Back to the work bench now after a two week tour of the British Isles. We started out in London, Sue and I, with our sons Donald and Stephen, daughter Maggie and her husband Eric. We had a lovely dinner with a medieval Celtic metalwork expert friend who invited us all to her home.
The Walker family from left to right: Sue, Maggie, Eric, Stephen, Steve, and Donald.
The boys spent Saturday at the Chelsea/Everton football match. A great Premier League game that ended in a draw. I spent the weekend at a conference on the Celtic Revival held at the British Museum while the ladies had a leisurely weekend on the town.
The conference was in conjunction with a feature exhibit at the British Museum called “Celts; art and identity," which was well attended by top scholars and researchers. It was a thrill to me that two of the speakers told me that they had read my book, “The Modern History of Celtic Jewellery”. On Monday we went to the British Museum as a family and saw the exhibit and spent most of the day seeing the many incredible displays that are there.
Steve and Sue Walker at The British Museum.
Later in the week we took the train North to Scotland. There had been some snow earlier in the week, so the Borders were especially picturesque. Getting into Glasgow we stayed with our friends the Caldwells. Russell Caldwell is a fine Celtic jeweler, whose work was being sold at the British Museum during the Celts exhibit mentioned above.
Sue Walker with Russel Caldwell.
Thursday we all headed to Edinburgh for the day. I had an appointment with the curator at the national Museum of Scotland to examine an electrotype impression of an 8th century Pictish brooch. This brooch was copied by the museum in 1888, but somehow the private owner managed to lose the original! The plan is to make a copy using the original technique of carving a mold in plaster and casting it in silver. This would serve as a demonstration of how these early Celtic smiths worked. The brooch is known as the Banchory Brooch, after the location it was found in the 19th century. My great-grandfather George Watt was born in Banchory, which is in Aberdeenshire.
Steve Walker examining the Banchory Brooch.
While in Scotland we went to an excellent concert at the Celtic Connections festival. The concert was students and faculty of the Gaelic College on North Uist, Outer Hebrides, singing, playing pipes, fiddles and other instruments.
Maggie and the boys all headed back to the US on the weekend, but not until after we all went to another football match. We saw the Celtics play St. Johnston at Parkhead. (Celtics 3 – Saints 1). Sue and I stayed on for business. We went to a giftware show at the Glasgow SECC and placed a few orders for the shop.
Steve, Sue, Stephen, and Donald Walker at a Celtics game.
The Caldwell’s served us a supper of haggis, neeps and tatties in honor of Rabbie Burns Day, which is an iconic occasion to be in Scotland. But business called and we had to take leave of their fine hospitality and head to Dublin for another trade show and museum visit.
Steve Walker examining the Cross of Cong.
With only three days and two nights in Dublin we managed to shop for more interesting stock for the shop as well as give the 12th century Cross of Cong a good look over, with a tentative plan to do some experimental reproduction work to discover how the openwork interlace panels might have been crafted. We were very pleased to meet some new craftsmen at the trade fair and also to catch up with old friends. We had a delightful dinner at Captain America with silversmith Aidan Breen and plotted a revival of the Modern History of Celtic Jewelry exhibit for Andover this coming March.
Aidan Breen and Sue Walker eating dinner at Captain America.
It was yet another exciting vacation for the family, as well as a successful trip for our business and scholarly pursuits. It's always so nice to meet up with other Celtic scholars and craftsmen, and the whole family thanks the folks of the British Isles for the warm hospitality extended to us at every stop. We're looking forward to our next trip abroad, but for now we're happy to be home and back to routine.
When we sadly made the announcement in November that Walker Metalsmiths would be closing our Fairport store people started talking to us about it in several ways.
For those who are disappointed, we are sorry. We made some great relationships and really loved the space and community. Our decision to leave was made reluctantly. We want to emphasize that we are not going out of business, just leaving Fairport.
Many have assumed that we had to close for economic reasons. The store had been paying its bills since we moved to Fairport in 2009 and slowly but steadily increasing sales through the six years we were open. The real reason was the demands of time. Our adult children started the Rochester area shop, first Andrew in Park Avenue and the Jeanne in Fairport. They have moved on to other things several years ago and started their own families. While Sue and I are in no hurry to retire, we do want to have more time for travel to visit our children and grandchildren. Bringing all of our sales, mail-order, internet and over the counter, back to the original Andover location is a big step towards this priority.
We have had a number of conversations with people who have suggestions for other places we might move the Fairport store. The answer to these has been that we want things more settled and simplified. Branching out is the opposite of the path we have chosen. If we were to continue a second store we are very happy to leave it in Fairport.
A brief history of our business, if you wish to read further:
I began making jewelry and Celtic accessories when I was very young, still at Andover Central School in the 1970s. After a year in the British Isles from 1975 to 1976, I went to art school for metals and jewelry, first to Syracuse University and then to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Sue and I were married in 1981 and immediately began having children. After working for another craftsman for a year and a half I returned to Andover, NY and began working full time for myself in 1984.
