Friday, January 16, 2009

Interview - Beci Orpin

'Oh-Deer-Me' and 'Electro Dino' collages for baby Princess Tina 2006

Print ads for Mebourne bar/restaurant Cookie 2005/2006.

Various commissioned illustrations. Top - tee print for '22 Flavours' exhibition, Lifelounge 2007. Bottom left - 'Ink Snakes' Tee print for Mambo, 2006. Bottom right - 'New Peacock' Tee print, Irony, Japan 2005.

'Affluence' poster design for Don't Panic magazine, 2007.

Watercolour/vector illustration for 'Built by You' Simplicity patterns USA, 2006

Being a Melbourne-based blogger with an eye on design and a penchant for independent creative business, it really was only a matter of time before an interview with illustrator, artist, fashion / kidswear / accessory designer and all-round Melbourne creative queen Beci Orpin!

Luckily for me (and you!), my partner Gordon half-knows pretty much everyone in Melbourne. Seriously. Can't take him anywhere without bumping into some long-lost friend/housemate/friend-of-housemate/work colleague etc. SO it was with great excitement that Gordon introduced me to the lovely Miss Orpin when we crossed paths in the CBD on a mad shopping dash the week before Christmas! After a few temporarily star-struck seconds, the shameless opportunist in me seized the moment, and later I managed to pin her down for an interview :)

I have long been a fan of Beci's incredibly varied work. She's so prolific - recent years have seen her establish and grow her popular line of clothing and accessories under the label Princess Tina, illustrations have been commissioned for numerous publications both here and overseas, she's consulted on various design projects, and she's also managed to squeeze in a plethora of solo exhibitions Australia-wide. All this while rearing 2 kids! Next on the agenda is a kidswear label called Tiny Mammoth, the end of the Princess Tina era, and the launch of a new line of accessories, stationary and homewares under Beci's own name. Jeepers. Hold on to your seats!

Tell me a little about your background - what did you study and what path led you to what you’re doing now?

i mucked around with few different courses after high school, but didn't really take anything seriously until i started BA textile design at RMIT. i loved the course and did pretty well, and was offered my first freelance job at my graduate show, so i just kind of snowballed from there. it took at least 5 years before i could solely exist off freelance work, so initially i worked a few other jobs (such a screen-printing, managing a bookshop) to support myself. in 1999 i also met my husband raph, and we run the business together. he is creative too but also does all the things like production and accounts that actually keep our business running. i would be nowhere without him.

Your work is so varied and you seem so prolific! Your illustrations have graced many Australian and international publications, your clothing and accessories range Princess Tina sells internationally, you exhibit your artwork and illustrations regularly in Melbourne, and you somehow find the time to be a Mum too! How do you manage to balance all these varied creative projects? Did you always plan to have such a variety of projects on the go as part of your job?

i didn't really have a plan, but i really loved what i did (and still do), and i have discovered i create the best work when i am busy. i guess its a momentum thing. i also get bored pretty easily, which is why i like to work on a few different projects at the same time. i also find when you work on one thing, its generates an idea for something else un-related, so even though they are different projects they all end up being connected and part of the same process.

and actually, i have just finished up princess tina (after 8 years!). i am going to concentrate that energy on my new kids line (called tiny mammoth) and also launch a line of accessories, stationary and homewares under my own name in early 2009.

Tiny Mammoth kidswear 2008/09

Items from the last ever Princess Tina range! Get 'em here!

What have been some of your favourite projects?

i am lucky enough pretty much love the majority of things i get to work on so its hard to choose! the illustrations i have done for the "sew u" book series (in conjunction with built by wendy) has definitely been an awesome project (am just finishing 3rd book in series now). doing some mural work for the toff has been great. artshows are always fun, but definitely the hardest as no-one is telling you what to do! i have also loved working on tiny mammoth, because it means i get to design exactly what i want my kids to wear!

Illustrations from the 'Sew U' book series in collaboration with NYC's Built by Wendy

More 'Sew U' lllustrations

Wall graphics for Melbourne bar The Toff in Town

How would you describe your artistic style?

i am so in my own world i find it hard to do this. i guess feminine, stylised, folk-inspired, nature-based, reminiscent, a little dark, quirky.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

a plethora!! but here are just a few - alexander girard, bruno munari, shauna.t, dick bruna, rita ackermann, tove jansson, mike mills, henri darger, whitley, charley harper, mirka mora, norman lindsay, peter max, robin boyd, charles and ray eames.

