Each Wednesday morning, a group of women, mostly old friends plus some newcomers, gather in the back room of Middy’s restaurant in Melrose.
A casual onlooker might suppose that their capacious bags and purses hold quilting, knitting or scrapbooking supplies. Instead, they pull out—coloring books?
With assorted oil pencils, gel pens, and felt tips, they proceed to fill in the intricate design sections in the books, known with no irony at all as “adult coloring books.”
“I’ve never been artistic,” said Peggy Stokman, of Melrose. “I think that’s why this is so much fun.”
Peggy sometimes mails a few of her completed creations to out-of-town grandchildren, along with a blank picture for them to color and send back. It creates a bond between them she said. Peggy enjoys getting together and coloring with the group each week.
“What I love is how helpful everyone is,” she said. “We all help each other.”
Geri Meyer of Melrose colored some sophisticated theme-European fashions one Wednesday morning in Melrose. Photo by Jean Paschke.
Ivanna Meyer noted that her new hobby means that her children now know what birthday gifts to buy her. Erma Kettler agreed. Her grandchildren gave her three books and a set of colored pencils for Christmas.
The Melrose group is loosely connected. It has no leader, except for the fact that last September, Jone Meyer, read in the Star Tribune about the latest fad of coloring clubs and made a few phone calls. Now they meet weekly to color and discuss whatever’s on their minds as they create wildly assorted works of art. Conversations vary, but they all agreed that the group never shares gossip. They instead share pencils, color schemes and philosophies of coloring.
“So many good things happen,”Jone said. “It’s something we can do without thinking, which doesn’t mean it’s mindless.”
Nobody minds that this activity might seem more suited to a kindergarten classroom; certainly not their husbands, nor their friends who might be curious about this new activity and ask if they can join the fun, or at least drop in and see what it’s all about. An air of peace and serenity pervades the room, as participants can chat or not, let their minds wander, or assume attitudes of meditation. Some admit to occasionally coloring at home, but they agree, it’s not the same. They get their pictures locally, at craft shops, or on the Internet.
Although people used to color in books designed for children, such as those published by Disney, adult coloring officially started in 2005. Joanna Basford, an employee of Laurence King Publishers, persuaded the company to add an adult coloring book to their children’s line. It might be categorized as an instant success as the first one, Secret Garden; An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book, sold over 2 million copies that year. More books followed, along with a line of magazines, all of which seem to be called Coloriage. They might depict fashion, fantasy scenes, gardens, ancient civilizations, art nouveau, art deco, or psychedelic designs not seen since the 1970s. Some are used as therapy in nursing homes. There is even, regretfully, a line of books that can truly be categorized as “adult,” not that any of those will be seen among the Melrose group…
Some hints from experienced colorers: 1) Don’t get overwhelmed with something too elaborate. Start simply, work your way up. 2) Check the thickness of your paper. Thin paper will bleed through if you use markers and want to color on the other side. 3) Don’t feel you have to color every space, since white spaces will make the colors pop.
The colorers meet every Wednesday, from approximately 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Middy’s. Their hostess, Cathy Hinnenkamp, provides coffee and sometimes homemade cookies. Newcomers are welcome, and they don’t have to be women. Peggy said of the group’s camaraderie; “It almost feels like we’re becoming sisters.”
Geri Meyer summed it up: “I’m doing things at my age I’ve never dreamed of doing—like coloring!”