From Fiji Times Online (15 February 2008)

Christina's passion for art

by Mereseini Marau

IF you have the passion for something, give it a try and you will find it just might be the thing you need, says business woman Christina McMullan.

Christina McMullan
Christina McMullan

Christina, as she prefers to be called and goes by, said getting her business started three years ago was just to substitute her income.

She said when she started facing financial difficulties in looking after her children and putting food on the table, she decided to do something about it.

"At the time I got started in doing my craft business just to help me earn extra money to help out with my children's school fees and other expenses around the house," she said.

Christina is of Rotuman descent and has been residing in Nadi since she started work in a hotel some years ago.

She has four children, two in high school, one in primary and one overseas.

She has been running her business for four years and her products are derived from the coconut tree and fruit and range from bilo to buttons.

She also works with magimagi (coconut husk fibre) making belts, necklaces, jewellery and house ornaments.

"I try not to copy. We do our artwork and everyday you learn something different.

"Even though I have been in it for so long, you would think I knew a lot about what you do but that is not the case," she said.

"If I do not know how to spell a word, I usually draw and make a picture of it.

"So when I go back to it, I can understand what I wrote.

"My partner would ask why I did that and I would say because I cannot spell properly. For me, that is my way of explaining my writing to another person.

"You have some days when you have to do everything all over again because it is not done the way you want it to look or done in a more professional way.

"But I never thought that I could do this."

Christina says she receives help from her partner in putting plans together.

She said before they start on a product they would sit and draft it and plan the cost involved.

She said at first when she started, they did not have the finance for the products they wanted to create.

"We have to pay our bills such as rent, water and electricity.

"The leftover money after paying the bills, we then use to buy material for the product.

"Even then, when the item is completed, we feel that it is not good because we have had to settle for second best and if we go after the original material, it is expensive.

"We have a lot of strings (magimagi) but the new product I am working on is the spider.

"This is the first time I trying such a creation.

"The turtle painting, I have sold a couple of them.

"I use coconut shells or the bilo. For the turtle, I usually make it for the family.

"For the male it is long and the female is round.

"One time, a tourist asked why the female was round and I told her I was an islander and when we get married and have a couple of kids, we tend to grow sideways but our men, they lose their weight when they get married.

"I did not have the education I would have wanted so I learnt from the street.

"It was like a hot cake among the tourist."

Christina said the returns from selling her products was not bad as she got more than five to eight orders and with two weeks' advance notice.

"Because we sit down for hours working on our product.

"My partner would always clean the shell properly because everything is from the coconut shell.

"The smaller the item, the more time you will spend working on it because we do not have the machine to work with.

"We have to outline and all our products are shaped by a grinding machine.

"I do not sleep much when I am working on a craft.

"I can stay awake and work on perfecting my products the whole night because your name and product is very important.

"There is only the two of us working on the products.

"Imagine, if you receive $100 or $200 a piece, you have to really work on that piece of art.

"It is all right if you are given two weeks notice but the small items are the hardest ones to work on.

"Looking back, I would not change anything because I have learnt to perfect my skills in this craft work as each day goes by.

"But it is up to the individual really, if you want to do something do it with passion and you will get satisfaction out of it."