Rachel Taplin aka Rachee Renee aka Peachee aka Chee (Editor: whoah… that’s more ak’s than the Russian army!) is an Australian artist working in the mediums of graffiti, sculpture, digital art, traditional art and toys – which she releases under her ‘Peachee’s Toy World’ brand.
Inspired by manga, hip hop, punk, and street art, Rachel’s designs are vibrant, colourful, full of life, psychedelic and bursting forth with Rachel’s outsize personality!
When asked to pinpoint when her artistic life began, Rachel harks back to her early childhood – a time when she began experimenting with art to express herself, inspired by the artists in her immediate family.
With Rach elaborating,
“I really started CREATING when I was 10! All kinds of art and crafts, sewing, knitting, collecting, writing and dancing… I was just experimenting with creativity and identity to see what fit.
Cartooning, illustrating and lettering was the thing I gravitated to most, inspired by my dad a sign-writer and my grandfather a cartoonist.“
Having only recently started making designer toys – an artistic medium dear to our hearts – after years spent honing her crafts in other artistic mediums; we thought now was the perfect time to ask Rachel some questions about art, life, toys, her involvement with the ‘This is Not a Toy Scene’ Australian designer toy showcase, and a whole lot more!
Read it all, via the interview below:
Name + D.O.B?
Rachel Taplin AKA Rachee Renee AKA Peachee AKA Chee
City, State and Country you currently call home?
From Melbourne Australia and in Melbourne, Australia!
Please describe some memories from key stages of your life: concerts, art, toys, romance, comic books, hunting, school, politics, crime, religion… ANYTHING really!
* Age 5 – beginnings:
Born in 1980, my age seemed to perfectly coincide with the best pop culture of that era. From 0-10 it was the best of 80s cartoon culture: She-ra, He-Man, Smurfs, Voltron, Turtles, and my faves Rainbow Bright and Astroboy were some of my earliest cartoon memories.
My mum died at age 4, so TV was kinda my first form of escapism, this is also where I began an obsession with manga, where I watched this anime movie Candy Candy on repeat everyday and dressed up like Punky Brewster a lot…. probably where I got my fashion sense!
Then there was 80s music… I remember watching a lot of music videos, break-dancing with the kids on my street, listening to the radio singing along with my skipping rope as a microphone and making mixtapes. From a young age I was attracted to the sound of hip hop soul and disco and bought my first record – Michael Jackson ‘Bad’ with my Christmas money in 1987.
I feel pretty lucky to have lived in that era of music.
* Age 10 – continuations:
This is where I really started CREATING! All kinds of art and crafts, sewing, knitting, collecting, writing and dancing… I was just experimenting with creativity and identity to see what fit. Cartooning, illustrating and lettering was the thing I gravitated to most, inspired by my dad a sign-writer and my grandfather a cartoonist.
I loved anything Japanese and would get these Japanese pen-pals through a program at the post-office who would send me manga drawings, which I loved!
* Age 15 – getting serious:
My growing awareness about the harshness of the world and the people around me sent me into a dark time during this era… which was a perfect fit for the angsty pop-culture of punk and grunge in the 90s, so my music taste got darker, as did my art.
I was kicked out of home at 16 and started rolling at flinders st, going to punk gigs, skating, experimenting with drugs and writing graffiti with local riff raff.
I continued painting at school – painting images inspired by the music I was listening to and the pain I felt, pulling away from the fluffy cartoon styles I grew up loving.
* Age 20 – young adult:
Finally busted out of depression mode thanks to the joyful energy of Melbourne Rave scene at the time, and really started getting into street art. I’d finished art school, disillusioned with the fine art world and was ready to tear it all apart.
The street art scene was booming in Melbourne – it was and exciting time where we were a small tight street art community, all making stencils, street installations, stickers, pasteups and pieces, alone and collaboratively. All I did was cut stencils, spray up, write rhymes and party.
* Age 25 – adult mode:
I returned from overseas to a dead street art scene and created an event called Sketch City in a warehouse in Northcote. Sketch City was an artist community that held regular events and culture jams, giving artists the space to network and create new work alongside local and international artists and musicians.
This lead to work doing street art workshops for many community organisations, leading me into disability and community work.
* Age 30 – fully formed:
Lots of Travelling, working, living! I’ve been to just about every continent absorbing any influence from all types around the world and working with and meeting many other artists.
Art practice centred mostly on painting and beginning to experiment with toy making and sculpture.
* Age 35 – meanderings:
Went and got my masters and began focus on building my business in art therapy… and it’s working, but still not really wanting to fully grow up.
I’m a Peter Pan for life.
“Be who you are, say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.”
– Dr. Suess.
When and why did you first start to make art?
I am have been making art for as long as I can remember, it has always been a form of escapism and emotional expression for me. I lost my mum at an early age and I feel as though it has helped me through most of the hard moments following that.
This is probably what influenced me to later become an art therapist!
My main influence in my work and style probably comes from street art and its offshoots and influences and it’s definitely driven a lot of my work over the years.
Whilst we know you through your art and toys – care to share with those at home the details of your other creative endeavors… if any?!
