From a very young age, Jess wore creativity like a family heirloom, given to her by her grandmother who was an artist.
She picked up her first paintbrush at the age of 6 and fell in love with her career debut – an A5 canvas painting of Thumper from Bambi. Jess never believed that creativity ended with a brushstroke; that it was something you could live out in your career, your relationships and uniquely in your self-expression.
She grew up in KwaZulu-Natal and moved to Cape Town to study – first an economics degree and after a year she knew that fine art was something she had to pour herself into, so she changed degrees and went on to pursue her honours.
Jess started her business part-time while studying and was able to develop a slow and organic client base that allowed her to employ herself full time when she graduated.
“I love pulling creativity through my everyday experiences – from cooking to spending time with our friends and family,” she says.
Take us through your creative process/thinking.
I received my BFA at the Michaelis School of Fine Art with a specialisation in printmaking. I use traditional illustration and hand-touched processes like watercolour/gouache/acrylic in combination with digitalisation to create the artful feel of an original piece with the quality and diversity that digital design affords.
I’m a big believer in the process – be it for my own projects, for teaching or for a client. Having a strong, soulful method for creating always leads to project results that surpass expectation. The middle can look a little messy or not quite yet cohesive but there’s always a plan for how it finds balance and purpose in a final design.
Good communication with impactful and heart-centred inspiration are key in visualising work that not only makes a good impression, but allows for connection and inspiration too.
Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
I grew up on a macadamia nut farm and my dad, who sadly passed away last year, loved flowers and gardening. I don’t have much of a green thumb but I do love creating work that feels ‘alive’ and often ends up taking the form of florals or botanicals. I enjoy working with cheerful, bright palettes and if I’m working on a commissioned piece the stories and heart behind the clients ideas are inspiration in themselves.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I believe that the most important stories we tell come from the things that make us come alive. Whether I design for someone’s business, a special personal commission or teach a class helping students find their artistic expression and confidence – I have the privilege of sharing in and helping others visually tell the stories that make them come alive, as artfully, meaningfully and magically as possible.
Name 3 women who you admire and why?
My grandmother: I wouldn’t have the joy of this journey without her guidance and her pouring of creativity into my life. As a young woman she pursued a commercial creative career in a time when it was still a very predominantly male-dominated space; many of her art books describe the artist with the pronoun ‘he’ and I’m always inspired by how it did not deter her from living out her passion.
These two are a duo but I have the privilege of working with Rumbi Goredema Görgens and Julie Mentor who are operations manager and project leader for Embrace, which is a national movement for connected, supported and celebrated motherhood. Their tireless work, their critical conversations and their passionate hearts for women and mothers, especially within the South African context, have taught me so much about thinking beyond my own perspective and how big movements can begin in small places; that our most valuable assets are our ability to see people, to hear them and then mobilise in a way that supports them.
I hope I’m not breaking the rules too much, but I have to just name WOMEN. Working with and for women is a constant inspiration – from their creativity, their ingenuity and the power of their convictions to seeing how they radically and meaningfully impact the lives and systems around them as leaders, as caretakers and as visionaries.
Any advice/tips for other women?
There aren’t any bad places to start, only good places to grow from. Find the thing that makes you come alive and go and do it. Overnight successes are wildly overrated – seek slow and sustainable growth, embrace the process and hold onto those big dreams, even when the middle gets messy.