If I were to tell you that there is a man raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in 2007 who has in just a short period of time started a Masonic organization with a newsletter which has exploded with membership overnight beyond his wildest dreams, who is writing a novel, producing a graphic novel, working on a book for a college, writing several Masonic research articles for Masonic Journals, is an officer in his Craft Lodge, a member of a Research Society, producer of an upcoming Templar comic presentation, a Committee Chairman for The Masonic Society and an editor for The Global Fraternal Network (GFN) would you not want to know more about him? Who he is?
Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, —no it’s Brother David Naughton-Shires.
Until the last few years, 38 year old Naughton-Shires lived a rather quiet, modest life with his wife and three children in Sixmilebridge, Ireland just 9 km out of Shannon where he helped his wife run a small dance studio and scraped together a rather meager living in graphic design and illustration.
THEN HE JOINED FREEMASONRY…………….AND BANG AS IF SHOT FROM A CANNON, the life of David Naughton-Shires has not been the same since.
He was raised to the third degree in October of 2007 in Ormonde Lodge 201 in the Province of North Munster in the Irish Constitution where today he holds the office of Inner Guard. He hopes to go onto the Royal Arch in just a few months. But as you can see it will be October of 2009 before he has completed two years in the Craft which makes his Masonic accomplishments quite remarkable – as if shot from a cannon.
He tells us that right away, “I found the Craft had produced over the years a wealth of fantastic art, and I started to collect what I could find that fell within my meager budget. This consisted of items such as Ladies Festival Menu cards, lodge summonses, and certificates. From time to time I came across a beautifully illustrated book or two, and as I continued to collect I noticed there was a lack of current art for Freemasons available and what there was, well hidden within the Craft with the exception of the wonderful art of Brother Stephen McKim. Also the standard of publications being produced internally and externally was not always inspiring.”
“I asked myself the question why was this and how could this be resolved? I know that many Lodge newsletters and other similar publications were produced by very well meaning Brethren with only limited experience and knowledge of design who under increasing pressure produced the best they could, and I came to the conclusion they needed help not criticizing.”
So help them he would. He decided to start a group in Facebook with this idea in mind. He wanted to centralize in one place where Brethren with talent who were prepared to help could come together and share their work for the use of anybody who needed it. He called his new group THE MASONIC ART EXCHANGE. The concept hit the Internet like a sudden Texas thunder storm, exploding into over 500 members in just a few weeks. In his own words Naughton-Shires describes the mission of Masonic Art Exchange.
“In a nutshell the aims of the group is to provide a central ‘hub’ for the coming together of people who wish to improve the graphical look of the many newsletters, leaflets, circulars and the such presented within the craft by providing a forum and communication point for each other to offer advice and support on a design basis”
Naughton-Shires decided that a newsletter that the members could contribute to and pass onto the members of their Lodge would be a good illustration of what could be done with a little help. In a few more weeks, which is where we are as of this writing, the Masonic Art Exchange has grown into a membership of over 1100 and Naughton-Shires has decided to produce the newsletter bi-monthly and add a website and a forum for non Facebookers (http://masonic-ae.com). The first newsletter consisted of just six pages including the front and back covers. But the second and most recent has twenty two pages with some really super articles as well as illustrations. One of them is “Skull & Gold: Creating Knight Templar’s Aprons,” a brief outline of the story behind The Knight Templar’s Aprons along with the beautiful creations of Ginger Wood Smyrl. Also in this issue is “Et in Arcadia Ego,” by Brother Nathan M. Glover who shares with us the symbolism found in the Et in Arcadia Ego paintings. Those of you searching for some portraits of George Washington in Masonic regalia also will not be disappointed. Issue #3 is being worked on as of this writing but it already has some very interesting stories and illustrations, two of which will be “Art of the Templar Knights” & “Painted Aprons.”
To help in this enterprise which was growing by leaps and bounds Naughton-Shires added Vice-President Brother Martyn Greene who handles the Facebook group and put writer Brother Kevin Noel Olson in charge of articles for the newsletter.
The Masonic Art Exchange is open to everyone, Mason and non Mason alike. The rules are pretty simple and straight forward. If you are posting to the site the work must be yours and not somebody else’s and you must be prepared to share it with everybody. If you are using something from the site you must give credit to its author, inform the author of what publication it is being used in and use it only for nonprofit enterprises. In addition:
“THE ARTWORK CAN NEITHER BE USED FOR NOR DEPICT ANYTHING CONSIDERED TO BE DEFAMING TO FREEMASONRY OR SOCIETY IN GENERAL.”
For ease and maximum exposure there are two sites where you can download the newsletter, scribd – http://www.scribd.com/doc/18165122/MAE12 and issuu –http://issuu.com/masconicartexchange/docs/mae_1_2/1?viewMode=magazine
Or if you prefer you can now do the same thing from the website – http://masonic-ae.com or on Facebook.
But as we have already seen this man shot from the cannon has many irons in the fire. He is a correspondent circle member of the Lodge of Research Number 200 in Ireland (http://www.irish-freemasonry.org.uk/). Soon he will have his first paper published in the Hibiscus Masonic Review (http://hibiscusmasonicreview.wordpress.com/ ). He is founding member and Irish Second Circle Committee Chairman of The Masonic Society (http://themasonicsociety.com). He is the new Graphics Editor for the Global Fraternal Network (GFN) and has just completed designing his first issue for them (http://issuu.com/masconicartexchange/docs/gfn_v4-n8). Here is another project he is working on: http://templarcomic.com
For those who might denigrate Masonic activity on the Internet I ask them to come see what David Naughton-Shires is doing online. He is a man who has accomplished more in his two years in the Craft than many of us do in a lifetime. The secret to his success is the quality of his work. You only have to spend a few minutes on The Masonic Art Exchange to be impressed. It would seem that what he has started may expand and become a broader concept than it is now. Also success can breed more success in spin offs and related enterprises and that may well be a path for Brother David Naughton-Shires. All of us at Freemason Information wish him all the best and continued success. Above and beyond all this is the great service available to us all to improve the quality of all our publications whether big or small. Also up to now there has been no site dedicated to Masonic artists. We may find around the world many Freemasons who are artists and who have been operating in the shadows of ignominy. No more. They will shine in the light of The Masonic Art Exchange and we shall all be able to enjoy their works.