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13 June 2020

“Creativity’s all about making interesting connections…”


Ailbhe Keane of Izzy Wheels gives us the lowdown on her creative inspiration in our Creative Q&A.

A winning combination of creative design, inclusivity and self-expression, Irish brand Izzy Wheels are challenging negative associations with wheelchairs, one wheel cover at a time.

Founded by sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane, the pair saw a unique way to enable wheelchair users’ personalities to shine by devising a range of stylish waterproof wheel covers. Inspired by Izzy, who was born with Spina Bifida and is a wheelchair user, and how growing up she enjoyed expressing herself by decorating her wheels; what started as a college project for NCAD graduate Ailbhe soon spun into a fledgling business.

Teaming up with a host of impressive artists, designers and illustrators – Helen Steele, Maser, Steve Simpson and Orla Kiely – to name but a few, Izzy Wheels’ empowering and creative ethos is something to be admired.

We caught up with Ailbhe to find out more about her approach to creativity and its role in her life and work.

What’s your earliest memory of creativity or creative accomplishment?

I have always found great enjoyment in drawing and making. I could spend hours in my room drawing pictures and showing them to my mum and dad. My earliest memory of creative accomplishment was getting to the finals of the Esso Wildlife Competition when I was 10. I got to take my teacher and five of my friends to Dublin for the finals. We got the train up from Galway and I remember thinking it was the most ridiculously exciting day of my life!

What advice would you give young people to encourage their creativity?

Have a scrapbook. Collect random things that you like and stick them in. Doodle ideas and make little notes to yourself. I have always kept scrapbooks and whenever I look back at them years later, I am filled with ideas and inspiration. Creativity is all about making interesting connections between things that you’ve seen or experienced.

What’s the most important part of your creative process?

If I’m working on a new idea or brief I like to go for a walk by myself. I find inspiration just walking around and taking in the world. I don’t think it’s a good idea to just go on the internet and find inspiration in another designer’s work, if you do that then your work and ideas will never be unique. I begin my creative process by thinking about conversations I’ve had with friends, books, dreams, and art.

Who is your creative hero and why?

I believe you can learn something creative from every person you meet. Some people off the top of my head would be Yayoi Kusama, Salvador Dalí, Gaudí, Okudart, Camille Walala, and Andy Dixon.

Finish the sentence, ‘creativity is…’

Creativity is being able to create something that is emotionally engaging, concept-driven, thought-provoking and looks beautiful.

Find out how you can unleash your inner creative, check out what’s happening near you for Cruinniú na nÓg