Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Design diva

If you're craving some design talk, I've got just the thing this morning: an interview with Jesse Breytenbach, South African artist and designer, and author of the graphic novel I don't like chocolate. This is Jesse's third appearance on Fabric of Living - read the other posts here and here. Take it away, Jesse!

FoL: So Jesse, tell us how you got to where you are now. How did you get into design and where did you study/train?

JB: I studied Printmaking at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. I spent an awful lot of time doing extra-curricular things like drawing comics and illustrating letters to friends, so illustration seemed like a good idea when I left. I was lucky to get a freelance illustration job that stretched on for years, drawing for an educational publisher. They were new to the business, so we all learned as we went along. 

FoL: What does your typical day look like?

JB: Wake up around 8 am, coffee and e-mail, take the dog for a walk, then shopping and post office. Work until about noon. Half an hour or so of exercise or cleaning, then lunch. (I dislike both exercise and cleaning, so if I give myself only those two options, I'm likely to get something done. Usually I alternate between the two.) Work until about 4 or 5 pm, another walk for the dog, then supper, e-mail, TV, sleep. Because I work on so many different things, printing, drawing, sewing, I've found it helps to structure each day more or less the same. It's easier to figure out how long it will take to complete a commission if I work for the same amount of time each day. That said, deadlines can easily throw everything out, and I sometimes stay up all night to get things done.

FoL: Do you think SA is catching on with the trend of locally sourced and/or hand-made products? Can full-time designers and crafters make a living here? 

JB: I think it’s becoming important to some buyers; people do perhaps want to buy things that last, that mean something more than just being fashionable. Some crafters and designers do make a living here, but the majority of people that I know do a number of different things to earn money, including teaching and commissioned work. 

FoL: How long have you been on Etsy, and do you find that it's growing in popularity over here too? Where are the majority of your Etsy shoppers from?

JB: I've been on Etsy for a few years, and I've definitely noticed an increase in South African Etsy sellers recently. Especially after the launch of Paypal in South Africa! It's going to be even more attractive for locals once Etsy has their currency converter up and running, something that they say will happen later this year.
At the moment most of my customers are from the US, and the rest are from Britain and Australia. Etsy seems to be very much a US site; most of the press coverage I get is on blogs, as well, and most of those are American. (Though suddenly, in the last 6 months, South African blogs have started filling up my blog reader, so things are changing!)

FoL: Tell us about your graphic novel, I don't like chocolate. 

JB: It's about food and the sometimes strange ways we think about it. There are no superheroes, aliens, guns or explosions in it - just stories about women and their food. 

FoL: What inspires you, both as a designer and as a person?

JB: Ingenuity, simplicity, ease, elegance. But ridiculously fussy, impractical and over-the-top ideas appeal too. I'll fall for a design that has a sense of confidence and conviction, that is completely itself, regardless of its aesthetic.

FoL: Any décor tips for our readers?

JB: Try to get all the painting done within the first month of moving into a new house! Five years later, and I still haven't painted everything. 

Thanks so much for talking to us, Jesse! If you'd like to get your hands on some of Jesse's fabulous products, visit her Etsy shop. You can also check out her website here

Don't you just love that Bacon print by the way? I'm craving a BLT right about now!


  1. Lovely interview!

  2. In all form and specific term of story telling like the genre of the graphic novel ,about jesse work its been a long time i 've seen something really original inspiring and fresh like this , its just great.