30 Under 30: Eilidh Earle-Mitchell

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Eilidh Earle-Mitchell, 21, from Fortrose on the Black Isle, lives in Aberdeen

Eilidh is the Studio Manager at Aberdeen’s digital fabrication studio – MAKE.

Eilidh studied Three-Dimensional Design at Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) Gray’s School of Art, and she always knew she was interested in combining new technologies and crafts-based skills. At the same time, she’s always had this urge to help other people fueled by her own health struggles.

When she was six, she was diagnosed with scoliosis, and by the time she was eleven the back brace (basically a plastic corset, and not of the Kim Kardashian type) she had to wear 23 hours a day stopped working. As a result of that she had to undergo a spinal surgery, during which her spine was fused with titanium and bones from her hip (bit superhero-like if you ask us!). Her spine does not bend at all, so some everyday activities became quite challenging.

Then one day when Eilidh was already studying in Aberdeen her left knee swelled up, then her right knee, then her left elbow – basically all joints in her body tripled in size with fluid.  After missing a quarter of her final year at RGU and being misdiagnosed with Lyme’s disease, she was finally diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, which is a type of arthritis that affects the spine, but since she doesn’t have a normal spine, it attacks the rest of the joints in her body. Did she complain about having two conditions affecting her spine and joints? Not at all! Instead this harrowing experience and hours spend in hospitals inspired her to look into researching prosthetics and orthotics.

And it all came together almost magically when, during a family holiday in Canada, she bumped into her cousin’s friend – a prosthetics designer. Fast forward 6 months, and she was doing a 5-month placement in Canada helping to design and 3D print prosthetics for third world countries.

Back in Aberdeen she continued her research on 3D printing and prosthetics, and she developed a silicone and spring steel casing that goes over a prosthetic arm. The material feels like skin, meaning that a prosthetic limb encased in it feels more like a real arm, not just an inanimate object. This in turn has real potential to help sufferers of phantom limb disorder (a painful sensation that an amputated limb is still attached).

But the project also had a different, more aesthetic, side to it, as the casing can be personalised – what Eilidh calls ‘pimping up your prosthetic’. In her own words: ‘If you have a different pair of shoes for every outfit why can’t you have a different prosthetic casing for every outfit?’. Preach!

Eilidh recognised that wearing a prosthetic limb could feel really alienating, and she wanted to do something to challenge that. She continues to work on her project in her new role as Studio Manager at Aberdeen’s digital fabrication studio – MAKE, and she also loves helping other students to develop their projects. All we can say is WOW!


What’s your proudest achievement?

Receiving a First Class degree in an area of design, which is close to my heart, and an area that I want to make a difference in.

What women inspire you?

Bethany Hamilton – Bethany inspires me because she has the determination to be successful even though due to her amputations life has been made much more difficult and challenging. She inspires me to power through my arthritis and to be the best I can be.

Evie Kellett – I met Evie the day she was born in 2007. Evie was the most amazing baby and is still today one of the happiest kids I have ever met. She is not fazed by anything and has a heart of gold and a smile of pure happiness. When I was struggling as a teenager with my health and when I still do to this day, I think of Evie and how much she inspires me to be a happy and positive person. Evie may only be 10 but I couldn’t imagine a world without her.

What change would you like to see for girls and young women in Scotland in next 10 years?

I hope that young women burst the social media bubble and realise it fills our heads with anxiety and doubt in ourselves. I hope young women become more at one with their bodies and find a way to live in the present moment.

What 3 women (past or present, real or fictional) would you invite to your dream dinner party/picnic?

I would invite my Gran Flora Mackinnon because she was an amazing writer and filled the room with happiness.

I would also invite Katie Morag as she was my favorite storybook to read when I was young and I related to her as a child.

My third and final invite would go to Emma Watson because I admire her greatly for her support for other women.

What would your message be for girls and young women in Scotland?

Sometimes in life things go wrong before they go right. Be positive and live in the moment. Happiness is everything.


Pictures courtesy of Eilidh Earle-Mitchell

You can see the full list of our amazing 30 Under 30 2017 finalists here, and keep a look out on the blog as we feature  a different finalist every day throughout November.

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