About the Artist
Born on the White Cliffs of Dover Rowena’s family lived a nomadic life following her father around the world, it was whilst they were living in Singapore in the 1960’s that the family discussed living in New Zealand, they decided to stay close to family and settle in the South of England. But a seed had been planted in Rowena’s mind and as we know seeds can lay dormant for many years.
With her love of art and her natural teaching ability Rowena went on to Teacher’s Training College, where she met and was taught by Diana Springall who later became the Chairperson of The Embroiderer’s Guild in England. This was the first of many exemplary textile practitioners that both taught and encouraged her in the art of Creative Embroidery.
Rowena embarked on her teaching career using her creative ability in employing different teaching styles to educate the children. She was promoted to Art and Mathematics co-ordinator and was enjoying a successful and fulfilling career when she became chronically ill and finally had to accept that she had to stop classroom teaching.
Then she discovered that as well as making clothes her sewing machine could be used to draw. In her thirst for knowledge, Rowena attended fibre related courses increasing her love of the stitch and fabric making. An Art Diploma followed and a place at St. Martin’s School of Art to take a degree in Fine Art with textiles as a major subject. Before starting her course her family’s application for New Zealand Residency was accepted and a new stage in life began. So now the seed that had lain dormant became established forty years later.
Rowena started making textile art, joined the Nelson Embroiderer’s Guild and their extensions creative embroidery group, she joined Mapua Craft Group, then Mapua Art Group and was persuaded to start exhibiting her work. The Red Beret in Motueka being her first solo exhibition, followed by many more shows. Rowena has also been a part of several joint exhibitions both in Nelson and nationally, she became the first textile artist to be accepted as an exhibiting member of The Nelson Suter Art Group.
Then Rowena turned to her ancestors who she discovered had been ecclesiastic embroiderer’s and so her exploitation of the term ‘Cross Stitch’ began, (her original ‘Cross Stitch’ hangs in The Hill’s Community Church in Mapua, Tasman) these works were accepted and highly commended in ‘Changing Threads’. Neville Parker from Icon Gallery and Sculpture Gardens was intrigued by these new pieces, so offered Rowena a solo exhibition in his new White Gallery space.
“I take the humble cross stitch as practiced by women over the ages. It is explored and manipulated, using both the cruciform and the saltire style of cross with both machine and hand stitching onto fabric and fibre.”
Since embarking on ‘an exploitation of the humble cross stitch’, Rowena has explored:- crossing points, meeting places, decisions on which road to take, crossing seas, noughts and crosses, the red cross as a hanging sculpture, the cross as a net to form into a cube and Swalk, the black and white hand stitched crosses.
Then when the mood strikes she felts the sea. Where as you might expect the humble cross stitch can still be found as an embellishment