When Mandy Jacobs (r) and artist Jayne Baume (l) started offering art workshops through their enterprise Paradise Fusion, the aim was to create an experience more akin to a day at a relaxing retreat rather than in a typical classroom.
The workshops provide an opportunity for participants to take time out and explore their creativity in the studio, set against the beautiful, established gardens at Mandy’s Paradise Valley property west of Rotorua.
It’s an uplifting experience, which is why Jayne and Mandy decided to approach the Cancer Society with the idea of delivering workshops making jewellery, decorative glass and painted ceramics to clients.
Mindful that many people affected by cancer are impacted financially, Jayne and Mandy worked hard to secure funding from Creative Communities Rotorua so the workshops would be free to attend.
But in an unexpected twist of fate, plans came to a halt when Jayne was herself diagnosed with pleomorphic lobular carcinoma in situ (PLCIS), an uncommon condition in which abnormal cells form in the milk glands (lobules) in the breast. PLCIS isn't cancer but indicates an increased risk of developing breast cancer. In Jayne’s case she was advised to undergo surgery.
The experience only strengthened her determination to see the workshops go ahead.
“I didn't know much about the Cancer Society. Suddenly I went from being on one side of the fence to the other. And then I was determined to make the workshops the best we could, as after having gone through my mastectomy I learned what the Cancer Society does, and it put a whole different spin on it,” says Jayne.
“Once something like this happens, it consumes you. It’s the only thing you ever think of. You don’t get a chance to break away from it.
“What I wanted to do was something that would take people’s mind off it, even if it was just for the afternoon. They could go home and feel like they’d had a nice day out and relaxed and had a chance to think about something else.”
Originally from Wirral in north-west England, Jayne knows first hand the therapeutic benefits of creativity - it’s why she began making art in the first place.
“I had pancreatic surgery when I was 21 and I couldn't do anything for a very long time after the surgery. I needed something to do. I’m not very good at sitting still.”
Jayne started making icing flowers with a family friend who made wedding cakes, before switching to Fimo modelling clay.
These days, Jayne crafts jewellery from precious silver clay rather than Fimo. Her highly-detailed work is quirky and whimsical; delicate teapots, elfin masks and tiny houses that look as though they belong in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. She works in brightly-coloured glass and ceramics as well.
Soon after Jayne’s recovery, plans to host the workshops swung back into action, with the first of four workshops taking place in September. At Paradise Fusion, Jayne provides guidance in the studio while Mandy takes charge of the hospitality. The high-tea she prepares for guests is more like a three-course meal, Jayne quips.
The positive feedback from people who attended the workshops has been heart-warming, says Jayne.
“The best thing about the day was knowing everybody who came had a really good day. The relaxed atmosphere was what we were really aiming for; people enjoying the food, enjoying the atmosphere and going home with something they were proud of and enjoyed making.”
The series of four workshops has come to an end, but Jayne and Mandy hope to secure more funding so they can continue offering workshops to Cancer Society clients in 2019.