I am a jack of all trades, master of none. I have dabbled in all forms of artistic expression throughout my life and my preferred mediums change like the wind!
While I love making toys at the moment, my last creative phase was sewing sparkly costumes and before that making terrariums. I am an art therapist and run my own business working mostly with kids on the autism spectrum so dabble with lots of artistic forms with that including music, dance and animation.
I am also a street artist and run street art workshops from time to time.
What do you do for a day job at the moment?
… and how does your day job impact / influence your artistic practice?
I’ve only just recently become an art therapist… I have basically created this profession for myself through melding together all the things I love to do! I worked in disability support for 12 years and discovered I absolutely love working with kids with Autism, mostly because they just do what they want, when they want!
I understand their sensory needs really well and saw the power of art as a communication tool and outlet for some of these kids, so went and got my masters in art therapy so I could meld my passions into a full-fledged career!
My work influences my art, and my art influences my work everyday. My clients inspire me with their unique ways of perceiving the world and creating.
Doing this work has helped me to become looser and more expressive in my art practice.
Please describe the usual process involved with producing your creations:
* Your traditional art such as illustrations and paintings?
Sometimes an idea comes to me and I sketch it out.
Sometimes I just doodle and see what comes.
When I draw something I really like I’ll turn it into a painting, ink illustration or digital image.
I mainly use acrylic paint because I’m just not patient enough for oils… then I layer and layer, sometimes doing it the traditional way I learned in art school, sometimes, wherever the paint lands.
And I can guarantee it never turns out as expected…my paintings do their own thing! Paint is an emotive material so things can emerge that take you by surprise so I just go with it.
Illustrations are much more controllable – copic markers are my favourite.
* Your toys?
Again, sometimes I start with an idea, but most often I just get the Sculpy out and see what happens.
Making toys is interesting because they tend to create themselves. As I mould or shape or sew, a personality emerges, they always make me laugh… like Skittles the Anxious Crackhead and Bev the Nosey Auntie from the Fluffington collection.
If my sculpy toy works I might make a mould out of it and make resin copies. I’m kind of new to resin and self-taught, so my biggest motto at the moment is work with your mistakes and try and use them to your advantage!
(Images below showing one of Rach’s large designer toys – as well as an illustration of it.)
* Your graffiti and street art?
I started out tagging, then got right into stencilling until my hand nearly crippled and now I mainly just do legal freehand characters.
Stencilling was a great way to build my confidence in art after art school had sucked my personal style and ability right outta my soul. I’d spend 12 hours a day cutting images I loved at one point, before I felt confident enough to re-explore other mediums.
Worst aspect(s) of the art hustle?
I’ve never really used my art as my main hustle so I don’t have any issues with hustle really, however if it is your main hustle – I’ve learned you always have to be proactive. The more you network and promote yourself both directly and indirectly, the more opportunities you get. If you stop for even a second all those opportunities disappear so you gotta keep your finger on that pulse!
Best aspect(s) of the art hustle?
Meeting and working with so many incredible artists. All that networking over the years and introduced me to some of the greatest people – collaboration is everything.
Thoughts on the current status of the Australian toy scene?
I’m excited to be a part of its humble beginnings of a new exciting version of the scene…. reminds me of the initial excitement the street art scene gave me in the early 2000s.
Thanks to Cipta (Editor: the curator of the ‘This is Not a Toys Scene’ series of Australian designer toy showcases) who brought all us toy artists together, who were hiding away in our bedrooms thinking no one else did what we did, and now we are coming together with more and more artists being discovered all the time. There is so much to share, teach, learn and discover about toy-making – it’s an exciting time!
Any projects you want to hype?
Keep an eye on @thisisnotatoyscene on Insta for announcement of our next show in Melbourne coming soon!
If people wanted to work with you, have a chat or buy something – how should they get in touch?
Odds and Ends
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – where and when would that be?
My favorite place and era of all time is New York City in the late 70’s during the rise of hip hop and the coming together of artists and musicians that had never before collaborated.
Cool Herc and Afrika Bambaata broke down the division in the Bronx and brought hip hip together and out of the hood and it began melding with punk and influenced diversity and experimentation of culture in music and art.
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
Gateway to the universe when used wisely.
So much of my spirituality, social constructs and belief systems are shaped by some very profound drug experiences. It can be a fast-track to your personal growth and understanding of the universe… or just another form of escapism.
Both are good.
What do you think the Australian zeitgeist is today?
Who was your 1st crush?
His name was Pier in my prep class.
I went to his house and he caught a big spider and pulled all its legs off. I thought that was really cool.
Does sex change everything?
Not always… just your mood!
What are the top 3 items you own?
My cat Kika.
1980s Poochie AM radio – my favourite childhood character.
My favourite kicks right now – limited edition pride 2019 Airmax.
In a battle between the two iconic Australian pop culture icons: Kyle Minogue Vs. Dannii Minogue – who would win in a fight?
Which cartoon character would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy?
Please describe your last dream in detail…
Unfortunately I don’t remember my dreams because I smoke too much weed!
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered for showing people the value of art and creativity in our society can have on connection, development and well being.