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Every Friday is Women’s Day at King St Artworks

Carterton resident and designer Joanna Hehir tutors women in sewing to build self-esteem on Fridays at King St Artworks, Masterton. PHOTO/ELLIE FRANCO


Every Friday King St Artworks in Masterton dedicates itself to Women’s Day.

A day where women throughout the Wairarapa can come together to share experiences and offer support through creativity.

King St Artworks studio manager, Linda Tilyard, said that 25 years ago when King St began they realised women had a few other issues in terms of mental health and wellbeing.:

“A lot of dysfunctional relationships fall on women with spouses and children” she said.

“They’re often caregivers of those who are unwell as well.

“Mental health issues for women quite often surround gender politics, so to create a women’s only space was part of our original kaupapa.”

King St Artworks prioritised inclusivity and preserving the wellbeing of those who take part.

With a newly refurbished gallery to exhibit attendants’ pieces,  the team used art to address the stigma attached to mental health.

“We have people who come in quite shy, quite shut down, quite institutionalised,” Tilyard said.

“We’ve had some people of older generation who are part of the tail-end of institutionalised care, for what’s deemed to be a mental-health problem.

“They come in and they feel like they need to ask for their rights for things that are their right.

“And I’ve seen people like that come in and then just blossom, just totally realise that they’re valued and they have a lot to give.”

Vanessa Maxwell is a local artist that has struggled with anxiety since the first lockdown of 2020.

She said she would not go shopping because of fear of the unknown.

“Coming [to King St Artworks] and talking about it and just focussing on the task at hand – whether it be painting, colouring in – has settled me down a lot,” Maxwell said.

“It’s definitely made me more confident in terms of knowing that I can do it.

“I can do it and that’s pretty empowering knowing I can actually do something like that.

“I think the tutors and the artists are an amazing bunch of people.

“We are like whanau. I don’t know what I would do without it.”


Joanna Hehir moved to Wairarapa eight years ago from London where she worked as a fashion designer.

She is now passing her skills on by tutoring women in sewing to help build self-esteem.

“I was very grateful when I got the chance to come here and be one of the facilitators,” Hehir said.

“I believe art is vital for our mental health – absolutely vital.  I believe doing something with your hands, and being creative is very important.”

One of Hehr’s workshop attendees, Leanne Leighton, is experiencing first-hand the transformative power of creativity and kinship.

Leighton said she had come a long way and when she was not at King St Artworks she couldn’t wait to return.

“I’m very inspired by the staff, they’ve been great staff,” she said.

Tilyard said Women’s Day worked.

“I just know that people are very creative.

“They’re born creative, but a lot of social setup and structure denies them that, or says that doesn’t matter as much as this does. So they do that most of their lives.”

“I just see people struggling to remember that creative side, so if we could just bring that in more, it would be better.”

Women’s Day is held every week at King Street Artworks in Masterton.

For more information check out its website, or just head along.

Ellie Franco
Ellie Franco
Ellie Franco is Wairarapa’s Local Focus video journalist. She regularly covers in-depth stories on arts, culture, people, health, and the occasional pup.

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