Anna aka Mis'tress Botanica who co-produces DIY, ME in my new dress, and April aka Azure D'Murre. Janine, Simone and April came down from Hamilton for the party which was a real treat for us all.
Me singing A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. I know that because I got rid of the mike stand fairly soon into the song. I am living with a rebout of virus, had taught a stretch lampshade class all day, and I was full of Codral, Difflam and bravado.

I must get an easier-to-see pic of me in this dress. It is a fit and flare job with a high low hem, black lace obvs, over a skin coloured lining through the skirt and sweetheart bodice, so the whole thing looks like lace on skin. I bought it at City Chic for $199, and sewed on the rose appliques. It took nearly 20 hours to do that, but it is worth it. I love it as I feel like a real girl in it - not a drag queen or a shop owner but that magical in between space.
After the singing I sprung the cake and Happy Birthday on Yvonne, who didn't know! MrC as the fire warden, carried the cake onto the stage with lit candles. He is such a rock, he carried it on his knee in the car as I rather daftly didn't allow for carrying the two halves separately to the venue. It is a seriously heavy cake!
Anyway it was an awesome night, and eventually dissolved into Karaoke, in which this Victory roll sporting, lace dress wearing lass sang Take a Little Piece of my Heart by Janis Joplin, with screaming an air guitar. I have no shames.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

This Takes the Cake!

I talk a big game about cake decorating but I rarely get a chance to. So when my friend Yvonne planned a big 40th birthday bash I decided it was time to have a go.
We sell a heap of cake decorating things in our shop - we're not just about sewing - and I determined to only use what I had at hand. So that is: coloured fondants, tylose, cake boards and cards, blingy numbers, edible pearls, and the cake tins we hire out.
I went for 6" and 7" sized round tins, two cakes from each to make a tall cake. The tops trimmed flat. I got a bit muddled and sandwiched the top one with jam, but the bottom two are separate cakes, so we can unstack them for cutting. The cake itself is chocolate, made with the cupcake recipe I favour, and I made 6 x the usual amount. That's a dozen eggs worth! I skimmed these with buttercream icing. As you can see, them is tall!
Upturned dinner plate and Tupperware container playing duty as turntables. Sometimes I reckon I missed a successful career as a plasterer.
I made a pile of blossom flowers a couple of nights ago out of fondant with tylose kneaded into it to make it set properly. The centres are edible pearls. I stuck them in with glue made of tylose and water. The only thing extra I did was to press every blossom on a soft surface to give it a softer 3-D shape. Lots of processes!
Here's the cake assembled - the ivory bottom and orange top both covered in fondant. I am really bad at this! Especially with such a deep cake. The bow is also fondant strengthened with tylose. I made the bow last night so it had time to set. Ignore the 40 on top, I realised the top needed something else.
Aha! A ball of leftover orange fondant to give some height, then I made some leaves, popped the 40 into it, and covered it in leaves and flowers. Pretty!
Flowers stuck on with the tylose glue. I can't get over how effective it is! The flowers are fairly heavy but they went on with a smear brushed on the back. No slip sliding. however because of all the creases in the fondant that the flowers could only disguise so far, I realised we needed something more serious around the bottom.
And here we are. Probably too many flowers on it, but it does look less fussy in person. I got all the leftover fondant, rolled it into 12mm balls, and arranged them in colour order around the base. It just finished it off nicely.
So, all ready for Saturday night. The fondant and buttercream will keep the cake fresh. It's a nice, tasty cake and the jam helps!
This cake was easy to put together, it just takes patience to go through the various processes needed. And things need leaving overnight to set and dry. I couldn't have got this together in one evening as cakes needed baking and cooling, blossoms needed to dry etc. I did something for it every evening this week but it didn't take all evening.
In terms of the design, I Googled 40th Birthday Cake for ideas, and found this one:
You can probably see some similarities. But sadly, we have no black fondant until the end of September. My approach to these kinds of projects is to get an inspiration, then forget it. I never try and copy things I see online - I don't know what they used, how they did something and I would rather use what I have. Also, you know how it is - the home job is never quite as swish as the professional job! So why put oneself into the position of a direct comparison. For example, the black and white cake is buttercream so it has nice sharp edges that fondant doesn't make.
No, I am perfectly happy with my imperfect work. I won't be flashing pics of the inspiration cake around on the night, and the pretty fruity colours of my version suit Yvonne better than the stark black and white one would.
So there! ;-)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Busy times!

