If you ever find yourself in need of a gorge little sense of Ireland then look no further than Allanah Calvert's illustrations. Now, we're not talking old cottages on green hills or sunset views of small town churches. Allanah's work fuses the best of Irish pop culture, traditional favourites and all with a humorous nod to Irish aesthetics. From pints of Beamish to Swizzles love hearts to Billy Rolls and jelly shoes, this is Ireland for the Instagram age.


Allanah, who is also the creative behind the acclaimed ‘I’m Grand Mam’ podcast artwork, spoke to us about her  budding career and where it is headed, how her Corkonian roots show up throughout her work and about life as a creative during the pandemic.

So let’s set the scene a little bit, where are you right now?

Right now, I’m sitting in my room at my workspace (my current studio), where I’ve been sat for probably 80% of the time since last March.


Where did you get your start as an artist?

So I studied visual communications in college and began working with a creative agency as soon as I graduated, since then I branched off on my own and now work as a freelancer mostly in illustration.


Can you remember an early specific moment or piece of work that inspired you to pursue a career as a designer?

I don’t think I can pinpoint an exact moment, but I think I knew from a very young age that it was something I wanted to do when I was older. I remember I was obsessed with Jacqueline Wilson books that were illustrated by Nick Sharratt. I was always doodling in school copies and remember writing my own (not so good) stories just to spend hours creating illustrations to go along with them.

So here comes the dreaded question that we are all sick of answering at this stage, as we all know, this past year and a bit has been especially hard on working creative’s like yourself, what is one negative and one positive you have found concerning your work during the pandemic?

I suppose the one negative that has impacted me most has been the fact that as a digital artist I rely on my work to be printed, my printers has been closed on and off during the lockdowns so it’s been hard to get work ready to sell. But I have to say that there have been so many positives. While I found myself completely unmotivated at times I’ve also had so much extra time to create work for myself and plan for future projects. I’ve also been busy finishing professional masters in education to become an art teacher so, to be honest it hasn’t been a bad year to get that done as there haven’t been many social distractions.

We love the illustrations that you did for the ‘I’m Grand Mam’, podcast, how did that come about?


To make a long story short, I met Kevin on a night out around Christmas time, just a few months before they started the podcast, we had kept in contact over a few work-related things where I was introduced to PJ and soon after they asked if I would design the logo for I’m Grand Mam. It has honestly been one of my favourite projects that I have worked on, Kevin and PJ are so fab and easy to work with. If you haven’t listened yet, get on it!

We love the fact that even on first look, your artwork is so uniquely Irish, is that important to you? 

Of course, but I think it just comes kind of naturally. I’m always inspired by what’s around me and we have such a rich culture here, I think the Irish culture makes its way into my work often without even thinking about it much.


What is your dream illustration gig?

I’d love to collaborate with a clothing/textile brand sometime. I’ve always loved fashion and was torn between studying fashion or graphic design before beginning college but turned out I didn’t have the patience for the sewing machine. So to have my illustration work printed on an outfit someday would be pretty cool.


After a tough year or two for the arts it's incredibly important that artists are supported, how can people support you?

Ya! It’s been such a tough year, but I think this year has also highlighted the importance of the arts. As for me, I’m hoping to have my online shop up and running again by June (fingers crossed) where I’ll have several prints available which I’ll advertise on my Instagram.  I’m also just after finishing up my studies so I’ll be opening up for commissions again this summer. The easiest and best support right now I think for a lot of creatives and small businesses is simply showing support through the good old ‘like, share and comment’. I’ve seen my followers and interest in my work grow so much over the last fourteen months from people simply sharing my work in their stories/retweeting.


For more on Allanah Calvert visit their Instagram