Sunday 21 September 2014

Kate's present for the President

Published 10/07/2013 | 15:02

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Artist / sculptor Kate Shanahan with the Italian marble bookends which she presented to President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Úachtaráin on Monday afternoon. Inset: a darkened image to show the detail on the work. Photo by John Reidy

A CASTLEISLAND artist who sculpted a pair of white, Italian marble bookends specifically for President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins has been invited to present them in person.

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The presentation took place at Aras an Uachtaráin on Monday afternoon during a three-hour visit.

Kate Shanahan is already known here for her gift in the more traditional style of art. She specialises in portraits of people and pets.

Having worked in a tech lab in Tralee for nearly 10 years before being made redundant, Kate decided to follow her passion for art in 2011.

"I did a PLC course in art, craft and design under a fantastic mentor, Mary Kirby. Through this course I met Billy Leen - a stone sculptor who opened his doors to me. He thought me how to use a hammer and chisel and showed me immense kindness all the way," said Kate this week as she reflected on the Aras invite.

She loves to work on the white Italian Carrera marble and with this in mind the creation of the bookends for President Higgins came to fruition.

From his poetry she drew inspiration for a Heron entwined in a Celtic design and the other one has the government harp sculpted on it.

She was due to present it to him at the Aontas Awards in Dublin last month. She was part of a team of five selected for the finals under an equality for women programme which reaches out to women and their talents.

Fortunately, before they travelled to Dublin they discovered that President Higgins would not be attending the awards this year due to other commitments.

Kate and Listowel based NEKD official, Dee Keogh then wrote to the president and told him about the hand-crafted gift that awaited him in Castleisland .

"Can you imagine our amazement when we were invited up to the Aras to meet himself and Sabine for a three-hour afternoon tea appointment with them," said Kate.

Kate describes herself as a mom of two young children with two Jack Russells who just happened to find their way to her front door. She is an animal lover and has huge empathy for them which is evident in each pet portrait she has painted. Her portraits of people, children and pets possess that special quality which radiates in each individual picture.

Kate has developed her own style of painting incorporating oils and mixed media and thus creating a 3D effect. These spectacular pictures have created a stir to the extent that Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan asked to display his artwork in her next exhibition in conjunction with the Patrick O'Keeffe Traditional Music Festival in October.

Kate's work can be viewed on her website at:


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