All good things must come to an end, and thus it is for the Celtic Marketplace Trade Show in Lombard, Il, which wraps up today. What better way to say goodbye than with Jennifer Muldowney, whose Dublin-based company Farewell Celtic Ashes offers a range of unique Irish memorial products to connect the Irish American community with their ancestry and loved ones. Read more here!
What is your own heritage/ethnic background?
I am Irish born and bred! I lived in the States for two years but most of my life I have lived in my hometown – Dublin, Ireland. I would be considered very ‘Irish looking’ too so I can’t deny my background. Although red hair is associated with Irish people, most of us are made up of dark hair, blue eyes and pale white skin.
How did you get involved with the business?
So the idea of my business of Irish cremation jewelry started when I lived in the States and my grandmother passed away. I couldn’t get home for her funeral. I was devastated. She had given me a miraculous medal when I was younger as most Irish Catholic grandmothers did to keep us safe and pure. I began to wear it as my way to keep her close and watching over me. However I started getting comments and attention about it that I didn’t want. This drove me to look for something more intimate. When my dog passed away four years ago, we got her cremated and my mother said she wanted her buried with her when she died. I was sad because I wanted to have a piece of my dog too as I considered her my pet. So these two experiences led me to Farewell Celtic Ashes. There are two types of piece – fused and encased. Fused pieces involve using some cremated remains and fusing them with glass and colour if requested. The ashes create a beautiful cloud like affect within the glass. The encased collection is a little more obvious as you can see the ashes moving around within the glass, almost like an hourglass.
Are these all the same reasons that you keep doing what you do?
Absolutely. I couldn’t do what I do without emotion, empathy and a love of the original concept. I understand people’s grief, their need for something to hold onto and the connection they want to maintain, even in death. I have written a book on funeral planning in Ireland called Say Farewell Your Way and it is through researching the book and working with people planning their own funerals or who are dealing with a death that I have heard truly amazing stories, seen amazing acts of human kindness and shared beautiful memories. This drives me forward.
What are the challenges?
The challenges in Ireland is the funeral industry and the fear of trying something new and different. Americans are very different to work with in terms of that as they are more open to new ideas and concepts. Is cremation jewelry a little bit creepy and morbid? Maybe, it depends how you look at it. I like to think it gives everyone an opportunity to keep a part of someone they love with them always. It also works well if family and friends live all across the globe and so will not have a chance to visit a burial site on a regular basis. Also if someone’s last wish was to have their ashes scattered, it can be hard not to have some place to ‘speak to’ the deceased. Cremation jewelry helps with that.
What are the rewards?
Wow, the rewards for me are definitely the stories I hear and knowing that each and every one of my customers walks away with a completely unique Irish memorial piece that means the world to them.
Who is your typical client?
I wish I had a typical one! I don’t. Age, race, sex, nationality are all massively varied in what I do because death and therefore grief does not discriminate.
What are your core products?
The fused and encased glass pendants although we regularly do bespoke pieces for people.
What distinguishes you from you competition?
What distinguishes us is our customer service and attitude and the fact that we are Irish – when you send a us the small piece of your loved one’s ashes – we only use a small piece to make the pendent so we will scatter the remaining ashes in Ireland, that way, a little piece Grandad (or whoever) gets to go back home tot he motherland.
What are your future plans for the business?
I have written a book about funeral planning in Ireland – Say Farewell Your Way and I have 3/4 more books up in my head that I would like to start getting out over the next 5 years. One will very much be of benefit to the Irish Diaspora worldwide. With regards the jewelry we are currently working on a men’s bracelet and a Christmas piece. There will be more products added to the lines over the next year. We have also launched a pet specific website – rainbowbridge-memorials.com
How has the Celtic marketplace evolved in recent years?
This is my first year at Lombard but it is an excellently run show so I look forward to coming back and seeing how it evolves from now on!
Why is Lombard an important event for you?
I did Secaucus in April and so Lombard seemed like an obvious follow up event for us but I really like the intimacy of the show – its a lot smaller than Secaucus.
Are we doing enough to preserve and promote Celtic culture generally?
I think we could all do a lot more. There are some fabulous business ideas out there and I know there are some groups that really push the Celtic culture but I think there is always room for improvement.
What can we be doing better?
That’s a tough question especially because I am still getting to know the various Celtic publications, events, trade shows, products and services so maybe come back to me on that next year!!