The Vallentine Project is Bianca’s world of daydreams. Operating out of the Pop & Scott workshop in Northcote, her linen is a Rorschach test you can live inside of; colourful hand painted shapes that invite your imagination to wander. She sleeps in as research and thinks big when she works, a skill she credits to her upbringing in Manjimup, WA. Since people can be products of their environment we pick Bianca’s brain to find out how the ex-circus pony and dirt bike races of her childhood help her to create goods for the most important eight hours of the day.
Bianca Vallentine: I’m a designer of hand painted bed linen, cushions and occasionally I build giant streamer walls. We try to evoke with fun and happiness with our visuals and graphics. I grew up in a small country town called Manjimup, Western Australia and I’ve lived in Melbourne for about six years.
Growing up in WA taught me to think big. Manjimup was traditionally a timber milling town but since that industry died there has been a lot more boutique agriculture like Marron, cherries, truffles and macadamias. I grew up in a time when there was a drive-in, a local jukebox milk bar and of course an amazing Chinese restaurant complete with little umbrellas in the fried ice cream.
Now I feel like there’s more of a rustic, dispersed feel to entertainment – restaurants are attached more to wineries and breweries and compliment the local foods and cooking of the area. While it’s different it means you probably get to explore more of the region and get a more intimate experience. Oh, and it’s home to the Manjimup 15000, a well known dirt bike race that has been held every year since 1980, without the $15,000 prize money ever increasing.
When I was growing up my Dad bought me a pony, but it wasn’t just any ordinary pony, it was an ex-circus pony that was only half broken called Gemfire. Gemfire was purchased for $200 and came with a crazy son called Geronimo. Unknown to us she was also pregnant, so effectively my Dad bought three ponies for $200. This kind of deal is a regularity in the bush – something else is always getting thrown in on the deal.
We used to have this game called cattle yard chasey where you couldn’t touch the ground but you could use the yard rails to swing from section to section to get away from the person who was chasing you. I think we played this almost every weekend, until my cousin slipped and knocked out both his front teeth. We weren’t allowed to play cattle yard chasey after that incident.
We also used to take our tinny down to the Donnelly River mouth, which you can only get to by boat. It takes about an hour and a half. Sometimes we’d camp on sandbars along the river, other times we’d stay in our friends’ shacks. One time we went down there and my Dad wanted to burn some Blackboy stump to make the fire smell nice for my Mum. He kicked over a stump – karate style – and a swarm of bees flew out and chased us.
This year, with some help from (partner and illustrator) Andy, I will be mastering a few new techniques so we can create even more products to add to the collection. Hopefully we’ll get a few more road trips in. I see the world differently from city folk because I know how to pluck a chicken.
THE (Manjimup) TOPS
Be prepared for scalding hot coffee all across WA – they like it HOT. As testament to this fact our friend Kath (from Melbourne) got a job making coffee in Margaret River – she was told her coffees weren’t hot enough and was threatened with the sack.
Donnelly River Village – wild emus and kangaroos will eat of your hand, there is a flying fox, a river pool and you’ll be staying in quaint cottages surrounded by forest. It has a bit of a school camp/scout camp vibe.
Dine at Foragers – an award-winning restaurant that focuses on local produce. Stellar Violets encourages life learning and run seasonal workshops. Get in contact with them before your trip. Check out Fonty’s Pool – a historic pool site and caravan/camp ground. Bridgetown Blues Festival is a great way to experience the town and great music.
Try and get a local to take you Marroning – Marron are freshwater lobsters. Catching them often sees you either falling in the water or getting nipped – it’s pretty funny. If you have a 4WD or don’t mind a walk, go to Yeagerup – it’s a “moving” sand dune that is slowly swallowing up the forest. It moves four metres further inland each year. The contrast between sand dune and forest is unreal. If you’re traveling with kids stop at the Donnybrook Children’s Playground – it was entirely funded by locals and has some of the best slippery dips ever! Manjimup’s Timber Park also a new adventure playground for kids.
Best road trip
Dream road trip
There are so many trips I’m yet to do but I’d love to do the South Island of New Zealand sometime soon. South America would be great. I’d like to go to the Andes with Andy.
Shop handpainted bed linen and furnishings by The Vallentine Project online here (made in Melbourne).