For most of you Beci Orpin will need little introduction. To those meeting her for the first time…well lets just say I am pretty stoked to be your gateway to her bright, light and truly unique creative world. Fresh off the back of her second book I was excited to get the opportunity to drop into her studio and have a chat about her winding creative road to date. With a new HQ she will be sharing with husband Raph almost completed, this might be the last glimpse you have of her home based studio in Brunswick West.
Thanks to Beci and her creative sidekick for the day; Rosie Scott for letting me snoop!
Aside from her first years spent rolling round the back of an old Landcruiser while travelling with her family, Beci lived with her mother and sister in a shared communal house in the Melbourne suburb of Kew. Always encouraged to be creative she spoke of how she simply was born with the “urge to draw” – something she sees in her own son Ari.
She tended to fade into the background in her high school art classes as her fine art focussed teachers didn’t quite know how to cultivate her interest in graphics and illustration. Post high school she attempted to explore her own passion in this area by applying for a swathe of courses focussing on graphic design and visual art, settling finally on fashion design at RMIT – where she lasted just one semester! Too technical and not what she was searching for!
Her saving grace was a bridging course which is commonly referred to as Year 13. With the encouragement of her amazing teacher; Rei Zunde and an open studio format she thrived and ended up doing it twice! This time, armed with a greater idea of what she wanted to be doing, she enrolled in Textile Design at RMIT where she completely buried herself for 3 years.
Here Beci found the perfect application for her love of design, drawing and her new passion of pattern making. Her work was really well received and during her student years won her many awards and invaluable internships. It was following her graduate show that she got her first freelance job as a graphic designer for Factory X, working across many of their brands.
But it was Beci’s non-stop, 24/7 attitude and lifestyle that opened the door so many of her opportunities. On top of her contract work she continued her post high school job, working part time at The Foreign Language Book Shop where she was exposed to incredible design publications. She picked up 3 days a week as a screen printer for a company called Vixen who allowed her after hours access to their huge amazing studio. And it was at the club night she ran in the city every Saturday where she met so many creatives including a young Lisa Gorman who she went on to collaborate with for 6 years.
Beci approached her travel with the same gusto. While on planes she would hand make small promo kits which she would then hand out to potential collaborators. While travelling in the States with her boyfriend who was a keen skate boarder, she was introduced to the team behind a skate label and soon started designing graphics for their boards. This exposure in the industry later led to work with international game players Burton and Etnies. Her American contracts also meant her work slid past cult indie label; Built by Wendy with who she went on to work with for 10 years including illustrating the 4 books of her Sew U series!
From 2002 – 2008 Beci leapt into the fashion industry herself with the launch of her own clothing line; Princess Tina. She was able to access the web of contacts she had made internationally with her freelance work to then have her brand stocked around the globe including NYC, San Francisco and Japan. During this time she balanced the development of the label with the continuing flow of freelance projects and then the birth of her first son Tyke. She also began to produce a line of homewares and accessories under the Beci Orpin banner which she wholesaled and sold through her own online store. Work was from home and in constant tandem with husband and business partner; Raph . Following the wrap up of Princess Tina, Raph then launched the Beatbox Kitchen followed by another truck and 2 x Taco trucks a year later!
As you can gather…this couple thrive on a busy schedule!!
In recent years Beci’s commercial work has been managed by Melbourne based agency; The Jackie Winter Group. Her want of more illustration based contracts has been more than catered for with an impressive roll call of clients including Optus, Westpac, Amex and Fosters.
Beci’s prolific and unique aesthetic then put her in the sights of Australian publisher; Hardie Grant who approached her to work on a book. It had never really occured to her that her constant making could be translated into a book of inspiration and DIY projects, but that is exactly what “Find and Keep” became! She notes the development of this as a terrifying time where she felt completely out of her comfort zone, stressing about her lack of experience in this new realm! Hardie + Grant designer Michelle MacIntosh was a massive reassuring force and she has relished working with her on the second book; Home: 25 Amazing Projects for your Home.
Tag in an awesome bedlinen and homewares range for Urban Outfitters and the fact that Beci is also an active exhibiting artist and I think you might start feeling as exhausted as me!! But her knack at surrounding herself with like minded people has paid off with her ability to work with some terrific and downright talented assistants in recent years. These include Leah Bartholomew, Kristina Sabaroedin, Alice Oehr who still works with her and amazing drop ins like Rosie Scott
Beci Orpin is a glowing example of how you can power personal creative projects by maintaining well paying commercial contracts. She has put her style and aesthetic to work across so many industries but partnered it with a crazy and intense work ethic at a level which I have never struck before! The list of good reasons why she should inspire independant makers is long and I for one walked away from hearing her story with recharged batteries and a conquering attitude!!!
All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home.
WHAT I LEARNT FROM BECI ORPIN:
Put your hand up, talk to people and work your arse off!
People might recognise your potential but you are responsible for putting it in front of them first.
Meet the amazing Beci Orpin at The Big Design Market on December 6, 7 & 8 at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne.