Irene is the artist and illustrator behind the fabulous, fanciful and fun designs of her label Missy Minzy. With extensive professional experience in graphic design, advertising and packaging design for some of the biggest consumer goods in the country, Irene took a leap about ten years ago to unleash her own designs and hasn’t looked back.
“Despite being terrified of going out on my own, my husband encouraged me to seize the opportunity to do something that I love, something that would make me happy. Missy Minzy is all me (!) and allows me to indulge my sense of humour and quirky side,” Irene shares, “something that I certainly couldn’t do in my corporate jobs.”
Irene has always loved images, and is viscerally attracted to beautiful objects. Especially well-designed tea packaging. “Pictures scream at me” she confesses with a giggle from her Canberra home studio while sharing her favourite tea brands.
Packaging design occupies a special place in Irene’s heart. “I’ve always loved packaging, how it makes something everyday feel special. How all the elements work in harmony; the colours, font, images, layout to build in you the urge to pick it up, open it. It fascinates me.”
Irene draws inspiration from her background in illustration and packaging, but also books, animation, travel and adventures with her young family. “My style is a bit whimsical, but also humorous and fun. You’ll see that living in Canberra has certainly influenced me, as has the supportive creative community here.”
Originally from Melbourne, Irene and family moved to Canberra for work - and despite the shock of a much smaller city, four years on they are in love with Canberra’s bush blocks, errant wallaby population, short commutes, and – well, the Australianess of it all.
“We love the feeling of living in the bush while being in the suburbs here. We get to see a lot of wildlife and beautiful sunsets. It’s so very Australian living here, and the local community are very supportive of their local artist and craftspeople, which is absolutely the icing on the cake.”
Her growing international fan base and creative connoisseurs at makers markets in and around Canberra have provided the feedback and encouragement to keep going. One of Irene’s most memorable Missy Minzy moments was meeting a fan at the Handmade Canberra Market recently. “She came up to me and said the most amazing words, which I still remember today. Her encouragement made me realize that I am enough. People do read what I post. People love what I make. And I shouldn’t self-doubt.”
What is your dream project?
A dedicated student of new techniques and technologies, Irene is currently studying surface design, and wants to build a range of wearable art and learn to work with new materials. “I’d love to try textile design more and have a crack at silver smithing in the future. I love to see people wearing my pins and temporary tattoos, so I’m keen to look into more wearable art objects.”
How has your work changed over the years?
Like all of us, Irene is using much more technology these days; moving on from solely paper, Irene now spends a lot of time digitally editing and manipulating her hand drawn artwork to make them work for different pieces. “Also, I think one of the hardest lessons I’ve learnt is to prioritise and value my creative time. Early on, I felt I had to do everything from start to finish. In recent years, I’ve realised that this just chips away at my creativity, and I should focus at what I’m good at.”
What material do you love and why?
“Secretly I like designer gouache. As the paints are opaque, they are very forgiving, and you can cover any mistakes you make. It works beautifully with my digital art elements, and I’m hoping to create more mixed media artwork in the near future.”
What tool / item couldn’t you do without?
My laptop. My black felt ink pen. And paper. Lots of paper.
What piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
“Go travel the world after graduation. Keep pushing, discover possibilities and dream big It’s OK to be ambitious and grab your dreams with two hands. Don’t listen to fear. Maintain the passion within. As you are going to go places!”
Want to see more of Irene's work?