Finding joy in colour

Margaret Maurice says colouring “takes your minds off a lot of things”.

There’s lots of laughter and heads bowed together in conversation. For some, there is intense concentration. For all, there is a love of colouring.

This is the Tauranga Library’s adult colouring club – a group that meets once a month to colour in together.

Colouring used to be reserved for children, but over the past few years it has become a popular pastime for adults, with a huge market in adult colouring books.

While the trend might be a great way to pass the time, it is also believed to have therapeutic benefits. Research has shown that colouring is beneficial to people with depression, dementia and anxiety.

For the people in the library’s colouring club, it’s a great way to socialise too.

Debz Turner says she finds colouring both relaxing and rewarding.

“You can also make birthday and Christmas gifts,” says Debz. “It’s nice to be able to give someone something that you’ve made yourself instead of going out and buying for them. It’s more personal.”

While Debz enjoys colouring any time, she particularly enjoys the company at the club. “It’s nice to have people to talk to and encourage you.”

Librarian Michelle Sims attends the club with her father, David Sims, who suffered a stroke three years ago and finds the colouring useful for his physical therapy.

Colouring is not something he would have been doing normally – fishing and playing golf were more his thing.

“Dad can’t really read much anymore either, so one day I bought him a colouring book and some coloured pencils and he had a go,” explains Michelle. “He’s actually really good at staying within the lines with his left hand.”

David says he finds it relaxing and it gives him something to do. “I’m not very fast though,” he admits.

Coloured pencils seem to be the medium of choice among the library group, but felt-tips are also used and the quality of coloured pencils varies immensely, including more expensive watercolour pencils.

The range of colouring books available is also extensive. Some cost just a few dollars at your local discount store, while a bespoke, personalised colouring book in the USA can cost as much as US$30,875.

The library supplies colouring sheets, and the group is working on a canvas together, but most people bring their own work along.

The colouring club will celebrate its second birthday in January and is now also available at Greerton and Papamoa libraries.

The club is the brainchild of Diane Taggart, team leader of collection services at the library, who is a colouring buff herself.

Diane says: “We started it in January because we thought lots of people would have got books for Christmas, which was the case. We did some research into colouring and found that most people did it for a variety of social reasons.

“We have a lot of fun and people come and go. I’ve really enjoyed it and we’ve learned lots of new techniques.”

Michelle believes the popularity of colouring is a spin-off from the increased focus on mindfulness – a mental state achieved by focusing awareness on the present moment.

The group all admit it’s a great way to while away a few hours.

“Sometimes an hour can go by and you think ‘where did that go?’ Apparently it’s better than mindfulness,” says Diane.

“It takes your mind off a lot of things,” says Margaret Maurice, a widow who brings her friend Neil Thorby along to the group. Neil recently celebrated his 90th birthday and his family have framed some of the creations he has made at the colouring club.

Members of the group have become quite proficient ‘colourists’ over the past few years and have a giggle when they think back to some of their early efforts, including pieces from their first public exhibition at the library.

“I still have the ones that got put in the window, and now I wonder ‘what was I ever thinking?’ But it doesn’t really matter if you’re enjoying yourself,” says Joan Timu.

Cheryl Capener is colouring in letters to cheer up sick children in hospital as part of a nationwide project called Love Letters. The project was started by Bay of Plenty mum Tracey Meads in 2015 after her son Frank spent time in Starship Hospital following a diagnosis of leukaemia.

Club member Kirsty Slater is legally blind, but can see well enough to colour in even though it takes her some time.

“It’s less about the colouring and more about having the opportunity to interact with other people,” says Michelle.