Fri | Nov 27, 2020

St Bess woman creates magical works of art

Published:Tuesday | August 29, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Willams
Seaweed and seahorse.
Opal Lowe-Rowe of Newell, St Elizabeth displays two of her wall plaques with images made of cigarette tailpapers.

They are the little pieces of paper at the end of a self-made cigarette or a 'spliff'. In the United States of America, they are called 'roach paper', in Jamaica, 'tailpaper'. Smokers have no further use for them, so they dispose of them and move on.

But that is not the case with Opal Lowe-Rowe of Newell, St Elizabeth. She collects them and turns them into magical works of art.

On a piece of special board, Lowe-Rowe draws an outline of the image she wants to create. Piece by piece, she tediously uses her fingers or a wet brush to place the pieces at specific points to get a particular effect. Sometimes she has to tear and shape an already small piece of paper.

"Much patience, commitment and glue are needed. They are placed in such a way that you cannot see where I start or where I stop. You cannot see the beginning or the end in my artwork," Lowe-Rowe said.

The pieces she showed Rural Xpress recently were astounding, a unique form of art that lies at the very core of the concept of recycling and environment preservation. For these little pieces of paper can be seen all over the place, making a mess. But the images Lowe-Rowe creates from them are sights for sore eyes.




The images, some thematic, others symbolic, all exude the artistry of a diminutive woman who is big on creativity. They are chosen because, she said, they are the ones she thinks people will like. Lowe-Rowe targets smokers, people who can relate to the little bits of papers turn artwork. Many of her clients who do not smoke buy for relatives and friends who do.

The idea of using tailpapers to create art came from one of Lowe-Rowe's brothers, who was an artist. She was already covering boxes, picture frames and lamps with the papers when that brother made the suggestion. A few months after he did, he passed away.

Lowe-Rowe took up the challenge, and has been doing 'tailpaper art' for the last 15 years. Initially, she would give away the plaques on which the images are pasted to family members. However, when a friend of her sister requested one of the plaques, she began to think seriously about turning her art into a business. The feedback so far is encouraging, and from the plastic bags, which contain perhaps thousands of little pieces of burnt paper, more magic is expected to sparkle.