In a small town in the Philippines a five-year-old girl was summoned by her parents out of her room in their small house. The couch in the living room had been removed from it’s place, revealing a crayon drawing of a family on the wall. “That was my first memory of art, and kind of getting in trouble for it.” said Rowena.
This wasn’t the first time Rowena would receive some flack for her art. She had a knack for predicting styles and trends, and described herself as being “adventurous” with fashion. Her classmates would regularly raise eyebrows over her edgy outfits. Rowena used to sneak clothes from her older (and very stylish) sister’s closet, strategically putting them back as soon as she got home from school. Her older sister would be at work until later that evening, without a clue that items in her closet were missing for a few hours out of each day. She played with paper dolls, designing and making her own custom dresses for them.
Her time was spent dabbling in different sides of the art industry. The artist at heart spent some of her time working as a model for up and coming designers and getting acquainted with principles of design. When the time came to make a decision on college, her eyes were set on a degree in fashion merchandising.
Her enthusiasm about fashion was difficult for Rowena’s parents to share. They knew the competition she would have to overcome to “make it big,” so Rowena was encouraged to pursue a degree in something more practical, like business.
Rowena started to pursue her degree in Business, but still she couldn’t give up art. She spent the first few years of college floundering in a way; searching for a profession in which she could use her talent to its fullest capacity.
It was then that she met her now, husband, Matt. “I was actually in between relationships. Matt was a-- what do you call it?-- a rebound. But 27 years later, it goes to show, rebounds really can work,” Rowena laughed.
Matt encouraged Rowena to finish school and pursue her artistic passion. In 1991, she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, specializing in computer graphics. She worked as a freelance graphic designer for Larry Vigon and his design studio in Los Angeles . As work continued, opportunities began to arise in the graphics industry.
“Graphic design became my life, it became my everything,” said Rowena, “But there was a point where I wanted to leave. I wanted to go to New York to be a famous graphic designer. It was so much a part of me, I could have left everything behind to accomplish that goal.”
This was a tipping point for Rowena. Faced with the choice between the domestic lifestyle and an upstate career in Design, Rowena had a big decision to make.
After a few months of soul searching, Rowena attended the Harvest Crusade, and a few months later, made a decision to give her life to Christ. Her relationship with Christ is something that continues to influence her mission and goals for helping others with her business ventures.
But eventually, Rowena turned away from Graphic Design and chose the life of motherhood. Her relationship with Matt continued and they were married on Friday, August 13, 1988.
Pursuing family life came with many joys, including two daughters, who were both born on her birthday. The girls joke that the situation is optimal for Matt, who only needs to remember two dates: his and Rowena’s anniversary date and the three girls’ shared birth date--- so, there’s no excuse for forgetting presents.
Along the way, Rowena shot photos for her two daughters in their theater performances. At that time, she had a point and shoot camera. After experiencing some frustration over the camera’s inability to capture fast action shots of the girls’ performances, she bought a DSLR and began learning and practicing professional style photography. It was not long after that Rowena began to receive calls to shoot wedding photographs as a professional wedding photographer.
Designing journals is something that Rowena started out doing for fun. She loves to travel, but has always felt that traveler’s journals are either too bulky, or too pocket sized. With a deepened interest in traveler’s notebooks, she set out to create her own version of a classy, functional travel journal. Since, she has designed multiple versions of her first edition journal, The Sojourner, based on what she would look for herself in a traveler’s notebook.
The Sojourner is used to support missions work, and partially just an expression of something that Rowena has always had, love for making and designing practical and beautiful things.
For Rowena, being an artist and a journaler is one and the same. The only difference is the form by which they express their day-to-day life.
Coming full circle in the design industry from fashion, to paper, to photography, to leather, Rowena’s goal is to inspire you to be an artist. She hopes you will use her journals to document life as it happens. Write your daily thoughts, struggles, travels and memories with her classically designed leather book: The Sojourner!