Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Baby Dress Stand

Hi friends,

For over 35 years I've collected vintage baby dresses from op shops, since I had any income of my own. I could pick up a dress or knitted set for fifty cents back then. I used to dream that babies would be left on our doorstep, and I would be the one to find and look after them., since Mum was too busy! I remember the feeling of waking in the morning and excitedly looking at the end of my bed for the bassinet - only to be disappointed on realising it was just a dream. 

Vintage Baby dress

Later when I had my own babies, I dressed them in these old fashioned dresses (the boys too!), along with hand-knitted or crocheted matinee sets when it was cold. I have kept the special old ones, even though some are almost falling apart. 

The material in these two dresses is so weak I can't display them properly. They have large tears and are falling apart. I decided to photograph them before they totally turn to dust! Luckily this one is worse at the back,while the front just has just a couple of small holes.

Vintage Baby Dress

I love the tiny roses on this sheer fabric below. Sadly, you can see the large tears at the bottom. I'm not sure what the fabric is, but these dresses seem similar: perhaps organza?

Vintage Baby Dress

I wanted a way to display pretty baby dresses to photograph them, apart from being displayed on a doll or bear. I came up with this display stand made from a heavy candle holder, dowel rod and a decorative wire dress form. First I found a dowel rod to fit into the candle holder - I had to sand it to fit, then I glued it in with 5 minute Araldite. I spray-painted it white. This is the base.

Candlestick Repurposed Baby Dress Display

Here is the dress form, balanced tightly on a groove cut into the dowel rod. I glued on two extra pieces of thick wire at the top to hold a padded coat hanger which I can just lift out to change the dress. I took the hook off the coat hanger as it looked better. 

My vintage door makes a great background.

Here is another baby dress on the display stand.

Repurposed candle holder baby dress display

All of my most beautiful old baby clothes are packed away in tissue paper. My aim is to photograph them all gradually, and change the one on display occasionally. It takes a while to sort through and iron them ready.

It's Autumn here in Australia now, but here is one of my vases of roses from a previous Spring. The rose is Champagner.

Roses by lace Age Girl

Simply Neutrals Tuesday is happening again at Wen's blog, AppleApricot. Come over for a look at the displays of neutral - shaded beauty there.

I'm joining Vanessa and Sabrina for Nifty Thrifty Sunday this week, too.

Wishing you a wonder-filled week...


Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Home, Sweet Home - Collecting versus De-cluttering

Hello Friends,

I'm joining Wen at AppleApricot for Simply Neutrals Tuesday.  

Wen is decluttering her life, and enjoying the process. She's asked for other's thoughts on decluttering, and it's a topic I've been reflecting on lately, too... I debated whether private musings are safe to put online - but people write books about their lives and thoughts, so I'm going to risk it. How else do we create real connections on the Internet? So here's my honest musings on clutter and decluttering, because I know many people struggle with this issue... so get yourself a cuppa - it's a meandering story!

My partner calls me "Queen of Clutter' and 'Clutterbug'. I've always collected stuff - such as birds' nests, leaves, stones, shells, dead butterflies, second-hand books, old furniture to do up, vintage baby clothes, lace and tins. 

Lace Age Girl

My craft room is turning into a display place more than a work room! I have to clear some space when I want to make something. I love to see each piece of lace, each old book cover, each little piece of inspiration, and things I've made all around me. 

Lace Age Girl

Sometimes I feel guilty for 'hoarding stuff', especially when I read articles about Marie Kondo and her decluttering methods. But I never feel at home in empty, personality-free display houses with empty space and echoes of pristine neatness.

Recently I stumbled on an interesting article on de-cluttering by Valerie Peterson, and I found myself ruminating on it for days afterwards. She talked about why we accumulate clutter. Valerie quotes Randy Frost, a Psychology Professor and co-author of Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things... 

People hold on to objects for three basic reasons:

Sentiment: The item reminds them of a person, place or happy time or was a gift from someone they care about. For some people, throwing out something associated with a memory feels like erasing a piece of their life.
Utility: The tendency to keep what “might come in handy someday” comes from fear of waste. Each person’s idea of waste is different and can be complicated by a number of psychological factors.
Aesthetics: People who can organise objects and information may become collectors or artists – but accumulating things we think are “beautiful” without that accompanying organisational ability or desire can merely create clutter.
Taken from  https://www.domain.com.au/living/i-was-getting-buried-in-clutter-heres-how-i-finally-got-free-20180119-h0kafq/  

I am caught on all three of these reasons!!! Reflecting on why, I realised that I have another reason: it's the sense of 'home' that I have attached to my stuff. 'Home' to me is feeling peaceful, fulfilled and living in a sense of order. (Yes, my clutter is very ordered!) 'Home' for me is emotional fulfillment. 

