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Rona Keith’s artworks are more about mindfulness than the final result - the artist creates without a plan, until she feels the work is done. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

‘Having a bash’ at mindfulness through mindful art

For Waihī resident Rona Keith, it took a lifetime to come back to the true passion in her life, art. 

The retired teacher spent her career in the fields of maths and IT. Deep down though, she was still drawn to creativity. 

“I’ve always wanted to have a career that was to do with the arts, [but] when I was at school I was good at maths,” she said. 

“I ended up [becoming] a programmer.” 

Finding her career uninspiring, Rona turned to teaching maths, in a “spur of the moment decision”. 

Now that she’s retired, Rona still finds her teaching skills useful. She spends her spare time running classes in papercraft, junk journaling, slow stitching, and embroidery under the moniker “Haveabashery” – encouraging people to simply give it a go. 

“What do I get out of it? Total pleasure. I don’t understand people who don’t make things,” she said. 

“I think everybody likes being creative. People enjoy it because it’s a mindfulness exercise.”

One of Rona’s favourite techniques is slow stitching – the art of using a needle and thread in much the same way as a painter uses a brush, to create deliberate works of art. It’s more about the process than the end product. 

“I do very detailed quilting and people look at that and they say, ‘that’s such a lot of work, how did you manage to do that?’ Well, I just get in the flow and just go for it,” she said. 

“Just sewing away and not thinking about anything. It’s funny how having an opportunity not to think gets you out of your head.”

Rona’s joy, she said, comes from helping others find their own creativity. She’s worked with people of all skill levels to make something unique to them. 

One of her recent classes was for a group of people with Down syndrome. She took them through making their own books, which then went on display in Paeroa library. 

“One of the mothers came along to my junk journal class,” Rona said. 

“After, she said, ‘we’ve got a group, we’d quite like to do something’. We were just going to do a little one day thing, and the leader of the group said she’d been thinking about a whole literacy project.

“One of the girls – every week she would just make my day. She’d come along and say ‘this is so cool, I’m enjoying myself so much’.”

The group made a book from scratch, including marbled end-pages, covers and bindings. 

“My idea was to share not only what I know but share my stuff,” she said, gesturing to the wall of craft supplies behind the table. 

“It’s something where you can be really relaxed and have fun. Granny’s my main job, [but there’s] enjoyment in sharing and helping others try creative things.” 

By ALICE PARMINTER, Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air