We are excited to be a part of this year’s Iowa Irish Fest! We will be there showing off our latest jewelry designs and enjoying music and food of the festival. The festival is the biggest Irish festival in Iowa. It runs from August 1-3 in Lincoln Park in downtown Waterloo. The event is put on by Cara, whose mission is to promote and develop Irish fellowship in their community. This event is their main way they do that. Here are some of the things going on this year:
A 5K race
Tons of different music, headlined by Gaelic Storm and the Red Hot Chili Pipers.
Jewelry of course and a lot more.
For the full schedule of events, directions and other information, go to iowairishfest.com.
As a deisgner of Celtic jewelry, I have long been a fan of Claddagh rings and necklaces. For a long time I put off designing my own version of the Claddagh ring because frankly there are so many kinds out there already. It was difficult for me to see what I could add or offer that had not already been done. But a few customers encouraged me to design a Claddagh symbol, so I decided to give it a shot.
I started out by looking at many different ones and I compared and contrasted them. I wanted to go for a simple and bold design, also featuring a Celtic knot, which is my signature. Someone on Facebook suggested I try a version where the crowned heart is bracketed by triquetra knots instead of hands. So I did a version of that, too. I also did a more traditional one where the crowned heart is being held by hands. The hands were by far the most difficult part of all of this to design, and they are also what I am most concerned about turning out correctly in the manufacturing process.
Right now I have ordered samples of these rings in size 7 in raw brass from Shapeways. The samples will be here in a few weeks. At that point I will examine them and see if I need to revise them at all. If no revisions are needed then these rings should be available for order sometime in June. If revisions are needed it could be slightly longer.
I was recently reminded that Carlow is the sister city of Davenport, Iowa. It is located in Southeast Ireland about 45 minutes from Dublin. I did some reading to learn more about it. This is what I learned.
Carlow has a population of 23,000. So it is smaller than Davenport but there are still several similarities. It has been known as an agricultural stronghold of Ireland. The city landscape has a urban/rural mixture. Carlow also has a notable river and bridge. The River Barrow runs through it and the Graiguecullen Bridge crosses the river right near the center of town. This bridge dates back to 1569! According to Wikipedia, Carlow was one of the first places in Ireland to be served by train. Davenport also has early train history and was the site of the first train bridge across the Mississippi River. Finally, it also has two universities: Carlow College and the Institute of Technology. St. Ambrose University has a partnership with both of them.
Obviously, Carlow is much older than Davenport. It has history that goes back thousands of years and many notable historic landmarks. The Brownshill Dolmen is an ancient burial site just outside Carlow. The Old Leighlin Cathedral is also nearby. It dates back to AD 630. This cathedral is where the Catholic Church decided which date Easter would fall on for the entire Christian world. Located right near the Graiguecullen Bridge is Carlow Castle.
People from both Davenport and Carlow have each visited their sister city. Davenport mayor Ed Winborn visited Carlow in 2006 when the sister city agreement was announced. In 2007 a group of delegates from Carlow visited Davenport. According to the Quad City Times article about their visit, they got some pointers on dealing with flooding. They wanted to learn from the experts, I guess!
Davenport and Emmetsburg are the only cities in Iowa that have a sister city in Ireland. In Illinois, Chicago, Peoria, Niles, Tinley Park, and Springfield each have a sister city. This site shows a map of many sister cities of Ireland around the USA.
It is getting close to Saint Patrick’s Day again. Now when this day gets close I think back to 2012 and the first time I attended a St. Patrick’s Day parade as an adult. I don’t know what took me so long! But at the same time I don’t know if it would have had the same meaning to me at a younger age.
I say this because it was also around that time that I was finally starting to gain a real appreciation for my family history though the genealogy work my Dad had done in the years efore and since then. He has done a great job tracing back our roots to Ireland, and their journey to and across the USA. You can read some about that here: The Michael Foley Family Blog.
By 2012 my son, Owen, had turned 7. I had learned from my Dad’s genealogy work that I had a relative named Owen Finnegan. He came over from Ireland with his two brothers as teenagers and settled in St. Louis. When we named our son Owen, we did not know about this family history, so it was a very pleasant surprise. It made me want to learn more. In general, having kids and watching them grow has also increased my appreciation for my heritage. It made me realize just how big of a role our genes play in our lives. Kids have mannerisms and preferences and things that neither my wife nor I have. It’s not like they learned these things by watching us. So, where did they come from, then? Hmmm…
So with all of that going on in my life, going to that parade in 2012 made a big impact on me. The only real requirement for a family to march in the parade is that they be Irish. How often do we simply celebrate our family and heritage like that? Not often enough, I say. I liked how some of the elder Irish were honored in the parade, too, another thing we seem to be lacking too often today. So, if you get a chance, I highly recommend going to the Quad Cities St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It is the only St. Patrick’s Day parade in the USA that goes through 2 states. It starts in Rock Island, IL and goes over the Centennial Bridge to Davenport, IA. This site lists it as one of the top 10 in the country, listed among parades in much bigger places like New York, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco!
It was just a few months after attending that parade that I discovered Shapeways. When I first I discovered it, I saw some of the other amazing artwork people were doing and it inspired me to try it. I started out doing a number of different things. One of my earliest designs was actually a vase. It did not take me long though to see some of the knots and patterns others were doing, and it inspired me to try making some Celtic knots. I’ve been working on them pretty much since then.
I got a new shipment from Shapeways with a few new pieces. I’ll be sharing them over the next few days. The first is the leaf pattern Celtic knot rings. This one is a size 6.5 and is made from Shapeways’ raw brass material.
I’ve only gotten a handful of items in this material from them but it is becoming one of my favorites. It has a very high level of detail! It is also one of Shapeways’ most inexpensive materials, at least for their premium metals. It depends on the item, but sometimes the raw bronze and raw brass can be similar in price to their stainless steel material. This is ususally the case for smaller items (like rings!). The bronze and brass metals are much higher quality than their stainless steel, in my opinion.
A lot of people really want the shine that the polished materials have but I find that Shapeways’ raw materials have much better details and still have some sparkle. Some of the details get polished away in the polished versions. I think choosing between the raw brass and polished brass (or any of their raw materials versus their polished versions) is not as obvious as it may seem at first glance. The raw brass, raw bronze and raw silver materials have a lot to offer!
The inspiration for this particular ring was that I really wanted to do something with a Spring and nature theme. I kind of wanted to build on the Tree of Life theme I started. I also have another leaf design I’ll be sharing soon. Click here to purchase this ring in the shop.