I like to surround myself with beauty and memories of love as a buffer against the stress of negative emotions. My childhood wasn't easy, moving to over 20 schools in new places, never having lasting friendships, living on isolated farms. A couple of traumatic events in later life, including going through a severe bushfire have left their impact.

When I left home at 16 (while still finishing school - my parents moved on again!), I took my single bed and my chest of drawers with me. It made me feel at home to have these childhood 'friends' as I began to rent a room, study, work and then gradually buy my own furniture and decor. Almost everything I owned was second-hand (still is!). The worn, aged patina of something well-made always appealed to me over the plain, cheapness of mass-produced stuff. I couldn't afford new things that were fine quality, so I re-covered, repainted, remodeled, or just enjoyed the patina as it was. 

Living alone for so many years while waiting and hoping to meet a partner to start my own family, moving from place to place at least every six months, meant no stable home for me. So I had to create that sense of home in other ways.

My sense of 'nesting' led me to learn various crafts to help furnish my home. I taught myself to make things like cloth dolls, smocked baby dresses and teddy bears in the hope that my future would hold children and motherhood. (Which it did, many years later, thankfully). I've carried my bags of baby clothes with me since I was 16, starting with my own precious ones given to me by my Mum, hand knitted by my Great Aunty Bid, who never had the opportunity to have a baby of her own.

As I moved from rented group (shared) houses to flats and bedsitters over 15 years of being single, I'd unpack my stuff, set it up around me to create my 'home space'. Being alone, without family nearby, I invested a sense of emotional security and homeliness in my stuff. I enjoyed how I could set my things up creatively and change them around yet still I'd feel a sense of home. Unlike much of life, my stuff was within my control. Gradually I developed a sense of style that brought me much happiness - the joy of rearranging, of presenting it to tell its story... just playing.

My family on both sides have a history of being hoarders of one kind or another, and the few possessions that have been saved and passed down the generations to me are solid memories of the people who have gone before me in my family tree. I cherish my Nana's Singer treadle sewing machine with the drawers still full of her things - like the huge needle she used to sew up bales of wool in the shearing shed on their sheep farm. I have half of my paternal grandmother's tea cups of fine bone china (my sister has the other half), her old postcard collection (shared between me and my sister), diaries, family bibles, photographs and mementos going back several generations. Since I was the one grandchild who showed interest in the family tree, I became the Keeper of a cupboard full of old photos, ephemera, and memories.

Lace Age Girl

I think I missed my calling in life - I should have been a museum curator! I especially love vintage things with a sense of history and story. I enjoy volunteering at our local museum, displaying and photographing vintage items and atmospheres. 

I've always loved to ask my parents and grandparents about the 'olden days' of their childhoods. Old things always fascinated me - their character, their worn sense of story. Somehow there seemed to be some sense of connection for me to the past, or an understanding that perhaps there was more social connection in the past - because there had to be, for survival. 

Lace Age Girl

My mum learned to be extremely frugal. Her early childhood was lived in the shadow of the Great Depression of the 1930's - things were still difficult in Australia in the 1940's.  Having lived in a slab hut with six brothers and a sister who shared a double bed, she knew about surviving on very little. Luckily hers was a family of great love and resourcefulness. 

The hut had a bare dirt floor, and a huge open fireplace which was limed to make it look white. Mum told us stories about how she and her brothers and sister would lie in the bed together, throwing their shoes at the rats whose feet they could see running across the hessian bag ceiling lining. The children only had a few simple toys, mostly home-made, and all of them had to help out - fetching water from the creek, 
weeding the vegetable garden, carrying the dead rabbits my Grandad trapped so he could sell their skins, pegging them out on the makeshift clothesline. They ate rabbit stew, and trout that my Grandad caught.

Rabbit skins drying 1940's

Grandad Robinson

This is Mum's old 
1940's family home 'Glen Abbey' from different angles, photos taken in the 70's and earlier, after Mum's family moved out. It has since fallen down...

Hobby's Yards

Hobby's Yards

Mum brought her own childhood frugal experience into our family. She was a talented seamstress, and made many of our childhood clothes. She recycled my dad's old trousers into overalls for her four kids - good sturdy country play clothes, and she knitted and crocheted in any spare time she had. We rarely threw anything out, as there was usually another child who could use it, or there might be...so I too learned to keep things for repurposing, or until someone needs them.

