The Meaning of the Shamrock

The shamrock is one of the primary symbols of Ireland, the other being the Celtic harp. Like the thistle for Scotland, the leek for Wales, and the rose for England, it is a simple, common plant whose qualities are seen as symbolizing the country it represents.

Word Origin

The word “shamrock” is an English corruption of the Irish seamrog, which is the diminutive of seamair (clover). Thus, a shamrock is simply a little clover.

Saint Patrick

It is part of Irish Catholic legend that St. Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock as a visual metaphor for the Holy Trinity. However, the connection between St. Patrick and the clover was not depicted visually anywhere until a series of coins was minted in 1675 in Dublin showing him blessing a congregation while holding a shamrock in his hand.

Symbol of Ireland?

A large part of the identification of the clover as an Irish national symbol was, ironically, due to misperceptions and mistaken reporting by the British.

 

In the 16th and 17th centuries, poets and authors regularly wrote about how the “wild Irish” would eat anything in the case of famine, including shamrocks. (During this period, England was struggling to tighten its grip on Ireland; thus the English and the Irish had low opinions of one another due to the recent ongoing low-level warfare between the two countries, which had caused great suffering to the Irish and economic and political costs to the English). Since the shamrock has virtually no nutritional value, this was touted as an illustration of how savage (and stupid) the Irish were.

 

But it was again a case of misinterpretation. The Irish did regularly harvest and eat wild wood sorrel, or seamsog. British writers simply confused the two words, seamsog and seamrog. Thus, the reason that the British thought that shamrocks symbolized the Irish was that they believed the Irish ate them—something they basically never did.

Migration to America

So the shamrock became an Irish symbol more because the British thought it should be than that the Irish ever identified with it. However, it gradually became adopted by all Irishmen.

 

The shamrock migrated with the Irish to America during the Revolutionary War, when Irish recruits and conscripts were organized into regiments bearing the shamrock on their flags.

Luck of the Shamrock

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Nowadays, the shamrock appears as a logo and symbol for diverse companies, and used in the manufacture of thousands of products.

 

The rare four-leaved shamrock (“four-leaved clover”) is considered a sign of great good luck to the person who finds one.

 

The much more common three-leaved shamrock is seen as symbolizing Ireland’s verdant beauty, the hardiness of its people, and their adherence to their religious values.

By Kevin M. Lewis

Heat Versus Rubber Stamps

Hot Weather & Your Rubber Stamps

During a long California heat wave, with 100º temperatures for over a week, I thought about what stampers might want and need to know about how the heat and sun affects these special craft tools.

While we can stand the heat, our wonderful rubber stamps might have a little trouble if not protected. With that in mind, I offer these suggestions.

Low humidity & Rubber Stamps

Where ever the humidity drops below 20% it is a good idea to keep stamps in closed containers. I keep mine inside drawers or plastic boxes, and they are lasting for years. I’ve been told by those living in the southwest deserts that rubber dries out quickly, cracking and becoming useless. This is a big issue with cars: tires, hoses, gaskets, all dry out and need replacing more frequently than more humid climates. Your rubber and polymer stamps are susceptible to drying out in the open air.

Age-related drying can also be an issue.

UV Rays & rubber Stamps

The other destructive force is UV rays. Never leave your stamps near a window where they might get any sun light hitting them. This is true any time of the year. UV rays dry out the rubber or polymer causing cracking.

Heat & Mounted Rubber Stamps
Heat is also a problem for mounted stamps even if hidden from the sun. The glue of the cushion material can get so hot that it loses its grip on the wood. You could go to get that stamp and find it has slipped out of place or completely fallen off.

BUT, there are things you can do –

Solutions to care for rubber stamps

PROTECT
your stamps by keeping them in dark folders, plastic boxes, or drawers (locations with higher humidity can leave mounted stamps on shelves as long as no direct sun can get to them).

CONDITION
your stamps with plain glycerin to rehydrate and protect. Glycerin keeps the rubber moist and preserves its life, especially in dry climates. Rub a little on with your finger or a soft brush, and wipe the excess off with a soft cloth. Glycerin comes off with water.

Glycerin can also be used as a release agent when stamping into polymer clay, although embossing ink is great for that use, too. I’ve seen glycerin bring 70-year-old stamps back to life.

Glycerin is available at drug stores or pharmacies.

Instead of glycerin you can use clear embossing or watermark ink as a protective coating. That, too, will wash off with a little water on a cloth or stamp scrubber.

AVOID
Never put oils, vegetable, butter, or mineral, on rubber or polymer stamps, as that would ruin stamps from ever holding ink again. Over time oils will turn rubber to mush. Use oils ONLY if you are using a stamp exclusively for cookie making or other culinary application.

Alcohol and other solvents should be avoided when cleaning rubber, as they will cause the rubber to dry out and crack, and that’s what we are trying to avoid.

A little caution goes a long way

Take good care of your stamps and they’ll provide years, decades, maybe even 70+ years, of fun and creativity.

Happy Stamping
Kim