PEOPLE WILL TRY TO PUSH YOU DOWN A CONVENTIONAL PATH BUT ALWAYS TRUST YOURSELF OVER EVERYTHING ELSE.
Tucked away in a Belfast workshop, surrounded by pieces of scrap metal and electronics, one of the country’s most up-and-coming design talents is building a robotic glove for a client in America.
This might sound unusual to some but to Ciaran Larkin, it’s his norm. From a young age the inventor and designer behind maderealdesign.com knew he had a talent that was different to his friends. While most children his age were playing football or climbing trees, Ciaran was taking things apart, discovering how they worked and re-building them to give them a brand new purpose, bigger and better than they had before.
Aged nine, Ciaran built a super hero mask from a shoebox. By the time he was 14, he was building Halloween costumes, inspired by blockbuster movies out of simple scrap metal. However, Ciaran would be in his twenties before he discovered his true calling.
Despite graduating with a degree in Electronic Engineering from Queen’s University in Belfast, Ciaran struggled to find his place. He was an engineer on paper, but an artist at heart. He could make cool things and had a bucket load of ideas, but there wasn’t a clear career path for him to follow. All he knew was that he wanted to invent.
Nobody had gone before him that he could call on for advice and despite searching, Ciaran couldn’t find a role that allowed him to apply both his creative genius and technical knowledge. Between jobs chopping onions in a local kitchen and working at a checkout in the supermarket, Ciaran was using any spare time he had to work with scrap materials to create side projects just for fun. Just for fun wasn’t enough for him though. He craved more. He knew he had the raw talent and a passion to make it.
In 2011, Ciaran decided to turn his passion for creating things into a business, finally discovering a career path he could follow. Back then, props, costumes and personalised gift items were all in a day’s work. He continued on this path for four more years, with projects increasing in scale year on year. By now, most would have thought he was living the dream. But something wasn’t right – putting all his time into commission work meant Ciaran’s own creative ideas and prototypes were sitting on the shelves collecting dust.
Ciaran trusted his vision and set about becoming the master of his own destiny. In 2015 he made the brave move to end his commission work and choose the far riskier option of finding a market for his own inventions. Calling on his nerves of steel and a tremendous amount of self-belief, Ciaran was finally able to invent what he wanted and pitch to exactly who he wanted.
Later that year, full of determination, Ciaran attended The Inventor’s Workshop in England where he pitched his invention ideas to a room full of top executives and was snapped up by American company Hasbro. That one pitch essentially changed his life and since then, Ciaran has been splitting his time between his home in Belfast and the US working on top secret projects for the legendary company.
Now, Ciaran’s day to day is working on his own concepts and inventions, inspired by some of his favourite movies. Rather than relying on computers, Ciaran builds his masterpieces the old-fashioned way. He uses hammers and Dremel tools to build his creations, often becoming so absorbed in his projects that he will work through the night, and for days at a time to realise one single concept.
“It’s incredible that doing something I love that comes so naturally to me has led to this incredible life”, says Ciaran. “Two years ago, I was standing in front of a panel of executives pitching my ideas and then last year, I was invited back as the event’s keynote speaker to inspire other inventors and creators. But of course, it hasn’t been easy.
“I put my parents through years of torment. I’d be locked in my room or in the garage for days, their house would be destroyed and covered in spray paint. Now, I can show them it was all for a purpose. That’s what makes it all worthwhile. That and my unrelenting obsession for what I do.”
To others out there who have a burning passion to #AnswerTheCall, Ciaran says, “People will try to push you down a conventional path but always trust yourself over everything else. If you want to do something unique and a bit different to the norm, you have to be prepared to work hard,” Ciaran stresses. “When you feel like you can’t go on anymore, keep going. That’s what makes the difference between making it and giving up.”
Bushmills has partnered with Ciaran to host ‘Whiskey and Invention’ at The Menagerie in Belfast on Thursday 28th September. The event will allow attendees to hear about Ciaran’s incredible entrepreneurial journey and offer the opportunity to create new and interesting whiskey-inspired products in an extreme upcycling workshop, with the help of Ciaran’s materials, tools and genius.
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