There wasn't much spare money, but we had what we needed and never went hungry growing up. Dad's vegetable garden supplied the pantry (wherever we moved, he would start another!) There was the time when my father served us beetroot (from his garden) sandwiches with brown sugar and cream ( from the cow), because Mum was away having another baby...and his famous 'critters' - deep fried leftovers in flour, which he could never replicate!

My father collected rocks wherever we went, labeling them carefully with initials of where he found them. He knew what kind of rocks they were and what was special about them. We moved house over 20 times in my childhood, and his rock collection always came with us. 

'Functional' is the way I'd describe the furniture of my childhood. There was no extra money to replace things that were still serving well, no matter how ugly. The same fake leather lounge suite that we all sweated on in Summer came with us on the trailer to each house we moved to, along with the shiny laminated fake wood buffet cabinet, the matching kitchen table and chairs, our double bunks and beds that served us year after year, with the same matching bedspreads.

It wasn't until her later years that my Mum could afford her own personal collections - porcelain dolls, craft supplies and pretty china were her favourites.

Once I became independent, it was a pleasure to choose my own style, even if it was second-hand. By the time I met my partner I had enough furniture to begin to set up our house. In my mothering years, being early at garage sales and checking charity shops regularly meant I could get plenty of great toys, books and clothes for my young children (they're too fussy now!), and the odd ornament or what-not to re-purpose, all on a small budget. 

It's especially hard for me to part with things that cost my time, talent and effort, particularly those things I made in the small spaces of 'me time' while my children were occupied nearby, or asleep. This became apparent to me in my panic when police ordered us to evacuate during the Canberra Bushfire of 2003. I had to quickly decide what to save - limited to what I could fit in the car with two young children in child restraints. 

That traumatic event is a tale too long for this post, but after fearing for our lives and our home, we were lucky that Terry stayed to defend our home from spot fires while I evacuated with our boys, one a baby aged 10 months and the other a frightened five year old clinging to my leg. Luckily our home was spared, but six houses were burned down in our street. I found out later that the explosions I heard were actually the ducted gas heating systems exploding into flame, and not the water-bombing helicopter saving houses as I had thought! We had the same gas heating system, but luckily Terry put out the spot fires that started in our yard before they got to the gas pipes.

A very understanding and helpful counselor remarked that it is common for people who have been through difficult and traumatic experiences, especially over years in childhood, to try to regain a sense of control in their lives by controlling their environment. My artistic need to creatively display my memorabilia is invested with emotional tags of 'Wow, I'm proud that I made this myself!', or 'made with love by a family member', 'a special gift', 'a memory of a family member', 'a piece of nature's beauty to soothe my spirit', or 'something beautiful to be appreciated'. As an example, the shoe pincushion below was a gift from my Mum.

Shoe pincushion by Lace Age Girl

Collecting gives me so much joy, and my possessions make me feel 'at home' in my space. There's always a great book to read or lend out, or something to make, paint, fix, or re-purpose creatively - I am never bored!

This quote sums up my attitude to my 'clutter':

'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.'
                             William Morris 

Well, there's my problem - I see beauty everywhere! I cherish stories and memories, and maybe I'm just not yet in that spiritual place 
that some people grow into, to be able to let go of 'stuff' ... maybe when I'm older?In the mean time, I do so LOVE treasure-hunting, with all its potential fun creating or re-purposing something! 

I'm joining Wen over at her blog for...

Have a happy day,

Monday, 2 April 2018

Julia Margaret Cameron Collage

Hello Friends,

Today I'm showing another of my collages using vintage book covers from unloved garage sale books. This one features a photo by Julia Margaret Cameron, a British photographer whose career was only 11 years long, from 1864-1875. 

She was given  a camera at the age of 48 by her daughter.

Her style fitted in with pre-Raphaelite artists, and she approached photography as an art form, often dressing up her subjects as historical characters. Her images were dreamy and ethereal. 

Lace collage by Jesse rowan
Lace Collage by Lace Age Girl

I used dried flowers and leaves, a dried fern, lace daisies and a rose I made from cheesecloth dyed with avocados, and a fine scrap of old lace. 

Lace collage by Jesse Rowan

I love Julia Cameron's work. I have a large framed print of this picture in my front entry. 

My front entry by Jesse Rowan

Over the Summer I collected and dried some hydrangeas. Their papery texture and various colours are gorgeous.

Hydrangeas by Jesse Rowan

Hydrangeas by Jesse Rowan

Old suitcases - one of my favourite storage displays - but it's so hard to remember what's in each case! I will do some labels for them, I think...

