JWithout the unwavering support of her family and friends, Daniella Harrilal would not have had the courage to pursue her life-long obsession – art.
The 24-year-old now has her own business creating hand-crafted greeting cards, signs and cake toppers for any occasion.
Blooming by Dani debuted on July 1, 2021 when she first posted her work on Instagram.
Her cards are hand-drawn or -painted with watercolour and includes quilling – shaping and rolling strips of cardboard to make designs that raise off the cards to them give a 3D effect. She uses the white space to balance the designs.
She works by commissions only.
Harrilal has loved art for as long as she can remember.
Her earliest memory of this love was telling her second year teacher and her parents she wanted to be an artist when she grew up.
But her father warned her that some people in TT do not appreciate art and that artists usually do not make enough money to sustain themselves.
“My dad knew that being an artist in the Caribbean is a non-conventional career. He is the type of person that would rather tell me the truth, despite my age at the time, for my benefit than dote on me when he knows that in the future it may become difficult for me if that was the only path I pursued.
“Some people might disagree but I'm grateful that he told me the reality of things and didn't beat around the bush because, as I grew older, I understood exactly what he meant.”
Still, throughout secondary school, while taking notes in her science classes, she wished she could have been drawing instead.
Her art teacher at Gasparillo Secondary School noticed her affinity for art. Back then she participated in several competitions and her teacher asked if she would be interested in doing art as an extra subject at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations. She said she declined because she felt it would have been too much work to balance and did not have the confidence to do it all.
For two years she pushed art aside to focus on her education in order to secure a career that would allow her to make enough money to be self-sufficient. But during her A-Levels and throughout university she did digital art on an app and crafting pieces for friends and family.
She graduated from the UWI, St Augustine with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical technology in 2021, but even while completing her final year project she kept thinking about the change of pace she would experience after graduating, especially if it took some time for her to get a job.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to constantly be doing something. I didn’t really know what to do with myself and I didn’t know how I would deal with it emotionally and mentally.”
So she fell back on her art.
“When your heart is set on something, you always come back to it. So after finishing school I just came back to art.”
Harrilal’s parents have always been very supportive of her talent. Her mother loves everything she makes and tells her she should draw or paint more. Her father is proud of her talent and would show off her work to his friends and co-workers. But her close friends were the ones to encourage her to do something more with her talent.
“I was a little wary at first because I’m not the type of person to put myself out there. I get nervous, especially when I don’t know how other people would react to it. But my friends understood and were really supportive and encouraged me to just do it, so I did.”
She created an Instagram page and her business, Blooming by Dani.
The first piece she made was for her brother to give his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day – a heart made out of paper roses which took over a week to make. A friend loved the piece and posted it on social media. The requests for her work started coming in.
Not long after, her best friend, an event planner, hired her to create a sign so that was added to her repertoire.
Her father helps with delivery, her mother gives feedback and her stamp of approval whenever she completes a piece, and her sister helps with her social media.
“It’s not easy to run a small business by myself. It’s those little things that push me to continue.
“Sometimes you can be the person who holds yourself back from better things. For some people that could be external factors, but for others it could be you in your own head. I would always second-guess myself even when everyone around me says something is good. It’s a mental thing I constantly try to work past because it’s not something you can get over in a few days.”
Harrilal does not want to make art her main career. She said even artists can get burnout and she does not want it to be a source of stress in her life and fall out of love with it. Her plan is to get a master’s in biomedical engineering – a stable career in which she can use her creative mind – while continuing to create her art.
“I believe that human beings are not one-dimensional creatures. I can be a biomedical engineer and an artist. Both of them are aspects of me and I should be able to do all the things I want to do.
“As long as they aren’t hurting anybody people should be able to do the things they love without feeling guilty because, at the end of the day, life is so short and it’s here for you to enjoy.”
She said life is busy and people can get caught up in what is happening to them and around them. So, she said, when life becomes “heavy” self-care is important.
"Step back, take a break, find balance, recentre yourself and then go back in. But do not give up."