'Memory Tree' - laser-cut timber veneer installation for 'In the Shadows' exhibition, Sydney 2007.

Where else do you find inspiration – ie books, magazines, your environment, travel, your family and friends?

inspiration comes in many forms - always from my friends and family. i used to travel a lot and that is a great way to see new things and get inspired, but i haven't got to do so much in past few years. i like nature a lot - doesn't have to be out in the country-side, urban nature is awesome too. i try to deny it but i am a bit of a magazine junkie - my current favs are anorak, won, milk, short and amelia's magazine. i also treasure my old copies of nest magazine. i have a pretty decent book collection - i think i buy books every week - many from opp-shops and second hand bookstores.

What's the best thing about your job?

being able to dictate my hours so i can spend lots of time with my kids. that it still doesn't quite feel like a job. getting to draw pictures everyday.

'Menagerie' papercuts for 'Menagerie' exhibition, Perth, 2008.

And the worst?

because i dictate my hours i also end up working most nights. and sometimes its scary not having a guaranteed wage, especially when you have mouths to feed and a mortgage to pay.

What would be your dream project?

renovating my house with an unlimited budget. working with jonathan adler or todd oldham. illustrating children's books.

'Favourites' illustration for Mess + Noise magazine, Australia 2006.

What are you looking forward to?

launching my new beci orpin line, our backyard transformation which we are working on in the next month and hopefully an overseas family holiday.

Timber brooches and hankerchiefs from Beci's latest range under her new Beci Orpin label.

Holiday giftcards from Beci's latest range

Melbourne Questions –

Best gallery to see the work of artists/illustrators like yourself in Melbourne?

outre gallery sells some of my works, they such a great collection of pop-inspired print-based work. i also like utopian slumps in collingwood and craft victoria.

Illustrations for screenprints as part of 'Folklore' solo show at X-Girl, NYC, 2006.

Where do you shop for the tools of your trade in Melbourne? (ie art supplies, computer bits and pieces, fabric / paper / haberdashery supplies?)

i just go to my local artstore (deans on sydney road) for most of my everyday supplies. there is a great paper store on victoria st in west brunswick called paper indulgence. i try and get my collage stuff and specialty glues from him. i like to buy things pre-loved whenever possible so i am always on the look-out for paper/haberdashery/etc at opp-shops.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

i am a bit obsessed by food, and would like to say it was from my fav place cicciolina in st.kilda., but now i am northside i dont make it over there very often. i had the brazillian breakfast at a minor place (albion st, brunswick) last week - beans were amazing. i also had a great dinner at becco (crossley lane, city) - stuffed olives are a must!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

organics aisle at vic market, or at home eatings raph's perfect poached eggs whilst reading the paper and doing loads of washing

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

the opp-shop around the corner from my house - its a regular goldmine. and i am keeping it a secret!

'Swallow Girl' Tee print, Princess Tina, 2006.

Thanks so much Beci! x


  1. what a coincidence - only yesterday I was showing our style director Jason Grant a back issue of Real Living (April 2007) when we featured her home. I LOVE her pale sky blue Featherston chair. So jealous!!!

  2. Heeey Natalie thanks for reading and your comments! :)

    I don't think I ever saw that feature on Beci's home! :( dammit.

    Love the Rachel Castle interview on your site today... WOW i love the bedlinen. I always stick with just white white white for bedlinen, so this is the perfect way to add a bit of colour and personality without going overboard. Perfect! I am such a sucker for polka dots.

    Think I will write about Castle and link to your interview next week... Thanks! xx

  3. Another coincidence I have a poster of Beci Orpin's work, from the 'Menagerie' on my wall, and in sight as I write this.

    I got it from the latest issue of king brown mag, which I think may still be available. or can be back ordered from the king brown mag site.

  4. What a fab interivew! I really enjoyed reading the thoughtful answers and viewing Beci's amazing works!

  5. Very cool post. I'll be sure to bookmark your blog.