A valedictorian at Friday’s (March 23) EIT graduation ceremony, Fiona Fox doesn’t believe her past defines who she is now.
This attitude allowed the Napier mother of two to move from a career in fashion design to study for her Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design – a stepping stone towards her goal of becoming a teacher.
“I knew I wanted to teach, but today you can’t just walk in and say, ‘I’ve had 20 years in the fashion industry, established my own label selling to six stores throughout New Zealand and is there a position going in your school?’.”
Top Studio Visual Arts Student in her degree class, Fiona is now studying for a Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary), specialising in technology, design and art history.
While that’s using the logical side of her brain, she’s keen to achieve balance by continuing to tap into her creative side and keep her art practice alive by building up a new body of work for an early 2013 exhibition.
Her original tertiary training in the mid-1980s gained her a Certificate of Fashion Design and the United British Machinery Award for excellence in leather wear – a turning point after struggling academically at school.
“I just didn’t seem to fit the system, but I’m glad I didn’t give up on my passion because creativity is the spice of life.”
Born in Waipawa, Fiona has ranged widely overseas. Based in London for seven years, she travelled throughout Europe, Africa and South America.
“I worked as a chef, did bar work and completed courses at the London School of Fashion before coming home. I soon picked up my job at Dino Clothing designing for five Zachary stores before leaving to establish the FF label and then having children. Working part-time, I found I could paint and loved it – another turning point.”
Returning to studies with young sons to care for wasn’t easy. Fiona had health issues in her second year and also shifted house twice while at EIT.
“But I laughed my way through with great friends. You do need a sense of humour to get through some things, it just makes it easier.
“Yes, it is a very busy story, but I don’t let my past define who I am. I love the thrill of making known the unknown, always looking for new ways to be authentic.”
Fiona took on degree study for sons Harrison, 10, and Cooper, 6, and for herself.
“Both will attend the ceremony,” she says of her morning graduation where, as valedictorian, she will be delivering an address on behalf of fellow graduates. While that prospect is “very nerve-racking”, Fiona also views it as an opportunity to express her creativity and to inspire her sons.
“The single most important thing for me is to take creativity into everything I do, to be open to whatever comes along.
“You need flexibility to think outside the square and solve problems. It’s about being creative every day.”