Ben Grib is a very talented designer and illustrator living on and working from his farm in Citrusdal. It’s here that Ben and his wife Vanessa run a design and print studio called Essie Letterpress.
What did you want to be growing up?
In sequence of me growing up; pilot, dictator, viking, artist, inventor, millionaire, movie director, scientist, journalist, farmer, chef.
Tell us about your journey so far – how did you end up where you are, doing what you do?
Our family farm was always in the back of my mind, so when the opportunity came to move out there, I jumped at it. Before that I was working in Cape Town managing a fruit marketing company and spending my off hours trying to teach myself design. It was always something that interested me, but I never dreamed that I could create something that someone would want to hang in their home. Then a friend asked me to try my hand at designing some artwork for a local retail chain. That was a great learning curve and also gave me some confidence to start working on my own style.
You run Essie Letterpress with your wife Vanessa – when and why did the two of you decide to start it?
It was Vanessa’s idea. One of the girls she studied with in San Francisco started a studio (called Dutch Door Press) and when she went to visit her the seed was planted. When we moved to the farm we were looking for a new exciting project to tackle together and it just came up. It was a relatively new concept for South Africa at the time and it fitted both our strengths perfectly. When you have an abundance of time, space and ideas; it seemed the only option. I used the opportunity to sharpen my design skills and somehow we got offered a variety of design jobs that go outside our letterpress focus. That’s always fun.
What would you say influences your design?
My influences are an ever-changing beast. But the biggest constants are Saul Bass, M.C. Escher, old text book illustrations, advertising for the 50s and 60s, comic books, Louise fili, vintage science fiction movie posters and the other fantastic South African designers. Also being surrounded by nature is a big influence.
How has your style developed since you began?
It has sure toned down a lot. It used to be all about bright colours, in-your-face humour, trend specific and culture referencing, but luckily letterpress cured me of all that. These days I go for the subtle approach, single colours, delicate designs. These days I spend more time thinking about it than doing it.
What mediums do you most enjoy working with?
My mediums are restricted to pencil, letterpress, digital and of course soil.
So, you’re a farmer/designer? Even though we’re featuring your design and artworks, I’d like to know a bit more about the farming…
Our farm is on the Piekenierskloof mountains and it grows Rooibos tea, blushing brides, proteas, citrus and the odd sheep. It’s situated in a bowl on top of the mountain so it protects you from things like wind and cellphone reception. On a clear day you can see table mountain 200km away.
What else do you spend your time doing?
Me and my wife just got a beautiful baby boy, so all our free time is spent shaking rattles. But I also love cooking, some woodwork, veggie gardening and I have been meaning to dust off my mountain bike.
What things are you currently working on, and what do you have planned for the future?
Currently I am doing a couple of logos, curating our annual Artist Almanac and finishing off an artwork commission. For the future I would love to illustrate and letterpress a children’s story book, but I will wait for inspiration to hit me first.
Find Ben on Behance to view more of his works.
Essie Letterpress are busy putting together their 2014 Artist’s Almanac (view the 2013 one here) and have announced a very exciting line up of contributing artists – so keep a look out. Follow along on their blog for updates: essieletterpress.blogspot.com