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Claiming his heritage through art
Burning wood into complex Celtic designs is more than just a hobby for Connor MaGee — it’s a link to his Irish heritage that also provides him with a therapeutic outlet he can’t find anywhere else.
MaGee uses a soldering gun to burn traditional Celtic designs onto wooden objects such as walking sticks, tables and boxes.
MaGee will be displaying and selling his work at the Ireland-Irish pavilion at Holy Cross Gym (290 Dubuc St.) during the second week of Folklorama. Prices for different pieces vary, but generally fall between the $40 to $60 range.
His initial interest in his Irish heritage was sparked through the influence of his Irish grandfather while he was growing up.
"He always taught me the Irish history, our family background, things like the stories of Michael Collins. And I’ve always been fascinated with my family background," says MaGee.
But he didn’t become interested in the Celtic design aspect of his heritage until many years later.
Initially, MaGee’s grandfather, who has long since passed on, taught him about
traditional Celtic design during a trip to Ireland together. At the time, MaGee wasn’t overly interested.
Years later, though, the idea of doing art that connected him to his Irish past surfaced when he took up studio space at Artbeat Studio in the Exchange District.
Artbeat Studio is a place that provides workspace, artistic mentorship and emotional support for up to nine artists living with mental illness. MaGee was struggling with depression, and in 2007, was pointed towards Artbeat Studio by a local nun.
Although he started out drawing, he soon began experimenting with wood burning, and creating the signature twists and knots of traditional Celtic artwork. As he gained in skill and confidence with his woodburning, he began doing custom design pieces.
For MaGee, no single piece of his work is more important or meaningful than another. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t especially proud of where some of his creations have ended up.
His biggest achievement, he says, is sending a walking stick to the First Minister of Scotland. The First Minister of Scotland is the political leader of the country, and the head of the Scottish government.
"It felt pretty cool. I got a thank-you letter from the Scottish government," he says. "I never thought I’d pull anything like that off, and I’d always wanted to get (my work) into Scotland."
MaGee’s grandfather died before he could see the creative way his grandson has claimed his Celtic heritage as his own. But MaGee knows what his grandfather would think.
"He’d be quite fascinated," he says.
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