It’s a gloomy Melbourne day but Beck Wallman and her kids explode into the park like confetti. She’s pushing her two youngest children Georgia, 5, and Lachie, 2, in a double pram while her eldest, Edie, 8, hangs off her back. Each of them is dressed head to toe in patterns and colour, standing out against the neutral frames of the park.
They look a lot like an illustration from one of Beck’s best-selling greeting cards; a mother, carrying around two kids and juggling a million things on her back, with the words “motherhood, it’s a breeze” written beneath. It’s just one of her witty and relatable cards she’s illustrated for her small business, Wally Paper Co.
After Beck unclips the kids tethered to the pram, they bolt across the tanbark for the swings. “I want to go on the big kids swing,” Georgia says. Beck sweeps her blonde hair up into a messy bun. She’s wearing a bright pink crew neck sweater covered in food stains with a pair of baggy jeans. “Sorry about the stains,” she laughs, pointing at her children, “it was them!”
As Beck pulls out a tissue to wipe Lachie’s nose, it seems there is no coincidence that all her cards, in some way, acknowledge the fundamental messiness of human relationships. Messiness is a consistent theme in Beck’s life. “I’m the messiest and most disorganised Mum I know,” she says, “but the house is full of life and volume.”
Beck Wallman grew up in Geelong. Her Dad, David, was a legal aid and had a very strong social conscience. As a family, they helped feed people who couldn’t afford it and even had some people with drug addictions come stay in the family home. “Looking back, it was pretty crazy upbringing,” Beck says, “but that was what we thought was normal at the time. Nowadays, I think that was a really lovely gift dad gave us.”
Her mother, Jane, was into textiles. “We grew up with screen printing machines in the garage and lots of different paints around the house.” They had two other children, Sam, who is now an award-winning political cartoonist for SBS and The New York Times, and Alex, who works in creative direction in Los Angeles.
“It’s funny to think that my brothers and I are still drawing all the time,” Beck says. Sam attributes it to their parents “slightly crazy” church phase, when they found themselves stuck at church for hours every week. “That’s where we honed our skills and got some pretty funny material – drawing all over the church newsletter,” he says.
“I remember Beck even used to draw all over our cereal boxes,” Sam says. “She sees a lot of things as a canvas, which is a very unique way of seeing the world.”
The day after she got her year 12 results, Beck signed up to do year 12 again in Belgium, where she went to an arts school and learnt French. When she came back to Australia, she moved to Melbourne to study art direction at RMIT.
Meanwhile, her brothers were stuck in Geelong, so she’d invite them to come stay in the big smoke with her every other weekend. “She would let me join her at every party or group dinner she’d go to, even though I was eight years younger and a shy little doofus,” Sam says.
“It’s that understated effort and care which is indicative of who she is as a person,” Sam says. “My sister is really thoughtful and loyal. She has a lot of spirit and light in her.”
She has had a successful career working across advertising and film for 15 years. “Those years were really fun,” Beck says, “I loved the challenge of working on a variety of projects. There was always a new assignment, we did everything from launch campaigns for Country Road kids to making advertisements for incontinence pads.”
After meeting her partner Ben, the pair decided they wanted children. “After the birth of my two little girls, I had to rethink my career path,” she said. “Cards felt like an approachable way to have a part time job while raising children.”
It all started at Beck’s kitchen table with a box of old cards at her feet. When she felt like she had enough material, she started doing markets stalls. “I’d travel up to two hours with my newborn in tow to sell cards with some little old ladies. If I was lucky, I’d sell maybe 2-3 cards, but it was fun.”
Wally Paper Co has come a long way since then. Beck’s cards are now sold in over 60 stores around Australia. “I feel like Wally and I have grown up together,” Beck laughs. “Getting older has made me softer, I think that’s reflected in the cards.”
Back at the park, Beck is comforting Georgia after a nasty fall from the swing. “These guys are the hardest part of Wally,” she says, kissing Georgia on the cheek. “The material is great because they make me laugh, scream and cry but, the ability to make things is just so rare.”
“They’re already making me cards though,” she adds. “I have a special box I keep them in. I can’t wait to sit down when I’m old and go through them.”