Color me this: New trend for adults makes timely arrival in Haines

A new trend has landed in Haines, and for once we’re not trailing way behind. Adult coloring is wildly popular pretty much everywhere, including Alaska, and the Babbling Book on Main Street can’t keep the boutique pages in stock.

Coloring books for adults are flying off the shelves at the Babbling Book. (Jillian Rogers)
Coloring books for adults are flying off the shelves at the Babbling Book. (Jillian Rogers)

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Stressful day? Take out all your frustrations and anxiety on an intricate drawing of flowers. Wait … that can’t be right.

Oh, but it is.

Coloring for adults is pretty new and is exactly what it sounds like. Colorists, as they’re called, use colored pencils or markers to decorate detailed drawings of everything from landscapes, to animals, to abstract images. It doesn’t matter if you color outside the lines, the point of it all is stress relief.

“It’s something that calms the mind and you concentrate on something that has to do with colors and light. And it calms the soul.”

Emily Zimbrich is a licensed professional counselor at Lynn Canal Counseling. Not only does she recommend coloring to clients, she also uses as a way to relieve built-up pressures of daily life. In other words, she practices what she preaches.

“If I have something I’m dealing with here in the office, I do the colors. And the colors are calming. Depending on whether I use pencils or markers, it’s all different.”

She flips through her book, showing off her brightly-colored shapes, she’s inked. She prefers the abstract pictures. She says the coloring offers a vacation from your worries.

“I think short term, it’s like a Band-Aid on a cut but I think long term it gives you practice in self-care. And any practice in self-care, much like exercise or travel, it has long term benefits.”

Zimbrich says it also offers a little nostalgia and often brings back good memories. And like childhood coloring, she says she thinks this trend will stick around for a while.

Down the street at the Babbling Book, the designer books are a hot commodity. Kelly Mitchell has worked there for five years and seen book trends come and go. But nothing like this.

“This one is color therapy, it calls itself an anti-stress coloring book and it looks to me like some well-drawn doodles,” Mitchell says.”Mostly it is women buying them and they are buying them because they have them at their desks, they’re using them for what it says on the cover: ‘color therapy.’ They’re using them to relax.”

The hip hobby offers a way to be creative without the stress of having to be creative. The heavy lifting – the drawing – is done. Now stressed out adults are free to peacefully fill in the rest as they choose. Or not. Only have five minutes? No problem. Can’t find anything but a pink highlight? Doesn’t matter. Some of the new coloring books are touted as a chance to create beautiful works of art that you can then hang in your house, or give to friends. But if you’re in for the therapeutic value, it’s the distraction and the process that’s important.

Mitchell says for the bookstore, the trend picked up a couple of months ago.

“We’ve always had coloring books. But we have not had the cool coloring books. Liz ordered those up and they’ve been in the front by the calendars and people have flocked to get them. And then, of course, the next questions is ‘have you got colored pencils?’”

They do. But the last shipment sold out in one day.

“We have big coloring books for little kids and little, tiny coloring books for putting in your pocket and taking on the ferry. But, I do believe we are out of colored pencils again,” Mitchell says.

Three of the top-10 best-selling books on Amazon this week were coloring books. Names like Enchanted Forest and Secret Garden are the most popular, but there’s even a Game of Thrones coloring book. Somehow that doesn’t seem very serene. Whether you think the trend is fleeting and silly or a legitimate, soothing, technique, bookstore owner Liz Heywood is enjoying the bottom line. The books range from less than five bucks, to about $20 for the really trendy ones.

“When we order, yes, I look at the best-seller list every week and the different catalogues I get from my publishers and wholesalers,” says Heywood.

The Harry Potter craze is the only other comparable movement that the bookstore has seen, Heywood says. But it’s hard to compare coloring books to anything else.

“It’s hard for me to look at it in terms of any other trends because they aren’t books. They’re coloring books, but they aren’t really books. It’s a funny thing. But it’s great, we love them and people are buying them for Christmas gifts. It’s a nice boost for us. And next to Heather Lende’s books, this is the second biggest type of book going out of the store here.”

So, whether you’re in it for the Zen appeal or the trend appeal, color on. It’s good for your health.