Today we are talking with New England based artist and blogger Danielle Driscoll, an inspiring and creative entrepreneur we think you’ll love. If you are a New Englander, chances are you already follow her on Instagram, or read her blog, maybe you even own some of her art. If not yet, here is your chance to meet this beautiful soul and artist.
It was a pleasure to speak with Danielle and learn about herself and her journey. Our conversation was full of valuable information, especially for those of you with a creative voice, (and if you are reading this, you already are one), who are thinking to start create, market, and monetize your passions. And of course, what else Danielle, us, and you have in common is our love for New England, which came up quite a few times during our interview, so read through until the end.
Hi Danielle! Thanks for taking the time to do this. First, can you take us back to 2011 and share how your blog came to life? What made you start a blog, why did you name it Finding Silver Pennies, and how did it all come together?
Thank you so much for having me on Bicoastal Digest. I’m really excited about our chat!
I started my blog when my boys were still really little – ages 5 and nearly 2. I just really needed a creative outlet, and could never have imagined the creativity my blog would open up inside of me. I named it Finding Silver Pennies after a 1920s poetry book my mom gave me when I was little. In the book, you needed a silver penny to get into fairyland.
If you go back and look, my first blog posts were horrible – it was more like a journal. The photography was bad with awful filters. The writing was okay but I wrote a post every single day for the first year. I would share stories about our family, our coastal life, and recipes. Really anything we were doing I’d share on the blog.
We were living in our first home at the time and shortly after starting the blog I discovered Chalk Paint® and I started painting furniture and sharing the tutorials on the blog. I’d love to find unloved treasures and redo them.
When (and how) did you find your creative side?
I grew up pretty much an only child. I have half-sisters who are about 10 years older than me but we didn’t grow up in the same house. So from a very young age, I’d play make-believe, I loved the idea of fairies and would go and gather things in the woods near my childhood home.
In school, I loved theater and dance and my creative side came out that way. In fact, for a long time, I thought I wanted to be an actress. I did my masters in Film and Television Production in Bristol, England, and got really interested in the process behind the camera and design. In college, I started creating collages on the walls from things I’d rip out of magazines or art postcards.
Then this creative side stopped once I began “real life” with a job and then kids.
I realized I needed to pursue something creative for myself. Back in 2011, writing and trying new things opened up so much creativity inside. I truly believe we are all creative. Every single one of us is, and it’s only a matter of tapping into that creativity. Through the blog, I discovered a love for writing, creating faux finishes, DIY, interior design, styling, photography, and watercolor.
How did your creativity evolve through the years? And at the same time, how did the blog evolve in conjunction with your creative journey?
Hmmmm, I think I’m a curious person by nature. I love learning new things and trying techniques and different crafts. I don’t really paint furniture to sell anymore now I’m more focused on my watercolors and surface pattern design. The blog is constantly evolving to share what I’m interested in but people will always find coastal ideas and decor at the heart of it.
When and how did you start creating your first product, and what product was that? (here you can go into details if you wish, anything you wanna say… I’m sure it’s very interesting and a beautiful, inspiring story for others)
Well, I guess my first product was really my blog but when I started it I didn’t really realize I was creating a “brand” I was just sharing our life and our coastal home and all the things I love.
When I first started the blog I tried an Etsy shop, I tried doing antique shows, I tried having a booth in an antique mall. There have been lots of tries and errors, but I keep going, kept exploring new things that make my heart sing. I really really love painting and writing and styling.
So I think my first product once we opened our online shop was the Scituate Lighthouse note cards and the World Is Your Oyster note cards. These are still very popular, but now we have over 48 cards, lots of notepads, and a whole range of other lines.
Where do you sell your products?
I share an online shop with my teenage son, John, his company is called Ink Harbour Illustrations which he launched when he was 14. We sell our products online. The environment is very important to us, so we try to use eco-friendly packaging and printing whenever possible. We also donate a portion of every sale to the World Wildlife Fund.
In addition to that, we also do markets and shows. I’m planning an Open Studio this June in our yard. So far this year we will be at the Christmas in July at the Scituate Yacht Club on July 24th and the SHORE Craft Fair on November 11th, but we’ll be adding more as the year goes on.
I love working with small retail shops and our products are in a bunch of stores on the South Shore, Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, New Hampshire, and Maine. I just started working with FAIRE to expand our wholesale.
I also sell my surface patterns on Spoonflower.
How do you market your products? Any marketing, or advertising tips you’d like to share, besides of course social media?
Well, I love connecting with readers on Instagram, especially in stories. I try to share the process of painting and making my art and I love watching other people create. To me, watching watercolor paint mingle across the page is mesmerizing. But there are times when I just have to paint and not worry about capturing the process, too.
I think people like to hear the story of your work. All my watercolors have a special meaning and a reason I painted them. I try to share that in my captions on my shop or when I meet people in person. I think people also like to get to know who you really are as a person. The way I am online is the way I am at home with my family.
Pinterest is a very visual platform and I get a lot of traffic from there to my shop and to my website.
Another thing I’d suggest to people about marketing products is the importance of SEO – it’s really important to name your images with what they are, to give Alt Text on images on your site or shop pages, and to also think about what people might be searching for. I know this all sounds maybe boring or technical but it’s important if you want your work to be discovered online. When Google searches your online shop page or site it needs to know what it’s searching for.
You’ve been featured in some amazing platforms, like Better Homes & Gardens, Woodcraft Magazine, Daily Mail, Country Sampler, Apartment Therapy, The Boston Globe, Country Living, and more.Congratulations! That’s fascinating! Could you share with our readers how did you land all these features? Did you use a PR agency, or are you your own publicist?
