Crafting classes can help with Parkinson’s

Debbie Sagan, a crafts instructor, shows off samples of Zentangle projects she helps students make during an open house for the craft classes at Tea 'n Sanity apothecary in Kendall.
Debbie Sagan, a crafts instructor, shows off samples of Zentangle projects she helps students make during an open house for the craft classes at Tea 'n Sanity apothecary in Kendall. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Debbie Sagan first noticed a tremor in her hand five years ago while working as an instruction technology specialist at Miami South Ridge Senior High. She was later diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement.

What followed were a series of prescribed medications and treatments that brought out harsh side effects. Then, while sitting on her front porch, she picked up a pen and began drawing a plant.

“It soothed me to go back and forth with the pen. I don’t know why I was doing it,” Sagan recalls.

That’s how she discovered Zentangle, a relatively new art form that creates abstract images from repetitive patterns. Created by Maria Thomas, a calligrapher, and Rick Roberts, a monk, the method is said to increase focus and creativity, as well as an overall sense of well-being.

Sagan describes Zentangle as a meditational art form and says it’s been instrumental in her personal healing.

“This art form really saved my life. And that’s no joke,” she said.

Today, Sagan is one of only two certified Zentangle teachers in South Florida.

She is part of a network of seven teachers and friends that leads various types of art and craft classes at Tea ‘n Sanity shop in Kendall. Other classes include watercolor painting, scrap-booking, card making/paper crafting, altered art, multi-media, and, of course, Zentangle.

Their mission is to keep crafting alive in the area.

“There are no crafting classes left in Miami-Dade County,” said Susan Boyd, the group’s organizer and watercolor teacher. “This group was formed with the idea that joining Tea ‘n Sanity would create a place people could go to relax.”

Most of the group’s members met years ago at art supply stores that had offered classes, such as Stamp Miami. But as the economy tanked, many closed their doors. Most recently, Pearl Art and Craft Supply on South Dixie Highway near Dadeland closed.

They continued practicing their crafts until three months ago when they approached Eunice Rodriguez, the owner of Tea ‘n Sanity, about using her store after hours to offer classes.

“It’s a healthy, creative outlet,” Rodriguez said. “This is a peaceful place. We try to do things for the community.”

Rodriguez is a self-taught herbalist who makes and sells her own soap, deodorant and toothpaste, lotions, cleaning products and candles, among other products. She also has an extensive variety of teas and herbs.

“I’m the only person I know who carries herbs, which are certified organic, wild harvested and fair traded,” Rodriguez said.

The various classes are ongoing at Tea ‘n Sanity after the store closes. The group is also available to host demonstrations and craft parties. Cost is typically $20 per class.

They recently hosted an Arts & Crafts Show at the store with various artwork for sale, such as greeting cards, homemade jewelry, ornaments, picture frames, painted ceramic tiles and more. Similar events are planned for the future.

“People like the fellowship, the camaraderie. Clients say their problems just kind of fall away when they are here,” said Stasia Todd, who teaches stamping and card making.

If You Go

What: Art-n-Creativity crafting classes.

Where: Tea ‘n Sanity, 12011 SW 131st Ave., Southwest Miami-Dade.

Info: To view the schedule, sign up or for more information, visit