About a year ago, the local dollar shop near Beci Orpin’s Brunswick studio was closing down. The Hot Potatoes store on Sydney Road, according to the Melbourne designer, illustrator and maker, was “iconic”.
As the owners began their liquidation, two signs appeared in the window advertising that all stock was “50% OFF”. Orpin fell in love.
“They were handmade but they’d clearly followed a stock image. They’re the same but also a bit different. One is in paint, the other in red texta. The colours are slightly different and I just really love the scale and the graphic element of them.”
Orpin repeatedly mentioned her affection for the organic pop art to her husband.
“I was really obsessed with them. I love handmade signage generally, but there was really something about these.”
After some surreptitious negotiations between her husband and the owners, the signs arrived as an early birthday present. It was, Orpin says, “very surprising, and very, very cool”.
Having moved to the neighbourhood 15 years earlier and fallen in love with the “higgledy-pigglediness” of Sydney Road – the longest retail strip in the southern hemisphere – Orpin says the dollar shop held a special place not just in her heart but in her creative practice.
“I just love the context [the signs] were in: they’re from this shop we really loved and the owners have gone to all this effort, using the same sort of materials I would often purchase from there for my own work.”
Orpin says localness in art and design – whether it is intentionally conceived or more renegade and accidental – has long attracted her. “I love the everyday, and I’ve always been inspired by it.”
Orpin sees the signs as a snapshot of a moment in time and the changing face of the neighbourhood. “I love [them] even more that they’re not by an artist.”
Friends, she says, are familiar with her tastes and are not remotely surprised that such a curious souvenir would find its way on to her walls.
“They’re completely original and totally timeless. You’ll never find anything like this ever again.”
Beci Orpin’s self-published book, Book of Girls, is out now
Is there an artwork with an extraordinary story hanging on your wall? Email email@example.com with the subject heading “Wall Stories” to be considered for future columns