For the first ten years my sales were mostly through arts festivals. In 1983 I exhibited at the Clothesline Festival in Rochester with enough success to quit my day job. From there on festivals were as far afield as Florida, Wisconsin and California. In the early 1990s we began advertising Celtic rings in national magazines, most notably Smithsonian Magazine. This rapidly built up a mail order business that eventually shifted to an internet business. This still makes up the largest portion of our sales. About this same time we bought the building at One Main Street in Andover as a workshop, adding a showroom in 1997.
Beginning in the 1990s we began making annual trips to Ireland and Scotland to stock our cases with Celtic jewelry and crafts from other complimentary artisans. This lead to some great friendships with kindred spirits like Aidan Breen in Ireland and Russell Caldwell in Scotland. These trips were also opportunities to study many of the medieval masterpieces of Celtic art at the museums.
In 2007, our son Andrew started a second retail location of the family business at the corner of Meigs and Park Avenue in Rochester. In March of 2008 we offered an exhibit of Celtic Cross art in observance of Saint Patrick’s Day falling in the same week as Easter. After two years Andrew decided that retail wasn’t for him and his sister Jeanne moved the shop to the Village of Fairport on the historic Erie Canal. Aidan Breen made an appearance as a guest artist for our opening in Fairport during Canal Days in 2009. Jeanne fell in love, got married and after two years followed her husband to an academic job in California.
We were very fortunate that before Jeanne left she recruited an enthusiastic customer, Susanna, to take over as manager of the Fairport store. During this time we hosted the American Celtic Art Exhibition in 2012 and the Modern History of Celtic Jewelry Exhibition in 2013. After four years Susanna chose to stay at home with her infant son Ronan, passing the reins to Jesse and Kelsey.
In Andover we are expanding our showroom. In March we will exhibit a revised version of the 2013 Modern History of Celtic Jewelry Exhibit. Apprentice Abram will be leaving to join Americorps in February, Lyndsay, Lindsey and Steve continue to craft new and old designs in gold and silver with Sue, Jesse and Susette taking care of our customers by phone, online and in our Main Street showroom.
Walker Metalsmiths’ employee Kelsey will be spending January in Florence Italy, studying art history through an intersession program affiliated with Rochester Institute of Technology.
Kelsey is a native of Fairport, NY and a graduate of Fairport High School. She is currently a senior at the School for American Craftsmen at RIT, where she is majoring in metalsmithing and jewelry design. She became very interested in things Irish after a high school trip to Ireland during her sophomore year when she spent ten days in Carrigaline, County Cork.
Combining her interests and career aspirations, Kelsey sought out part time employment at Walker Metalsmiths Fairport Celtic jewelry store, where she has worked part time for two years. For Christmas her boss Steve Walker gave her a copy of the Autobiography of the famous Renaissance goldsmith Benevento Cellini, a 16th century native of Florence.
It's an age old question: How do I find my girlfriend's ring size without ruining a surprise engagement?
There are many tricks and tips out there for how to do this, but many simply won't cut it when you need to be as exact as you can! Don't go sticking rings in soap, trying on her rings to see where they 'fit you,' or tying a string around her finger. We have three methods that we, as jewelers, recommend that will give you the best results (and a perfect fit)!
1. The Paper Trick
- This trick works if there is a ring that your girlfriend wears already on her ring finger (left hand), or we can usually get within a half size if you measure a ring she wears on her right hand ring finger.
- Simply print out this page and cut the cone out in heavy card stock. You will insert the cone into the ring and measure where the ring hits at the widest part of the paper, make a mark right where the ring hits. You can then send that piece of paper to us and we will be able to tell from your mark her ring size!
2. Borrow a Ring
- Another great option is to borrow a ring from her, although beware, if it is one she wears everyday you might get yourself into some hot water if she finds it missing! If this can easily be done, bring the ring right to us and it can be sized in a matter of minutes, although make sure to notice what finger she wears it on!
3. Friends and Family
- As a last resort you can always find out more information from friends and family. They may have bought her rings in the past and can help you get close to the ring size you will need. As always, they may have bought her rings for different fingers. Even if they do have sizes of other fingers, write them down, the more information we have the better!
Example of the varying sizes on a woman's hand, please note everyone will be different!
Things to remember when buying the engagement ring:
- Not all rings can be sized easily: many of our custom rings can only be sized up or down a size or two, so it's important to be as close as you can when finding out her ring size.
- Not all fingers are the same size, in fact, they vary quite a lot and there tends to be around a half size difference between a dominant and non-dominant hand.
So what can I do if I can't figure out her size and want a custom ring or one that can't be easily sized? Give us a call or e-mail us! We have many staff members and craftsmen you can talk to to find out what your best option will be for getting your perfect engagement ring. 1-800-488-6347 or email@example.com