Heidelberg Engraver
Joe Foley, engraver for the Arts and Crafts Center in Heidelberg, Germany, uses the laser engraving machine to complete a wooden plaque. Foley can engrave wood, glass, metal and other materials.

HEIDELBERG, Germany (Oct. 2, 2008) -- Joe Foley says two of the projects that stick out most in his memory are a spaceship and a base for a 12-liter beer stein.

While those types of projects don't come across his desk every day, rest assured Foley can figure out how to help if something like that comes around again.

Foley is the resident engraver at the Heidelberg Arts and Crafts Center, a position he's been in for the past four years.

The engraving shop, and Foley, are available for virtually anything one can think of to have engraved. From wood, glass and metal to eventually offering screen-printed T-shirts and coffee mugs, Foley's got it covered.

"I try to give the customers what they want, or a little bit more than what they want," Foley said. "As far as plaques go, we try to go for an original plaque and use their ideas, and then make them better."

Foley was working at the Installation Pass Office in Hanau, and one day when he struck up a conversation about his interest in graphic design, he was directed to the Arts and Craft Center. He was shown to the laser engraver, and the director asked if he knew anything about it.

"I just said, 'No, but I'd love to learn!'" Foley said.

After moving to Heidelberg, he was shown another engraving machine and told if he could get it up and running, he had a job. He called the engraving machine's parent company and explained his situation. The company sent him instructional books, magazines and information about the machine.

Four years later, he's still here.

Foley said as ex-Navy, he feels very connected to the community here and wants to put forth the extra effort for each project ordered.

"They're not just customers, they're friends," he said.

When ordering something from the engraving shop, people can expect "that their project is the most important to me," he said. "Everybody's different; everybody's got their own desire for what they want to get done. They want that attention. I think it's the extra attention to detail -- that's what we can contribute."

Popular items vary, Foley said. He thinks the most popular items now are clocks, which include wooden clocks fabricated from the wood shop adjacent to the engraving room.

Foley's personal favorite, however, is working on glass.

"I haven't really touched the surface yet of what we can do there," he said.

New Arts and Crafts Center Director Jen Bieser has been impressed with Foley so far.

"He takes each piece as a form of art," she said. "He'll do these artworks that he spends hours on. It's really a craftsmanship that he does. He does take every project as if it were his last. He looks at everything. He's an amazing talent."

Bieser came to Heidelberg six weeks ago from what is now the U.S. Army Garrison Brussels in Belgium. With a mixed background including theater, she left the States about 11 years ago to become a writer. She lived all throughout Europe and fell in love with art history. Getting her degree in studio arts through the University of Maryland at Heidelberg a few years ago, she now has big plans for the Arts and Crafts Center.

Currently located on Patton Barracks, the center is moving in December and hopes to re-open in January on Patrick Henry Village. The goal is to create an arts and cultural center there.

"We're changing the paradigm and getting away from the typical beads-and-strings that the Army has had for decades, and we're now doing wine tasting, poetry slams, international independent film nights once a month, and then bi-monthly art exhibits," Bieser said. "We are bringing in jazz concerts and just a bunch of different aspects of the arts. We also plan on getting a 'friends of the art center' group together where we can do outings."

Until then, the center continues to offer classes for all ages on a regular basis, including knitting, quilting, drawing, water colors and crocheting, among others.

As for the spaceship and beer stein base, those projects may stick out most in Foley's memory, but he's always ready to try new projects with customers.

"I think when people see the personal attention, that they're not just a name and a number, that they come back," Foley said.

(Kristen Marquez works for the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg Public Affairs Office.)

Page last updated Thu October 2nd, 2008 at 03:51