If the hat fits...wear it!

Hat maker and energy practitioner, Sana Ibister tells CHRIS DUNNE about the lure of West Cork, searching for a new start and the best achievement of her life to-date
If the hat fits...wear it!
One of Sanna's stunning creations. Pictures: Kate Bean Photography

WHEN Sanna Ibister came to Glegarriff, West Cork, from her home in the Shetland Islands, she not only found her second home; she found her true spiritual self.

“When I came here on holidays, I immediately felt at home here,” recalls Sanna, who describes herself as ageless.

“My inner journey began here, giving me great joy in my spiritual life. Coming to Ireland helped me understand myself and who I really am,” says Sanna, who is a Magdalena Energy Practitioner and who studied under her holiness, Sai Maa, an internationally renowned healer and spiritual master.

“Becoming a Magdalena Energy Practitioner is probably the biggest achievement of my life,” says Sanna.

She shares her knowledge of meditation, including breathing techniques, chanting, and energy flow exercises, in the cosy haven upstairs in the shop.

“I learned how to connect to my heart more and more,” says Sanna.

“To heal the wounds and to connect to the inner being within me.”

Hats by Sanna Isbister. Pictures: Kate Bean Photography
Hats by Sanna Isbister. Pictures: Kate Bean Photography

Her creativity shone through in the heart of the landscape of Glengarriff. When Sanna was at a crossroads in her life, a sixth sense led to her to her own piece of paradise to the place where the mountains meet the sea. The bay, Glen Eden, is renowned for its swimming beach.

“Personal things that happened in my life, including two broken relationships, made me look for a fresh start,” says Sanna.

“In 2004, my ‘known world’ fell apart and in the spirit of a true bohemian, I embraced an inner journey to know myself in a more profound way.

“A call of the heart, led me to West Cork, another mystical land where my roots run deep and are nourished by the raw, untamed beauty of this land.”

Sanna owns the hat shop, Shine, which is perched proudly on a neat corner, prettying up the main street of the town.

“As a creator, I love to make things,” says Sanna, whose pet dog, Pootle, has a vantage point under the counter, ears pricked for the hum of the sewing machine.

“I stitch, colour, shape, paint, cut, knot, twist, embellish, weave and knit the threads of my dreams and inspiration into physical forms,” says Sanna.

“My spirituality is the foundation of what I do.”

She lives and breathes her craft.

“I play with the traditional crafts in innovative and exciting ways and dare to break through existing formats, exploring the relationships between the mediums, often with quite quirky results.

“In moments of pure inspiration, passion exists, and this passion is the driving force which motivates me to create.”

Sanna creates Irish artisan hats and caps with a bohemian flavour, made with a variety of fabrics, yarns, beads and feathers.

“Putting on a different hat can quite literally affect the way we feel and how we present ourselves,” says Sanna.

“The hat, worn so near the face, can influence how we participate and interact in our own personal worlds from day to day.

Hats by Sanna Isbister Pictures: Kate Bean Photography
Hats by Sanna Isbister Pictures: Kate Bean Photography

“Everybody has an inner beauty inside themselves. I try and bring that out.”

Sanna shows me a selection of hats, bursting to the brimful with appeal that demonstrates great attention to design, detail and quality.

What motivated Sanna to set up shop in Glengarriff, far away from the remote Shetland Islands on the fringe of the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea?

“As a young woman I received a BSc in Sports Science and Physical education from Loughborough University, England,” she says.

“I then returned to college in Shetland a few years after to study Design and Manufacture of Knitted Textiles at Shetland College of FE. Sports Science wasn’t for me.”

Sanna had already got a handle on knitting.

“Both my grandmothers were keen knitters,” says Sanna. “One grandmother knitted fair-isle, the other granny did open work and she knitted baby shawls. My mother taught me to sew.

“The course I chose at Shetland College was like a second nature and a homecoming,” says Sanna.

“I had fabulous teachers and the use of amazing sewing machines. It was a great training ground for me. I could experiment with many techniques and every bride was unique, wearing a creation to match her personality.”

This was a highly creative period in Sanna’s life.

“On leaving college, in my mid-twenties, I set up as a textile designer, specialising in bespoke knitted garments and wedding dresses. I had a free rein and I developed a big customer base.”

Her personal life floundered.

“My brothers were living in Sligo,” says Sanna, recalling her first experience with Ireland.

“I visited them and a pal of mine came with me too. We visited West Cork and I felt that it was the place for me. It was just like home, but different. It felt very open and free. The ‘feel’ of West Cork and Glengarriff resonated with me.”

One door closed and another door opened.

“My spiritual path opened up,” says Sanna. “I was interested in meditation and I attended spiritual workshops facilitated by Sia Maa, a spiritual teacher. I travelled to Europe and to the USA to meet her,” says Sanna.

“I learned techniques and the tools to connect to my heart and heart-centred awareness. Often, we are conditioned to live in a fear-based state that closes down the heart. It is a conditioned fight or flight situation. I began to learn how to operate in life and how to use techniques to heal myself.”

Sanna trained with Sia Maa and successfully became a Magdalena Energy Practitioner herself, offering space in Shine to show others meditation techniques that may help them.

“Transformational energy can be on all levels of our being,” says Sanna.

“Step by step, we can discover and cultivate the love, wisdom and radiance within our hearts.”

Sanna soon discovered that she loved West Cork.

“When I walk in the woods or beside the river, I feel that I am connected to nature,” she says. “When I opened Shine in 2016, it was something I dared only to dream about. It happened and it was amazing.”

Where does the inspiration come from to make her fabulous hats?

“I gather the fabrics, some that I upcycle, and I know what works well,” says Sanna. “I let the hat make itself.”

She shows me a colourful trilby.

“It suits you,” she says.

And if the cap fits, wear it.

You will find Shine at Monteensudder, Glengarrif.


Stylist: Alice Halliday Couture Photographer: Kate Bean Photography, Hair & Makeup: Rosa Ospina, Models: Ana Lucia Ospina (Vogue Model), Ricky Hindmarsh and Sonia Thompson.

Clothes & Accessories: Alice Halliday Couture, Liberty &

Jasmine Vintage Boutique, On the Verge, Hummingbird Jewellery, Celtic Fusion Designs.

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