I am so grateful to be featured in these publications. Last year I was featured in South Shore Home Life & Style and this year we were just featured in Yankee Magazine’s Open Studio for the January / February Issue. It was very meaningful to be featured alongside my son.
The features have all happened in various ways. The first feature was in Better Homes and Gardens “I Did It” section. I’d written to them to see if they wanted to feature any of my painted furniture projects. They loved a Chalkboard Table I did for my kids. It was bright green and Conor even helped me paint it. The crew came to shoot during a blizzard. I couldn’t believe how much work went into that one shot. Being featured was really a dream come true for me!
The other features were people reaching out to me because of Instagram or the blog or something they saw on Pinterest. Our She Shed got a lot of publicity and it was just featured in Ikea’s Magazine.
Our most recent feature in Yankee Magazine came out of a meeting I had at New England Coastal Creative Conference last March. I met Kate Hathaway Weeks and wrote her an email pitching our home and my studio. I am a New Englander, so being featured in a magazine synonymous with the place I call home and love so much truly is a dream come true. It means even more that John’s work is highlighted too.
Annie Graves wrote such a heartfelt piece. She really seemed to understand my connection to Scituate, my old home, and my family. She wrote, “…the other inspiration for Driscoll resides not down the street where masts bob in the harbor and seagulls hunker on salt-soaked piers – it’s right here, at home.” Joe Keller spent a day photographing our work and our studio which is our sunroom.
What are you working on at the moment? Any fun projects you could share?
I’m working on lots of things right now:
- We’re planning our new patio and garden.
- I’m working on a new line of patterns for fabric and wallpaper inspired by Cornwall, England where my husband is from.
- I’m starting to brainstorm ideas for my watercolor calendar which will be printed later this summer in time for the holidays.
- I always just love painting to create so often you can find me in the sunroom just painting.
- And by the way, I just launched our summer collection!
What inspires you?
I am so inspired by the ocean and Scituate Harbor. Every morning we start the day walking our dogs along the water and the smell of that salt air, the sound of the tide and the colors – the grays, tans, and, of course, beautiful blues all inspire me so much. The ocean energizes and calms me. I love painting coastal things. I’m also really inspired by nature. I love all the flowers in our yard and the birds who visit and live in our yard. We just had a cardinal family have babies and sparrows have babies, too. I love watching them in our yard.
What’s next for you and Finding Silver Pennies?
This year it’s my goal to expand our wholesale and I would love to license my patterns and artwork to bigger brands. I’m working on my portfolio to start pitching.
For me, more than anything I’m excited to see my boys who are now, 17 and 13, growing into men and following their passions. Painting and creating make me so happy and I plan to continue doing that.
BONUS question: since New England is such an integral part of Bicoastal Digest, and you’re a real New Englander all the way through, could you please share with our readers your favorite places in the region?
Scituate – I, of course, have to say our town. Scituate is truly a magical place on Boston’s South Shore. We are so grateful to be raising a family here in a 1927 Dutch colonial. Some things I love about our town – 7 gorgeous beaches, cedar-shingled homes, lovely shops and restaurants, sailing around the harbor, strolling the beach searching for sea glass, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Luminaria and Heritage Days, and Lucky Finn decorated in flowers for Mother’s Day. The Scituate community really supports each other in celebrations and also in harsh weather. We feel really lucky to call this town home.
Cohasset – is right next door to Scituate and has the prettiest green with all the houses in white. They filmed Witches of Eastwick here. Cohasset has such a pretty village and a lovely organic farm – Holly Hill.
Hingham – Close to Scituate but closer to Boston. Main Street is gorgeous. Eleanor Roosevelt said that it was the prettiest street in all of America. Downtown Hingham has lovely shops and restaurants and a great Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
Boston – probably my favorite city! It brings back so many wonderful memories of my childhood visiting Boston. I love that it’s a very walkable city. Some of my favorites include – the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, pizza and cannolis in the North End, Picnics on Rose Kennedy Greenway, The Swan Boats in the Public Garden, and strolling Beacon Hill.
Newport, RI – there is so much to do and see in Newport. We love visiting the mansions and the Cliff Walk.
Bristol, RI – this coastal town is so pretty and I love Blithewold Mansions, Gardens, and Arboretum. The gardens and home are gorgeous.
Bath, Maine – We discovered Bath, Maine right after the Pandemic, our first trip with our kids after COVID. We loved the ship building history and getting to see ships that are still being built. Mae’s for breakfast is a must! Also, we love the Kitchen shop. Popham Beach is amazing too and not too far a drive from here. At low tide you can walk out to an island – we found so many sand dollars.
Martha’s Vineyard – I lived on the Vineyard one summer in college and loved it. I think this is where my love for New England coastal style originated. I did an actors’ workshop there and worked at the Black Dog Café. It’s a beautiful island and each town has a different feel. I love the smell of the beach roses on the island.
Nantucket – this island has grown in popularity since I was young. My parents actually honeymooned here in the 70s when it was still very quaint. I have fond memories of staying with my family in a ship captain’s home which is now a B&B. I love the cobbled streets and great shops. It really is such a beautiful place.
Thank you so much again for chatting with me! Reflecting over the last 12 years and sharing my story with you was so much fun!
Learn more about Danielle and her work by visiting the links bellow:
- Website: https://www.findingsilverpennies.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ddsilverpennies/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/findingsilverpennies/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDSilverPennies
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCek08yl3dBNKBHjguVGqb9Q