Rowena the Artist
Rowena Roberts, artist in her 30’s (36 or 37 she’s not sure) creating papercut art inspired by her love of family and the natural world.
Rowena has always loved art and spent her childhood making. She distinctly remembers thinking her creations were works of art, although her family may not always have been convinced! Never one to stick to one medium or genre, she would ‘dabble’ in all sorts – writing stories and attempting to sell her ‘book’ to friends in the playground at primary school – making flower petal potions and perfumes to offer as gifts – song writing and amateur dramatics for family viewing . She also loved to paint and draw, her work often large, loud and fast, with all the colours of the rainbow.
Early artistic influences included Dali, Breton, Magritte and Bosch. Favouring the more unusual and often macabre pieces, she once recreated the Carousel from the musical of the same name, replacing the horses with small woodland creatures that had been impaled, seats covered in pools of blood. Lovely imagery for a GSCE piece!
This is why her love for papercutting, and undoubtable subsequent skill came as a surprise. This delicate and elegant art form seems to clash with Rowena’s inimitable spirit and personality. When you meet her she is a riot of colour from her brightly dyed curly mass of hair to her clothing a mixture of funky patterned leggings, tunic dresses and sloppy jumpers. The outer vibrancy and inner constraint make a fascinating combination.
Full of intricate details and delicate fine lines, people often ask her, ‘How do you find the patience?’ – a question Rowena sometimes struggles to answer. Not viewing herself essentially as calm and patient, she has been totally captured by the beauty of the craft. She explains that it forces her to slow down, concentrate and focus on what is in front of her. Someone as vibrant, impulsive and as ‘chaotic’ as Rowena (organised chaos she insists), has been offered an artistic anchor. Papercutting provides a firm grounding, with the calm and quietude she really appreciates.
Her workshops mirror her extrovert nature and need for and enjoyment of focus and concentration. Her classes begin with friendly chit chat and lots of laughs. Then the work begins. She puts her students at ease, allowing them to let go of perfection and create, but focussing quietly on the process and the skill. She tells her students to let go of perfection and enjoy the process. There is a peaceful atmosphere, at times meditative. Students often say they feel relaxed and happy after a workshop, even though they all acknowledge that cutting paper is not as simple as it sounds!
Despite performing well in her exams, Rowena decided that A levels and university were not the route for her. Studying theatrical and special FX makeup, she found a way to combine her love of art and theatre.
As is the familiar story, all artistic pursuits were put on hold when Rowena met a boy and had babies! Throughout her 20s, the nearest she got to creating was an occasional wedding makeup job and performing in local amateur dramatic productions. Focus was on family and building a home and art was all but forgotten.
By 2012, Rowena was a mother of 3 and divorced. It was a time of transformation and a time to revisit her artistic roots. The need to create was strong. She started her ‘dabbling’ again and researched. She was like a sponge wanting to learn and create. It wasn’t until she came across Louise Firchau (Paper Panda) online that she felt really inspired. She ordered a commissioned piece from the paper cut artist and fell in love with the craft – the shadows that were cast, the details included, and skill required, all of it captured her imagination and she started paper cutting herself.
Impatient as ever, her first papercut was made using a kitchen knife and copier paper. Soon she had caught the bug, and was using good tools. She then had a period of study with Louise in her Cotswold workshop.
What started as a hobby, soon progressed to creating art for family and friends. It wasn’t long before she was selling her work on a more regular basis. Her work stands out, as everything is hand drawn and hand cut so no two pieces are ever the same. People are drawn to her quirky style, and her pieces can be personalised to suit! Her Family Trees are still her most popular item and have been sold and sent as far as Australia and America with people returning again and again to order more work for special occasions and gifts.
Rowena is thrilled to be asked to create for people and loves that her passion helps her to support her young family. As her confidence and vision as an artist grows, she is also beginning to create a body of original work which is generating a lot of interest with prints already being sold before the collection is even complete.
The future will include a lot more work from Rowena. In 2020 moving to a larger property to include a large and airy studio she has big plans!