News & Stories

An artistic life

A passion for creativity and a Fine Arts degree have given Rebecca Birrell the tools to live out her dream career.

Rebecca is a Principal Designer at Birrelli art + design + architecture, a business she co-owns with her husband Jack.

“I went to art school because while I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I knew it would be in the creative fields,” she said. 

The skills from having a Fine Arts degree have really enabled me to approach things in a very broad way. As a designer, people come to me wanting a solution to a problem. We work out the best way of solving that visually, emotionally and commercially.

“Art evokes so much emotion. I think it’s just something you’re drawn to.

“Whether it’s a logo, label or installation, or even a suite of uniforms, the art filters through in different ways.

“My husband and I met when I was at art school and he was at architecture school, and we have both had been collecting art since then. I used to buy my fellow students’ art,” she said.

The couple now has so much art work it’s stacked against the walls of their home and studio.

“Our daughters are both extremely creative, they have grown up around creativity. We spend weekends doing craft together and working with clay. Art is their world as well.

We love it, we breathe it, we create it. It’s just part of our lives.

After graduating from University, Rebecca ran a small sculpture studio with a friend, as well as working in restaurants, and “a few filler jobs.”

“I also worked at an orthodontist’s making the orthodontic devices because it is actually very similar to making jewellery. That wasn’t going to be a major career for me, but I really enjoyed it.

“Then somebody asked me to design a wine label and that’s really where it all started.

“Jack started an architecture studio and we decided to combine. That’s when Birrelli was born. It’s now been operating for close to 20 years."

I left University with a skill set and a love of creating things with my hands and my mind. That’s the difference between going to University and taking a course somewhere; that ability to solve problems.

If I was ever given commissions I wasn’t sure how to do, I just thought ‘of course I can do it’ and I figured out how to. It’s about not closing your mind to different things and opportunities. 

University really teaches you how to learn. It broadens the mind enough to give you the confidence to take that next step and say, I will work out how to do that. You have to be confident to make mistakes and take risks. It’s building up your arsenal of tools.

One of Rebecca’s favourite projects was working on the world heritage listed Cascade Female Factory site.

“I need to interpret what had become just a parkland area, to really bring back the emotion and the significance of the location and its story.

“We recreated the plan as a footprint into the site, and built an evocative, interactive installation, so people can get a much better understanding of what that site would have actually been like.

“It’s a very powerful experience to walk through it, and I’m hugely proud of that project.”

When asked what her dream job would be, Rebecca says “I think I might be in my dream job.

“I’m feeling like I’m embracing fine art now even more than in the past 10 years of my career."

Find out more about studying Fine Arts.