Friday 8 June 2012

handprinted friday:: interview with Jesse Breytenbach

i first discovered jesse's work when she signed up for the last handprinted swap and she quickly became a huge inspiration - her block printed fabrics (and the goods created with them) are totally gorgeous and completely unique. jesse generously shares a wealth of printing knowledge in the tutorial section of her blog, the posts on how to make your own stamp pad and tips on working with repeats are especially valuable. thanks so much, jesse, for your contributions to the handprinting community and for answering my nosy questions!

Jesse Breytenbach
I’m a freelance illustrator and printmaker working in Cape Town. My textiles are printed using water-based ink, and cured to be permanent. Fabrics are sourced locally, and are cotton, linen, or hemp blends. My relief prints are printed by hand, either by burnishing or on an old book press. 
what is your creative background?
I have a Masters in printmaking (though I did spend a lot of that time making comics, not printing).

how did you get started with printing by hand?
I learned a whole lot of different printing techniques at art school: lithography, etching, silkscreening etc. But after art school I no longer had access to a studio and all the equipment that I used to take for granted! Relief printing is cheap and easy to do at home, so I started printing lino blocks on paper. When I became interested in textile design, I couldn't justify spending money on something that might turn out to be a whim. Block printing was the simplest way to test whether I might like doing this textile thing; so I started experimenting with ink and fabric.

what mainly influences your designs? what/who do you look to for inspiration?
It's hard to say. I'm sure I'm influenced by everything I see. I do love Bauhaus and Arts & Crafts textiles, but I don't know if that comes through in my prints. I tend to just close my eyes and daydream till I see a pattern I like, or to imagine a blank cushion or bag and figure out what I would like on it. Presumably all the things I notice during the day sort of stew in my brain, and hopefully whatever comes out again is a mixture of my influences and my personal taste.

what is your favourite fabric to print on and what colours are you currently loving?
I'm printing on a hemp/cotton blend at the moment. It gives slightly textured prints, and has a lovely 'wobble' to it. (I also like it because I can order it by email and it gets delivered! There's nothing more frustrating than wandering through fabric warehouses trying to find the same fabric again.) But I do like buying bits of other basecloths for limited runs - the colours can be very inspiring. Right now I really really like orange and purple - but not together.

what would your dream printing project/job be?
A very complex print with about four colours - I'm still stuck on two-colour prints, and trying to work up courage for three colours.


  1. Yay, an interview with one of my favorite block printers. I was so happy too when I stumbled upon Jesse's work a while ago. And her tutorials are fab!

  2. Thanks for a great interview, how had I never come across her blog before - it is wonderful!

  3. Jesse is multi-talented, she carves the most amazing blocks, makes the most fantastic prints and can knit and draw to boot! Always inspiring and such a sweetie :-)


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