Interview with Beci Orpin

Australian artist, Beci Orpin, designed this month’s book club poster and bookmark (see here!) and today we get to learn a bit more about her work and process. I may be Beci’s number one fan, so hearing more about her as a person and artist lets me view her in a new context. She has some wonderful things to say and I can’t wait for you to learn more!

Interview with Beci Orpin

You have done quite a number of things in your career. Can you walk us through that? 

I studied Textile Design at RMIT which I absolutely loved, and graduated in 1997 (22 years ago woah!) so I would say the first 10 years of my life was very fashion-based. I worked freelance for lots of independent labels like Built By Wendy, Xlarge and Gorman (based here in Australia). I also ran my own clothing line for 10 years too (was called Princess Tina – the WORST name ever). I guess once I had kids my lifestyle was more suited to freelance illustration (less travel, less time to think about fashion).

Also around then I become part of the Jacky Winter agency and that helped me get lots of freelance illustration work for bigger companies like Virgin, Visa, Urban Outfitters etc., which is still my main bread and butter today. In 2013 my first DIY book, Find and Keep, was released, and that changed my work again. The book sold really well, so I went on to make another three DIY titles (Home 2014 / Make and Do 2015 / Sunshine Spaces 2017). The books also changed my work and lead to bigger scale jobs in creative direction / events etc. Because of the books I also teach a lot of workshops, which I love! Alongside all of this I have always had art shows too. So yes – a lot of different jobs and in may different mediums ( get bored easily!).

2. What do you usually all yourself? Artist? Creative? 

I find this so hard because I don’t think there is a title which fits all the different things I do – even though I have art shows I would not consider myself an artist as I don’t think my work is cerebral enough. Even though I do design my work isn’t neat or technical enough to be called strictly design, and i don’t have enough practical skills to be called a crafter (eg minimal knitting and sewing!) ? My long-winded description is that my work is that it sits somewhere in between design, illustration and craft. 
3. Do you think you have to go to school to become an artist?

I think that is personality based. I knew I wanted to be creative in my career and loved drawing, and university gave me a practical application for that which I really needed. But most of my most successful creative friends either never finished or went to university or even finished high school!

4. What are you most proud of in your career?

It’s so hard to say – but probably my books because they were such huge jobs are really showed cased a bunch skills which I wasn’t able to show in other aspects of my work before that. They were the biggest (and most stressful!) challenges! That being said, I’m currently working on a few things which are also completely new territory so could have a similar effect.

5. Did you have anyone along the way that was instrumental in the trajectory of your life? 

I had so many great creative mentors but my family has been the biggest influence. My parents had incredible work ethics and we had quite an alternative upbringing. They always encouraged me to be creative, individual and pragmatic. My husband, Raph, helped me turn my interests into a proper business and we still run all the things we do together. There is always lots of ideas between us (sometimes too many!). My kids taught me a lot about the best ways to spend my time and what things are most important to me (them!).

6. What’s your work area like?

Colourful, messy and very, very full (I’m such hoarder!). It’s in warehouse which houses my husband Raph’s business – together we own five food trucks and two restaurants. I did work at home for a long time when my boys were little, but it’s great being where I am as I also do all the graphics and art direction for his business, so I often need to do work for him. He has a great team we have a lot of fun in the office (most of the time – sometimes its so hectic in here, that’s when headphones go on).

7. Did you always have an ultimate plan for your career?

Not really! Everything has happened very organically and I think that is part of why it has worked. I definitely went with my gut feeling a lot, and put things out into the universe and if it was the right time for them to happen then often they did. I have made many mistakes too though – that’s a really important part of learning.

8. What’s a typical day like for you?

Everyday can be very different. Raph and I usually arrive at the studio after the boys go to school at 9am. First is always emails and then I’ll usually have list to tick off during the day. At the moment I have a lot of computer work to do so most of my time is spent in front of that right now, but some days I’m out on shoots or will have a day of making projects or sourcing or meetings. Sometimes I’ll have studio assistants in, sometimes I’m solo. Either myself of Raph will finish around 3.30-4 so we can be home kids get back from school, and that person will also cook dinner (TBH Raph does that way more because he is such a great cook!). If I finish early I’ll usually go back to work for a few hours, e.g. today – its 9pm and i’m back at the studio. Our home / studio / schools are all in 1 km radius so its so easy to drop in to any place quickly! 

9. What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in a creative field? 

Work hard and run your own race!

10. What’s coming up for you in 2019? 

I just launched a new website which is five years in the making! My second collab with NZ baby label Nature Baby which was also just released this week. I have two early learning kids board books coming out with Hachette in July and October. Lots of projects and for Lunch Lady magazine. Working on a longer-term project with mindfulness not-for-profit Smiling Mind to build a teen mental health platform – I’m acting as creative director – its huge job and outside my comfort zone, but also super interesting! I’m also planning on designing some products and zines this year and do an international book fair at some point in the near future. Plus I’m hoping lots of other interesting freelance and travel and a major house renovation! 

11. Where do you live? How does that influence your work? 

I live in Brunswick in the inner north of Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne is a great place to live, its big enough to be a city but small enough to be able to support small independent business. Plus it has amazing food and parks and galleries and live music – all the other things which i need to survive! There is a really good creative community here too – its a pretty special place (except from being at least 10 hours flight from anywhere else! You get pretty used to long plane trips… )

12. What does your dream retirement look like?

I couldn’t never imagine not making things! I hope I have time to make some giant latch hook rugs and other things I don have time to make now. Plus gardening and lots of travel. And hopefully in some kind of idyllic setting.

13. What artists/designers/creatives do you look up to? Both historical or present

SO MANY. To name a few: Sister Corita Kent, Misaki Kawaii, Dick Bruna, Miranda July, Nathalie De Paqsuir, Ray Eames, Abby Clawson Low, Alexander Stitt, Mikala Dwyer. Plus my local artist girl gang Alice Oehr, Esther Olsson, Nadia Hernandez…

14. How has social media influenced your work? 

I have love / hate relationship with social media. I love that it creates a community and gives access to finding creatives work I wouldn’t usually see, but I can’t stand the staged nature of it, and how much importance is put on it these days. Worry about being a good person first and making good work and then worry about social media. 

Thank you, Beci, for sharing some insight with us!

Where to find Beci

You can find Beci’s beautiful portfolio here

Follow Beci on Instagram here



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