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Some of Barbara’s recent rock creations. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

Lockdown hobby finds home in Paeroa

Barbara Kellerman’s bag is always much heavier at the beginning of a walk than at the end, and as she strolls around Paeroa, she leaves surprises in her wake. 

The former teacher spends her days painting inspirational messages and quirky pictures on rocks, before hiding them in public spaces for others to find. 

Her inspiration came from a worldwide movement called “Kindness Rocks”, and a walk with her granddaughters in 2018. 

“They’d found a couple of rocks somewhere and they’d brought them home,” she said. 

“It started in the United States… Somebody started painting positive statements on rocks and leaving them for people to find, and that’s where this ‘Kindness Rocks’ came about.”

Barbara was enamoured with the idea, and began painting rocks of her own. At first picking up a few pebbles from her garden and stones from beaches, she began leaving them near her former home in West Auckland. 

“When I first started I just used Resene testpots and the grandchildren did too,” she said. 

“As we were walking and hiding [the rocks] we would meet other people doing the same thing.”

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It wasn’t until the lockdowns of 2020 though, that Barbara’s hobby really began to take off. 

“During lockdown people were putting teddy bears in windows. We lived down a right-of-way and I couldn’t put my teddy bear in my window, so I painted rocks and put them round my letter box at the top of the driveway,” Barbara said. 

“It did keep me going through lockdown.”

With the rocks came an online community as well, and a way to stay in touch during the pandemic. Barbara joined a Facebook group called Westie Rocks, which issued painting challenges to keep people’s spirits up. 

When Barbara moved to Paeroa, her thoughts turned instantly to rock hunting. 

“I saw that there was a Waihī rock hunting group… I thought, well yeah, but that means I’ve got to travel all the time,” she said. 

“So that’s when I started hiding them around [Paeroa] domain.” 

Barbara Kellerman, Paeroa’s resident rock hunting enthusiast, wants to inspire other locals to join in with the creative hide-and-seek trend. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

In the 18 months since she’s been in Paeroa, Barbara estimated she has decorated and hidden thousands of rocks in the area – at the Domain, in the library, at the playground and in many other places.

“I buy mine at Mitre10 in sacks… This is at least my second, if not my third, big bag of rocks.” 

Finding no dedicated Facebook group in Paeroa, Barbara invented the hashtag #PaeroaRocks to keep track of her stones, along with her personal tag #bk2020. 

“I thought, ‘well there’s no such thing as #PaeroaRocks so I shall make [it],’” she said. 

“It sort of has gathered momentum. It would be nice if other people painted them too, [but] I also realise that it’s not necessarily a cheap thing to do.” 

It’s the teacher in her that keeps her going now, Barbara said, and although she loves it when people tag her on Facebook with a found rock, it’s not her main motivation. 

“I like doing them for the children to find. It appeals to anybody no matter what their capabilities are,” she said. 

“And I always say thank you when someone shares my rock. People will say, ‘I found this rock today and it made me so happy’.

“That is the point of them, it lifts someone’s spirits.”