Beci Orpin

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Melbourne-based creative Beci Orpin has multiple talents; she’s a mum, an illustrator, designer, workshop facilitator and author! With several books to her name, including, “Find and Keep”, “Home”, “Make and Do” and “Sunshine Spaces” and some high profile projects on her resume, Beci will be presenting a Collage and Paper Art Masterclass this month, as part of the Glasshouse’s Neon Summer programme …

Hi Beci. What will you share with the people fortunate enough to attend your masterclass on January 6?

This year I launched a new book, and as part of the launch I taught a lot of workshops throughout Australia and the U.S. I’ll be holding a similar workshop as part of the Neon Summer festival … It’s a collage workshop.

Collage is a very important part of my practice – and working with paper in general – it’s definitely one of my favourite mediums. It’s looking at how I make collage, but using a whole variety of different mediums – like watercolour, pastels, ink … so I get the students to experiment with as many different materials as possible and create collages out of those different textures. I’ve found that just to have lots of materials to play around with is a really great thing, because often people don’t have access to this variety.

We’ll also be looking at things like composition and colour, which is also a very important part of my work …

We’ll get to work on three different collage projects from my books, which you’ll end up being able to walk away with and take home …

Do you feel this workshop would have the potential to unleash a creative spark in people, that they may not even have been aware of?

Yes! That’s why I love collage; you pretty much just need to know how to cut out pieces of paper, which everyone learns in Kindergarten. It’s a really accessible form of activity, which I really, really like.

Speaking of finding that creative spark … What’s your first recollection of something you designed, that you were very proud of?

Oh my gosh! My mum always talks about this drawing that I did when I was in Prep – it was of a circus. She didn’t keep it, and she was so upset that she didn’t. I remember that drawing too – I remember being really proud of it and putting a lot of time and effort into it. That was a long time ago!

When I learnt to draw properly, which was in Year 8 or Year 9, I remember the first proper drawing I did that was photo realistic, and it was a really satisfying thing for me.

You went on to study textile design at uni. How much of your practice these days involves working with textiles?

Textile design is not actually creating the textile, but creating the patterns that goes on the textiles. You can do this with various mediums, and I worked with collage a lot within my textile design course.

I still work with textile design all the time as part of my freelance career … I work for the label, Gorman, with textile designs. I’m working with a new shoe company at the moment, and that’s a form of textile design too. This all forms a part of my practice.

Yes, you’ve had some exciting collaborations with people throughout your career. What are some of the projects you’ve worked on recently that you feel have stretched your talents as a designer/illustrator?

This year has been pretty big for me project-wise – and it’s been physically big too, as I’ve worked on a lot of very large installations and large scale projects. One of these was in the city of Melbourne – a collage of 9 m x 2.5 m. I assembled this collage to scale – so I assembled it at 1.8 m x 40 cm first. It was for the new Metro Tunnel (an underground railway). I was commissioned to do this piece, and it was really challenging, due to the scale, and the fact I had to assemble it in those two different sizes.

I’ve also done a lot of programming and project management this year. I’ve produced my own school holiday program, where I had to do all the programming, hire a lot of teachers – so that was pretty challenging, as I wasn’t just dealing with design, but things like logistics and public liability insurance – that really pushed me.

I’ve worked on a new children’s book, where instead of illustrating it, I art directed it …

This year’s been crazy, actually!

This reminds me of a post I saw on your Instagram page, actually: “I’ve always got a lot of pots on the boil; it’s how I do my best work”. Sounds apt! How do you juggle everything?

Yes! (Laughs.) Have you heard that saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it’?

This is the 20th year of running my business. I can be really efficient in the way that I work; but sometimes this means working late nights or early mornings, because I have kids – and they’re a priority. They need to be happy, and do their homework etc. So, if I need help, I have a great team of people I can hire, and I couldn’t get by without them. My husband, Raph, also runs his own business – so we have a lot flexibility in what we do with family and work life. But sometimes, yes, it does mean 12 – 14 hour days. But this balances out with the times I’m less busy …

Final say …

A lot of people who come to my workshops haven’t come from an artistic background, but they’re interested in creativity. It’s a really good way to come and spend a day playing with materials, which is an opportunity many of us don’t have, because we get so distracted by life and so busy … I definitely encourage people to come … And if you do have a creative background, that’s great too!

Thanks Beci. Interview by Jo Robinson.

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