Beci Orpin’s creative work is bold, graphic, colourful, feminine and most importantly, wonderfully optimistic.
Photography: Lilli Waters for Hunter & Folk
What first triggered your love for art and design?
I’ve always had an urge to draw and make things, but I don’t think that’s so unique - most young kids do. I had quite an unconventional up-bringing - we lived in a commune for a while and my dad was also a carpenter, always making things around the house. My mum invested a lot of time into the books we read, took us to galleries and events.
Tell us a little about the journey to where you are today?
The whole process has been quite organic - I was purposeful in being involved in things I loved, and making self-initiated work which was just for me. I push myself to produce a lot of work - for me that’s really important. In terms of my journey, I did alright in high school - although I pretty much failed art! After a few false starts I enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts Textile course at RMIT. I graduated in 2007 and started working freelance. A friend who was a designer for a big company commissioned me to start doing t-shirt designs for her. These were well received, so I went on to do more work, mostly in fashion. It took me about 5 years to properly support myself just as a freelancer. My work was fashion-based for 10 years, it then started to head more into illustration. I wrote a blog for a while that people seemed to like - and it was because of this I was asked to create my book Find and Keep for Hardie Grant. They let me have a lot of control and it highlighted all the things I was capable of - not just illustration and textile design, but also making things, writing, art directing, sourcing props and styling shoots. I'm at a point where I don’t even know how to describe what I do anymore! A lot of my work is still illustration, but I get to do a lot of other really fun things too.
What is your design process like?
I’m in the studio everyday - unless I’m on a photo shoot or in a meeting. In the studio it mostly just me, I have two helpers who maybe come in once a week. I’m always working on several projects at the same time. Work seems to come in waves - either spending lots of time working on the computer or lots of time making things by hand. A balance of those two things is important for me. And regardless of the projects, they always start in my sketchbook - writing, drawing cutting, pasting. It’s the most fun part.
What is it about bold colour that you find so magnetic?
I don’t know! It must a be a weird instinctual thing. Even if I’m determined to go with neutrals for a project there always ends up being a bright yellow or deep green involved.
How has living in Melbourne shaped your work?
Melbourne is big enough to be a place with a lot going on, yet still small enough to support and survive as an independent business - this is a good combination for a studio like mine. It also has an amazing accepting and creative community where I’ve found lots of like-minded friends
As an artist, what are you most passionate about?
To be honest, I would never consider myself an artist - I spend most of my time working for clients and fulfilling their briefs, where as I think artist fulfil their own briefs. I do make my own work and I really like doing that, but working for others is what I’ve chosen to spend the majority of time doing!
Have you had moments when it’s been difficult to keep progressing creatively?
I think everybody does. Those times are when I would usually work on a self-inited project, where I can experiment with different techniques or head in a direction creatively that I’d like to go in. I might have to do this work after hours, but it usually helps.
Which medium do you love the most?
At the moment it’s painting and using my iPad Pro. They are the two I’m pretty bad at, so it’s fun learning and getting better at stuff.
You’ve recently worked on a few collaborations - as art is such a solo endeavour, it must be a pleasure collaborating?
Great things can definitely come out of collaborations - it can give you an opportunity to work on things you usually wouldn’t work on, and yes working alongside a company or person can be nice when you are often on your own. But, they are only successful if both parties benefit.
What does the remainder of the year look like for you?
I just had a new kids board book come out though Hachette titled Dressing your Family! I also have another book coming out in a month, which I am super proud of too - it’s titled Take Heart, Take Action, and is based off a graphic made for Instagram post-federal election which went viral. The book is all about the positive action you can take on a daily basis to make the world better, especially if you’re worried about climate change. It’s for kids, but adults can learn from it too! I also have some fun products coming out with Third Drawer Down, plus a bunch of workshops. And a family holiday. I’m probably most excited about that to be honest!