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Turning Food Into Art | Meet Inspiring Young Artist Dear.Camille
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Turning Food Into Art | Meet Inspiring Young Artist Dear.Camille

Picture of Annie-Mei Forster
Updated: 12 December 2015
Collaborations between artists and businesses is quickly becoming a big thing in Melbourne. The Culture Trip meets Dear.Camille, one of Australia‘s up-and-coming creative minds and entrepreneurs.
Dear.Camille tote bag | © Dear.Camille/Shortstop
Dear.Camille tote bag | © Dear.Camille/Shortstop

Many discover Dear.Camille quite accidentally while perusing Instagram on their daily social media scroll. Its designs have reached places far and wide, such as Shortstop, the doughnut shop in the Melbourne CBD which features a tote bag with a doughnut design by @dear.camille Instagram. Read on to find out more about this up-and-coming designer.

The designer of Dear.Camille is Sheng Yi, who is originally from Malaysia but has lived in Melbourne for several years. We met at Little Rogue, a small café down an alleyway in Drewery Lane in the CBD. No signs or outdoor seating give away what lies behind a blue door, the hidden entrance to this café. Little Rogue, along with Shortstop and A Good Space in South Yarra, stock the Dear.Camille tote bag.

How did you get into designing this bag?

Sheng: I’ve been drawing as a hobby for a long time. Earlier this year I was looking at Shortstop and Doughboy Doughnuts on Instagram, and I thought they looked so good that I just wanted to draw them. So one day I did and was really happy with how it looked. I asked my housemate what she thought of it and she said, ‘you’ve got to sell it’. So that’s when I started to think that maybe I could turn this into a little side project.

So this is the first one that you’ve done?

Sheng: Yes, this one I did on a whim and took it to a place in Fitzroy to get printed. I didn’t really know what to expect, I thought I would just run with it to see how it goes. So that’s how it all started.

What ideas do you have for future projects?

Sheng: I’m not too sure, I am still working on my next design at the moment, but keeping in the food theme – I’m a pretty big foodie. I’m taking it slowly in picking something and want to go with what I feel. I have had a play around with drawing desserts. All the ones I’ve done I haven’t liked enough to sell, though. I don’t want to sell something unless I’m 100% in love with it.

Did you approach Shortstop to sell your bag?

Sheng: No, they found me through Instagram. I was on my personal account and I just posted a drawing of their doughnut and tagged them in it saying ‘this is based off a Shortstop doughnut etc’. Then one day they re-posted it and I came up with the brand name Dear.Camille because I wanted to detach it from my name. A lot of people do think my name is Camille. I get people all the time saying ‘Thanks Camille’. It’s kind of cool, though.

It’s your alter-ego now…

Sheng: Yes, it’s my Sasha Fierce [laughs]. Shortstop found me through Instagram and that was when I was in the process of printing the bags. The owner was really nice and bought a whole bunch from me and now they’re in-store. Little Rogue already had a few of my paintings on display and I asked them if they minded selling one more item of mine and they were fine with it.

What do you do when you’re not running Dear.Camille?

Sheng: I’m actually an architecture student. I came to Melbourne to study architecture and now I’m at Melbourne Uni. I also work at a property buyers agency in Carlton dealing with in-house design and client management.

You must know Carlton quite well then?

Sheng: Yes, I love NORA. That place is really cool and I used to go there a lot on my uni breaks – I love their teas. I think Melbourne is a great place for young people. I spent a good two years just trying all these new places. My friends say I’m a walking guide book. When people come to visit I have a whole list of places they should go to.

What are your favourite places in Melbourne?

Sheng: I like to come to Little Rogue on the weekends just to do some work and drink coffee. I also really like Industry Beans in Fitzroy North. It’s such a cool place, especially in summer because they have that big outdoor area. I also love cheap Asian eats. There’s a good one on Russell Street called Hakata Gensuke and there’s always a line outside. They do really good ramen.

Ramen is the best. Have you been to Japan?

Sheng: Yes, I love Japan. So much good food and culture. Everyone is really polite and clean. I love that their public toilets play rain water when you lock the door. Actually, there was one time when I was in Japan and went to the bathroom, there were so many buttons I didn’t know which was flush. So I hit the big red one thinking it was flush but turns out it was the emergency alarm!