Palette Design Art allows individuals to style their space with made to order pieces that are inspired by the abstract colours and the textures of the coast.

Claire Smyth is the woman and artist behind this creative business palette.

Her work is a love story, born in her childhood and lovingly developed into her adulthood.

Claire is humbled to call the North Coast home.

I loved everything about growing up on the coast. Coming from a big family we spent lots of time outside, at the beach, or walking through the fields. I love how it feels…like a close knit, friendly and warm community.”

Having enjoyed art throughout school, Claire applied to go to art college after her A Levels, but as life would have it, ended up taking a different route into teaching, and assuming a job at a primary school.

Creativity though, didn’t leave Claire, and she continued doing creative hobbies and artwork for friends and family.

During the first lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic she decided to get back into painting, attracted by the idea of adopting a more abstract/free style to her work to help ease back in. The beach in particular captivated her…”the sound of the waves, the peace you feel walking along the beach and the stirring of wonderful memories.”

The passion for painting was also spurred on by some of her favourite artists, including Sarah Madeira Day from Maine, USA. “Her use of bold colour makes her paintings totally unique and they really draw you in. They are abstract landscapes and quite often, her paintings include coastal scenes, beaches or the sea. Her skill really is impressive and it inspires me to continually work on developing mine.”

Regaining her confidence and admiration for abstract painting, the next step in Claire’s business journey was creating an Instagram account, providing a place to showcase some of her pieces.

It soon became apparent that things were growing more than I’d imagined! I had commission orders coming in and really interesting requests for painting ideas. I was still teaching full-time, so I had to limit the amount of paintings I could undertake, but it was a very fun stage, seeing the interest in this business idea and developing my work.

But to take it from an idea, with commissions on the side and her full-time teaching job, Claire knew she needed support to set up a business bank account and a steer on keeping a record of finances, as well as ways to grow from her Instagram account.

A friend told her about the Exploring Enterprise Programme. One email later, and she had arranged a meeting with a business advisor.

After a few 1-to-1 sessions Claire joined the group of other hopeful entrepreneurs on a series of workshops at Enterprise Causeway.

As well as providing training in areas such as finance, insurance and marketing, these workshops featured guest speakers, who had first-hand experience of establishing their businesses.

“Completing the programme and attending the workshops helped me understand who I was, as a business owner, and gave me the confidence to ask the right questions to help figure out what Palette Design Art was, and how I would move forward into making it a success.

“It was insightful to see how other businesses began and the challenges they overcame along the way. The 1:1 mentoring was crucial in understanding my finances and planning for the future of my business.”

Claire was fortunate to have a sister-in-law who was a graphic designer. “I had an idea for the logo and we worked together to choose the colours for my branding.”

She developed her own Shopify website and thanks to the marketing support from the programme; and continual learning from her customers, friends, family and other businesses, she continued to grow her Instagram account, though Claire is honest in the struggles of managing social media…

“I go through phases with Instagram. Sometimes I’m on it a lot, and able to post at least twice or 3 times a week, but I do struggle to maintain that when my commission order book is full!

“Someone told me recently that if you’re struggling to be consistent with grid posts, try to put something on stories. They’re often more relaxed and can just be a snapshot of what you were up to that day or week. I have also found it helpful to hire a photographer every so often to get high quality images. I’ve found it’s so much easier to post when you have good quality content to upload.”

Claire made the brave decision to switch to part-time with her teaching post and in September 2022, she secured a 12-month sponsored pod in Makers House, upstairs at The Designerie, Bushmills, where she currently resides 3 days a week.

“I took the risk of reducing my hours to allow more time to build this creative business. It has been so rewarding and humbling to see it grow, develop and challenge me in many different ways.”

In late 2022, she began offering painting workshops, for both children and adults, something which she is very excited to expand and develop upon in 2023.

My workshops are a space for children and adults to experiment with acrylic painting in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. I really want to keep my workshops less about the final outcome, and more about showing everyone that they too, can be creative.”

Speaking about her plans for the future, Claire noted: “I would love to continue developing Palette. I want to take less commissions to allow me to build up collections of paintings to sell outright.

“I would also like to develop a range of prints and would consider investing in printing equipment to be able to do this. Most importantly, I want to continue to love what I’m doing. Art is still such a hobby and a passion for me, so I don’t ever want to lose that!

Do you have a business idea you want to explore? Call us on 028 7035 6318 or email