Business Person of the Month: Helen Bowman

Helen Bowman:
Antique Chinawear
Lace & Glass
Lace ‘n Glass & Wood Antiques

Artist Helen Bowman’s business called Antique Chinawear markets jewelry produced using found objects from around the world.  Helen says, “My love of old things, especially antique china, has grown since I was an antique dealer in a shop.  Antique china is so pretty to look at and eat from – why not wear it, too?”

She and her husband Jerry have traveled abroad and throughout the northeastern states searching for damaged antique china that she uses in “creative re-use” designs along with items such as scrabble tiles, typewriter keys, mahjong tiles, and old dominoes. She formulates designs that complement and accentuate the original beauty of the china.  These designs are cut from the china with a large water bath tile cutting saw, then shaped and polished on a grinder. Each item is finished with silver solder that transforms them into unusual works of art.   These items are then sold in retail shops and at art, craft, antique and specialty shows.   She has a plaque with broken pieces of china on it that proclaims, “From Broken to Beautiful” that she displays at her shows.

Helen’s jewelry is sold wholesale to stores who market them to the public, stores such as Highland Gifts, Rural Life Museum Gift Shop, and RussoRoss in Towne Center.  Her work can also be found at retail shows & two and three-day sales events mostly in Louisiana and Texas.  She has recently participated in the nonprofit Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market at the Reliant Convention Center in Houston, TX.  She participated in the Market at the Mill in New Roads, La. in May, 2012.  She has been invited to participate in a juried antique show and sale this year in Abington, VA; this summer will be her twelfth year to participate.

Helen began her career and business about 30 years ago; it began as an effort to frame and preserve some lace and linen pieces she and her husband had inherited from his family.  While they were vacationing in Williamsburg, VA, Helen saw a piece of tatting (a style of lace work) framed between two pieces of glass and hanging on a copper chain.  It measured 2” by ¾”.  She bought it intending to study how the work was done and duplicate the procedure.  This style would serve well in preserving the family lace pieces she and Jerry had inherited.

Her efforts to duplicate the framing method used were successful and she continued to make the small items of lace framed with glass on both sides and hanging on a silver or copper chain. They were sold as sun catchers, ornaments and lapel pins.  Her friend, who owned the Christmas Shoppe on Capital Heights Road in Baton Rouge, encouraged her to put some of her lace pieces on consignment in the store.  The pieces sold very well and so the business “Lace ‘n Glass” was born.

Helen’s career as an antique dealer began at Landmark Antiques located in the old Steinberg Sporting Goods store in downtown Baton Rouge.  Here she used the name Lace ‘n Glass & Wood Antiques for her business.  She worked with other dealers who each had their own space or room to display their antiques and other items for sale.  She then worked in a multidealer antique business named Custom House Marketplace.   She did this for a period of around 10 years.  After Custom House Antiques closed she continued to purchase antique china and make jewelry to sell from Highland Road Antiques.  Helen has been working with antique china jewelry for over 15 years.  She began making jewelry she calls “china wear” (instead of china ware because the china is worn) when she had her own antique store and wanted to do something with the broken china pieces – “they were too pretty to throw away.”

Jerry and Helen are a team in the business.  She designs the jewelry by drawing the patterns on the china and Jerry cuts them out.  He then welds and solders the finished product.  “My husband, Jerry, has always assisted and supported me in my business endeavors, especially since his retirement from the FAA.”  Other artisans include, Debora, who moved away recently; she wanted to stay involved in the jewelry art work so Helen still sends some pieces to her to finish via UPS.  Wilda, their former housekeeper, use to work at Old America; she became involved in the business cutting glass for the lace framing, ironing the lace pieces or whatever needed doing.

Helen grew up the only girl in her family with three older brothers.  She is from East Central Louisiana having grown up in the Harrisonburg area of Catahoula Parish.   She was active in the sports program in high school playing on the varsity girl’s basketball team.  Their team made All State her senior year and Helen set a state record for most points scored in a game at/during an All District Game.

She attended Louisiana Tech and majored in childhood Education with a minor in English and PE.  Her husband Jerry is from Missouri and attended the US Merchant Marine Academy in Long Island, New York on a naval appointment.  He served in the Navy for several years before going to flight school.  Helen began her working career as a school teacher.  She met her husband Jerry while she was teaching in New Orleans and he was there taking flying lessons.   His goal, to become a commercial pilot, did not work out.  Instead, he became an Air Traffic Controller and then moved into management in the FFA field from which he is now retired.   His career has gone from Land to Sea to Air and now back to land in Baton Rouge.  They moved to Baton Rouge in 1978 and have lived here since then.

Some of the local stores that carry Helen’s creations are:

Highland Gifts
16259 Highland Rd
Baton Rouge, La 70810

Rural Life Museum Gift Shop
4600 Essen Lane
Baton Rouge, La 70809

RussoRoss in Towne Center.
7150 Jefferson Hwy Suite 545
Baton Rouge, La 70806

To feature her creations in your shop contact:

Nancy Boudreaux
Morgan City, La

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