Lee Williams believes that sewing is like rongoā (good medicine) for the mind, hands, and heart.
Her wizardry with needle and thread is well known in Whanganui and now she has established Paetuia - a "realm" upstairs at 180 Victoria Ave where she is teaching others to sew.
"My mother worked here as a machinist and cutter for Kooky Fashions," Williams said.
"I'm standing right where her table was and my daughter Ariana and my moko come in here to work on their projects so there is that wonderful feeling that four generations have worked in this space."
After producing costumes for stage and screen for over a decade, Williams returned to Whanganui five years ago after working at Weta Workshops creating costumes for Peter Jackson's King Kong and The Hobbit series as well as a host of other productions.
She has also worked as a costume technician for World of WearableArt (WOW) and for the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
It all started when she worked on Vincent Ward's The River Queen which was being filmed in Whanganui as Williams was completing a fashion design course at Wanganui Polytechnic.
Since coming home, Williams has been in charge of costumes for the New Zealand Opera School production each year and is still regularly called on for film productions.
"People tend to think that sewing is an out-of-date skill that is no longer needed," she said.
"When you see people on the screen, they are wearing costumes that have been made especially for them, and the person who made it is a skilled crafts person."
Williams found herself without a steady income after the Covid-19 lockdown phase last year.
She came up with the concept of Paetuia and with support and seed funding from the Ministry of Social Development scheme she was able to transform the concept into reality.
Finding the perfect space which also happened to be her mother's former workplace seemed very serendipitous, Williams said.
"It was a bit dark and grungy but I could see its great potential.
"What is now the kitchen had been the dye room and it took a lot of scrubbing to get it fit for purpose."
There is also enough space for screen printing, three-dimensional work and leather work.
Her goal with the Paetuia enterprise is to teach her students not only to sew but to craft costumes to a high standard.
Her students will learn how to care for and maintain a sewing machine, assemble and maintain a good tool kit and learn basic pattern making as well as sewing.
"I have had to retrain myself because this is very different from supervising people working on a production," Williams said.
"I have to remind myself that I'm working with people who have a variety of skill levels and they are all working on individual projects."
Williams said Paetuia was a community project and donations of sewing machines, books, and tools have all helped to get the enterprise started.
Students attend workshops twice a week and the studio is open on Fridays for the completion of "homework" assignments.