🧚Welcome to the bold, colourful, faerie world of Choirstaidh Iona Nicartair. The queer, gaelic-speaking visual artist, designer, and content creator with ADHD and the newest edition to our studio space. We are BUZZING to have her.
Her recent merchandise launch – the ‘Bragail’ collection is a celebration of the cheek it takes to keep a language and culture alive through generations of repression. ‘Bragail’ translates to brazen, and is often used in a derogatory way, especially against young women. Very Cool Very Punk!
Hiya Pal! Sooo happy to have you here in the studio!
Hello icons!! So happy to be with yous!!
How has it been going so far and what made you take the leap to going 100% freelance?!
It’s been soo lovely, I’m still getting organised but the vibes are immaculate in the studio and I’m feeling so inspired!! I was coming to the end of my time at the Gaelic media company I worked for after a really amazing two years, and I felt like it was time!
I’ve been taking on commissions and doing art collabs since I was a teenager, but I never had the time to dedicate to bigger, meatier projects and I always felt a wee bit like I was looking out the window wondering when I would be able to be the artist I’ve wanted to be, but I’ve had so much support and encouragement and so many wild opportunities recently that I thought it was time to stop being a sh!tebag and make it happen!!
You were recently awarded as the Young Gaelic Ambassador of the Year which is incredible. What factors got you to this amazing achievement!?
That’s honestly a great question, my life has changed so much and so quickly since 2020 that I’m still sort of scratching my head about it!! When the pandemic hit I was furloughed from a waitressing job that I hated, and having the time to work on my art in a dedicated way without having to work mad hours in hospo meant I could be more dedicated about turning some of my art into content on Insta. I also had the time to go about getting an ADHD diagnosis and getting myself into therapy, which totally changed my outlook and gave me my sparkle back that I think got dulled a lot from being burnt out and chaotic for years.
Some of the stuff I was making caught the attention of MG ALBA who asked me to make some videos for a web series they were producing about Gaels in lockdown called ‘A-Staigh’ (Inside) These bits then caught the attention of someone at CBBC ALBA and I ended up researching for and starring in my own kids’ Gaelic Art show.
When things were opening up again, I couldn’t face going back to being the saddest, hungriest, most over-worked waitress in Glasgow, or back to dreaming about being a full time artist, so I impulsively applied for a job at MG ALBA working in co-production, which felt like an interesting stepping stone since I was making my own content and using my Gaelic more. I’ve never had a job where daily people tell you how talented and good and promising you are, and I think they created a bit of a monster by giving me so much love!!
I’ve been talking about (read: oversharing about) my ADHD, my art, and general life stuff on Tiktok incessantly since early 2021 on my wee bilingual account @choirstaidhiona.jpeg, and it turns out that being a bit much and not knowing how to be quiet paid off when I got that award!!
You’ve been creating for a long time and spreading the word of Gaelic culture and tradition. What’s your favourite piece that you’ve created so far and why?!
I recently finished a commission for my friend Josie Duncan’s debut solo album, and I’m so so proud of it!! She’s a Scottish musician who sings in Gaelic and English, and we worked together to make the most obnoxiously pink and sparkly and also a bit moody artwork to match her sound for this record. It was a lot of work but her launch event is coming up next month and I think I will literally cry when I see my drawings on CDs and posters!!
You’ve got a big following on TikTok and we love to see it. Was it a gradual process to get such a large and engaging audience or did you find that people were quick to relate to your content?!
It was quite sudden, I’ve only been on there since about May/June 2021, but as soon as you bring up Gaelic there’s a big group of people who are really hungry to know more!! We’re pretty starved of places to organically find people just faffing about and chatting casually in Gaelic, which makes Tiktok especially a really exciting place to be creating just now!
I work over a few niches that definitely helps with connecting to my audience, if they’re not there for the Gaelic it’s the gender chat or the ADHD stuff or my art!
There’s a lovely wee community of Gaels from all over the world just hanging out in my comments and I’m really lucky to have made some pals and got some work from it all.
watch Kerry from @Wild & Kind be an absolute genius and set up the embroidery machines to make some orders!! #embroidery #smallbusiness #gaelic #scottishgaelic #gaelictiktok♬ original sound - 🌸 choirstaidh ✨ she/they 🌿
Do you have anything else in the pipeline at all you can tell us about or are you keeping things under wraps now?!
My pipelines are Druzhba-sized because I cannot stop coming up with new projects, I’m so excited!! I’m going to be making more Fae-themed garments for my wee ‘Faerieproofed’ collection, adding to my ‘Bragail’ range, working on my website to add a wee blog feature for interviews and features of other Gaelic creators, making some riso prints now that I’m based in the studio with you guys and I can get my wee print shop up and running on my website too, all sorts! The main challenge is not doing everything all at once out of excitement (we love ADHD!!)
If you’ve got one song on repeat at the moment that is inspiring you….what is it?
Peach PRC is one of my favourite artists just now, and she’s just released a song called ‘Forever Drunk’ that I’ve had blaring at full volume any minute I can, it’s so good. Sad lyrics about unhealthy coping mechanisms mixed with a bubblegum pop sound and stunning visuals that she creates herself, unreal. I’m manifesting one day making some visuals for her, it’s top of the vision board!!