Jane du Rand is Durban’s best-kept secret that everyone knows about. A mosaic artist of international regard, Jane works out of her home studio that’s tucked away in the tropical verdure of the Bellaire hillside just south of Durban. The property was at one time in its recent-ish history leased to a monastery, but now is a hive of ceramic activity.
Jane’s mosaic works grace the walls of hotel chain, The Red Carnation, which has luxury resorts across Europe and South Africa, as well as a host of local public and private spaces including Constitution Hill in Joburg. But what distinguishes Jane’s work is the detail – her wall murals incorporate three-dimensional elements, which quite literally make the scenes leap out towards you. Her designs are intricate and meticulous, and a world apart from the kinds of mosaics you more often come across in people’s homes that are the lasting remnant of a brief foray into a new hobby. Jane is an artist, and her medium is ceramic tiles. We braved the Durban humidity and went out to visit Jane at her studio to learn more about the interplay between 2D and 3D.
How long have you been working from your studio, and is there a story about how you came to be there?
I have been working from this studio for the past 9 years. Previously I had been working out of a fabulous warehouse building in the bottom end of the old Point Road where we had huge windows that looked out onto the ships opposite. I had my first child at the same time the whole Point Development happened, so our rent went up and I wanted to find a place where I could work from home. A friend told us about the house with studio space and my husband and I drove past one weekend – we gave the owner an offer to purchase without even looking inside!
What about the location most appeals to you?
I love all the space, I love that there are trees everywhere and turacos, woodpeckers, kingfishers and hoopoe birds seen every day. I love that my children can be around playing happily when I work. It is also a “soulfull” place somehow, and even though it is very close to the city, I often feel like I am way out in the countryside.
What influences and inspiration for your work do you draw from your immediate surroundings?
I love all the plants and trees and the shapes that they make. Large parts of my murals use plant shapes – or patterns that are derived from plant shapes. I love the different greens you can see if you just look up into a tree canopy in the sunlight, or the different grey – greens on the aloe leaves.
How much of Durban, with its vivid colour spectrum of tropical vegetation, the deco buildings and ocean would you say filters into your mosaic work?
I think that the vegetation and the amazing colours found in the indigenous plants around Durban definitely filters into my work.
As an artist, do you find that space is important to and influences your creative process?
Yes, space is vital. It makes an enormous difference to working, wanting to work and being happy while working if your space is an inspirational one.
When not working to a specific brief, what are some of the motifs and themes that you like to incorporate into your work?
Usually always plant forms. I love the indigenous plants around Durban and also the fynbos in the Cape. I love succulents and aloes because their leaves make such wonderful patterns, strelitzias, agapanthus, all the proteas. I am most interested in colour, texture and pattern. Plants and flowers translate so beautifully into these things when you look at them carefully – sunflowers can actually be ‘furry”.
What do you love most about the work you do?
Every new project presents a new and different challenge. The process of making the work is an exciting one and it is wonderful to see the work unfold from a drawing on an A3 page to a 6m x 2,5m wall mural.
Your dream collaboration – who would it be with?
I already do collaborate a lot with people. I do many of my projects with Kim Longhurst who is wonderful to work with. I did try to get a project going with Xavier Clarrise, but the client did not have the budget – he is an extremely talented person and has a whole new way of looking at things. I also collaborate daily with all the many people who work in my studio, many of then students and recent graduates.
Who is welcome in your space?
Anyone with a positive attitude and energy!
Photos of Jane’s studio taken by Luca Baruausse.