Oh my word, what a busy bee I've been. Four shows in a week! Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Saturday 6th August. I emceed Caburlesque's Tim Burton Tribute show. This meant a chance to finally fulfill a thirty year long dream - to play Mrs Lovett and sing Little Priest.
Here I am with the amazing Clever Hansel, who is my new Partner In Crime. We had a blast with this and plan to work together again! The Mad Hatter took over the second half of the show and closed it with a Burlesque act. SO cute that one guy in the audience told David and I that he thought the Mad Hatter was a different person!
On Monday 8 August at 2pm,  I spent a couple of hours in drag, helping out at the unveiling of Carmen's traffic light. The link goes to a page with some history of Carmen and a video of the event, in which I make brief, background appearances. I was so busy working the room, I didn't get in many pics.
 This is what you have to do to when it is pouring with rain and your hairdo would flop like a souffle if it got wet! Shopping bag hat, raincoat. I only had to walk 200m and got pretty wet. That's my sonfromanothermother in the mirror.
 The weather was so freezing and wet, the event was moved into Soho Brown's cafe. I am on the left, pinning an orchid onto a guest.
Me, Indy and Amanduh (wearing my peacock costume) and the Mrs Robinsons. I did get to sing a couple of songs as well. But mostly, what an honour to be involved in this event. Carmen is an integral art of the cloth of this city and she deserves to be commemorated.

WELL, on Wednesday night, AB FAB the MOVIE premiered in Wellington and The Roxy Cinema put on a special evening with bubbles and nibbles. BUT, so far no pix so I will leave that for next time!
Ciao all!

Monday, August 1, 2016


So many art experts quipped that I didn't have a monobrow in the Frida show.
Well, I didn't when I walked on the stage, but I did within two minutes!
As part of my opening act, I drew it on. 
You know until I saw this image I never realised they had a follow spot! that's nuts, given how much time I've spent pointing one at other people!
Anyway, we are doing the show again, more or less, on 19 November in Wellington, and in the mean time I still have a lot of monobrow in me.
Friday night was the July instalment of Queen vs Queen (which I did last month) and I wanted to dress up, but be comfortable and warm. It is so freaking cold here right now.
So, I got out the one Frida costume that noone photographed, and is my favourite. It's another mumu garment to my ankles, out of this crazy fabric with faces all over it;
The faces didn't have monobrows but I spent a half hour with a black vivid marker and fixed that! Looking at these guys, I decided to make up as one of them.
Strong contouring, red outlines on black and black on red, an eyelash moustache, lots of red roses and green leaves on my head and off we went!
I wore a tank top and trousers under it, and flat shoes, and even my big brown cosy Pavlova cardi. Noone is the wiser. I love mumus!
My last offering is a selfie of my darling adopted son Jack and me. He was very impressed with my look. As I was with his. Although we do joke that he definitely got those cheekbones from his Papa!
It was a very busy, very cramped night in the Ivy Bar, lots of fun and I was in bed by 12.30am which was quite late enough for a work night thankyouverymuch.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Grand Tease Wellington - getting out of my comfort zone

I am very aware that my comfort zone of talking and singing to large groups of people off the cuff, is the stuff of many people's nightmares! But when I look at what most of the fabulous performers I know do, then I get the 'mares. Moving, using one's body to tell a story, not being able to rely on verbal wit - shudder. So, I ruthlessly put myself into the situation of giving it a go. In a national competition, As you do!
The Grand Tease is New Zealand's Burlesque contest, with heats in the main centres and a final subsequently held in Christchurch. Last night was the Wellington heat. Eight locals and an Aucklander who loves it here got on stage and did two acts each -  a "Classic" act and a "Neo" act.
Classic is about elements of tradition - feather fans, big band music, sequin gowns, sequin everything. In Wellington, we are not big on Classic style and it was a challenge for most. We're Neo-ists on the whole - Neo is a free for all of references to popular culture from movies and books and games to food to commentary on society. Costuming can be anything.
Happily, the performance order was the same in both halves so I had a good 45 minutes to change from one costume to the other, which included makeup.
Frame one - my Classic act. Frame two, back stage in my Neo act outfit.  Frame three, taken when I'm on stage.
Can you guess who I was in my Neo act?
Everyone really rose to the occasion, and all nine performers were just fabulous. I had no desire to go to the final as a performer, but I was utterly blown away to get these two awards on the night. Best Circus/Vaudeville and Most Innovative - two distinctions I really value!
I am going to the final to support all of the finalists, but secretly to pump for Jena,  Debbie and Blu, representing Wellington. Jena is my "one to watch" and came away to Whakatane with us last year, Debbie is producer of Caburlesque and a "partner in crime", and Blu is one of those gorgeous people who makes audiences happy and that includes me!
As for the Mad Hatter, he is making a further appearance on 6 August at the Tim Burton tribute night of Caburlesque. With Mrs Lovett. I reckon if I can go from glamour to Hatter in 45 minutes, I can go from Lovett to Hatter in 25. Wish me luck!!