Ausnew Home Care | Blindness no barrier for Wollongong jeweller Keely Payne as she creates by touch

Blindness no barrier for Wollongong jeweller Keely Payne as she creates by touch

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When Wollongong jewellery maker Keely Payne sits down to work, she does everything from choosing colours to threading tiny beads onto wire by touch alone.

Tackle boxes filled with colour-coordinated beads contain braille on the side to tell her what she is holding.

"If I hold it up, I can sometimes see the colour arrangement, but I always get someone around me before I finish it off to check it looks OK and to check there's no wrong beads in there that have got in by mistake," she said.

A brain tumour when she was 16 months old left Ms Payne legally blind, with a very small amount of tunnel vision in one eye.

She started jewellery making while in hospital as a teenager.

Under the guidance of her aunty, she learnt how to create intricate and colourful necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

It became a therapeutic hobby while recovering from treatment.

"After surgery, it's something I could do because I couldn't watch the TV, so it was something to pass the time.

"It's relaxing and calming and I can keep my fingers busy."

A group of beaded, colourful bracelets are displayed on a rack.
Ms Payne learned how to make beaded jewellery while she was recovering from treatment in hospital.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Recovery hobby becomes side hustle

As Ms Payne made more jewellery, she began looking into market stalls to sell her wares.

The pandemic meant opportunities were scarce, but her jewellery still managed to find a home.

"People are now asking for a Facebook page and I've got friends all over Australia who want to access it."

She said one of the challenges if turning the hobby into a business is broadening her designs beyond simply making what she would like to wear.

"It's hard not to be biased and make colours that I like. My favourite colour is blue but just because I like blue doesn't mean I should make everything blue."

Colourful beaded jewellery hangs on a display rack.
Ms Payne has been developing her online business presence since scaling up her jewellery making.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)
Source: ABC

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