Suitcase by Jesse Rowan

I'll leave you with a quote from Julia Margaret Cameron which I've put on a collage of some of her photos... such an inspiration!

Digital Collage by Jesse Rowan

There is a wonderful essay about Julia Margaret Cameron's life by Malcolm Daniel, Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can find it at 


I'm heading over to Wen's blog at Apple Apricot to see what other neutral beauty is on display there.

Please join us there for Simply Neutral Tuesday # 40...

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Welcome Baby Card

Hello friends,

This week I made a baby card for a friend with a new arrival - a boy. 

Baby card by Jesse Rowan

A cuttlebug was used to make the embossed background, which I swiped with blue and brown ink, added butterfly wings to the baby from an old cabinet card,  with a small gold wreath behind him like a halo.

Baby card by Jesse Rowan

Butterfly wings for me symbolise freedom, soaring above, enjoying the view below, and a sign of Spring. So I thought I'd share a couple of butterfly giveaways I have 'worked on' in Photoshop to emphasize or change colours. Perhaps they will find their way into some of your artworks...

I'm joining up with Wen and her followers for her Simply Neutrals Tuesday party at her Blog, Apple Apricot. Come over to see more gorgeous neutral artworks...

It's Autumn here in Australia, and a perfect day for a swim at the beach...30 degrees Celcius. so I'd better get some work done first!

Happy Spring and Autumn to us all.


Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Her Serene Adjacency, The Lady Tara Fluffy Bum

Hello Friends, 

It seems I have a cat theme going here, but this is the last for a while!

I've been having great fun with Lightroom and Photoshop, working through a couple of online courses to improve my  photo-editing skills. In the process of organising my photo collection in Lightroom I came across the pictures below. 

The first is a collage I made when my dear cat Tara, who was with me for 18 years, died some years ago. She was also known as Her Serene Adjacency, The Lady Tara Fluffy Bum, because she preferred to be nearby but not fussed over or cuddled. Being a Birman she had a rather posh, aloof personality, and was strikingly beautiful, with blue eyes and a long fluffy creamy coat with pale grey markings on her ears, nose, feet and tail. 

Birman by Jesse Rowan 
Below is the pencil sketch I did of Tara from a photo of her. I used a copy in the collage above. The edges were decorated with stamping and embossing using a heatgun. The angel is a photo I took in St Paul's Cathedral, London, years ago. I was mesmerised by its beauty.

Birman by Jesse Rowan

Tara loved exploring every cavity she could fit in, especially drawers!

Birman by Jesse Rowan

This puss was my first 'baby', and she kept me company during my 'single' years. Later, my children enjoyed her as they grew up, though she always kept her distance from them, preferring my lap to anyone else's. Not at all like our little Jasper, who has won all of our hearts and laps! 

I thought I would never get another cat after she died, but after a few years I was ready. There's nothing quite like the contented purr of a cat to soothe the soul...

Birman by Jesse Rowan

Lastly, an image of a beautiful old book with lace...

Vintage book by Jesse Rowan

I'm joining Wen for Simply Neutrals Tuesday #37 at her blog, Apple Apricot here. It's a gathering of artists focussing on the beauty of a neutral palette. 

Hope your week brings joy in your creativity, whatever you do...

Jesse XX

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Shabby Book Cover Collages and Other Neutral Joys...

Hello friends,

Here's a large nest from my collection, displayed with wooden eggs (silky oak), and a piece of wrinkled bark I picked up on a walk...



Above is a card I threw together in haste - using a beautiful tag from Megan Berry. You can download them here: 


These are the set of tags available for free. Aren't they gorgeous? Thanks, Megan!

Some shells, sea urchin shells and stones I've collected...



Here's my little friend, Jasper. Every day he settles himself near my computer to snooze beside me...


He's growing so fast! Here he is with his siblings before we took him home. So sweet! I wish we could have taken his black and white brother, too!!!






The tree design on the old book cover below attracted my eye at a garage sale, so I decided to honour it with a few bits and pieces - a
skeleton leaf found on a walk, and part of the worn spine of the book, and a beautiful moth picture. There wasn't room for much. I took the back cover too, and did another collage. I love the worn old look to these canvas covers.

Jesse Rowan's Lace Collages

Maybe this is cheating, but I've tinted the colour of the collages so they'd fit into Simply Neutrals Tuesday over at Wen's blog, Appleapricot , where you will find a collection of neutral coloured artworks on display. I'll show you the true colours soon...

Wishing you a creative week appreciating the beauty around you....