Today we’re thrilled to introduce you to the talented and bubbly Daniella Lo Presti of For Me By Dee. This Melbournian illustrator and designer is the clever cookie behind those adorable animal artworks that have been making their way onto The Block recently — Gilbert the French Bulldog and Kylie the Kangaroo — and we’re excited to share her story and work with you.
“It’s a pretty funny story how I started,” laughs Daniella, “I had been working in a corporate job for years and wasn’t satisfied so I started life coaching and Julie my coach said I needed to start doing something I really love.
I hadn’t painted in years but always enjoyed it so I picked up a brush and painted Toby the Giraffe. I’m not sure what the inspiration was, I just wanted to make myself feel happy and I just did it.
“He was cute and likeable and got a great response from others so I continued painting on the animal theme.
“Six months after I started painting, many of us at work were told we would be made redundant and it was the best news I could receive because that’s when I made the decision to make a real go of it.”
“My dad helped me create a stand for the markets and I began market hopping. It was a great way to learn on the job because I had never done business or had a background in sales.
I started getting lots of interest on social media, especially from stockists, so I created my brand and a website and eventually created my online shop.
Speaking of your brand, where did the name of your brand come from?
“Dee has been my nickname for a while now and I actually came up with the brand name six years ago — long before I had the business idea. It was a saying my friends and I had while travelling overseas and I decided if I ever started a business, that would be the brand name.”
And each of your animals also have a name, do you come up with those?
“I’ve always had help from other people for their names. First my family and friends would help me but now I put it out on social media and my followers name them. It’s so fun getting their input and they always come up with the best names. And I love how involved and excited they get about naming them too — like ‘Oh, he’s so Winston’,” laughs Daniella.
You also do animal portraits, can you tell us a bit more about that?
“I was at the markets one day when a person saw Gilbert the Frenchie and said she’d love me to paint her dog. I thought it was a great idea and began offering that service as well as toy portraits.
Pet portraits are such a special part of my job. I’ve had people cry when I give it to them because it’s triggered a memory or they feel I captured the personality of their pet so well.
“Some people have said ‘Oh I don’t think my pet could sit that long’,” laughs Daniella, “But I paint from a photo so there’s no need for pet sittings.
“I offer the paintings at A4 and A3 sizes and clients get the original artwork.”
What has been the response since your work featured on The Block?
“I’m so grateful to have my work featured on that show. People love The Block and really resonate with products featured on there. While I don’t really promote it, I do get people come up to me and ask ‘Oh my God, is that Gilbert’. My prints are now available from The Block Shop too.”
What are your future goals?
“I don’t have a five year plan or anything like that but I do have a vision board that I pin to. It started with things like ‘own a business’ and ‘have five stockists around Melbourne’ and now it’s expanding to have stockists across Australia. Eventually I’d love to have my work sold internationally.
“Maybe one day I’ll paint beyond animals but for now I love it. And who knows, I might even hire a few people to help me out!” she laughs.