JesseJames Design is a product design and creative commissions studio based in Cape Town. Co-directors Jesse Ede and James Bisset conceptualize, design and build anything from furniture, to iPhone Woodbacks and Longboards.
We caught up with them to chat about their new website, products and online store, and their cool jobs:
How did Jesse and James meet?
The beach culture of Milnerton is what initially brought us to hang out. We used to skate and surf everyday by the Milnerton lighthouse, many many years ago.
What are your backgrounds?
Jesse, after leaving school became a global explorer, galvanizing the world for creative opportunities and honing his craft working as a artisan on super yachts. James Went to University to gather his Bachelor of Sciences, and dabbled in travelling abroad and focused on developing his design studio.
How did JesseJames Design get started?
JesseJames began in the guest room of James’ parent’s home (The “Lab”) and the garage of Jesse’s parent’s home (The “Workshop”).
We had both been practicing design before and had an extensive portfolio of reconfigured broken things. Our mutual interest in designing and solving (and the prevailing unemployment rate) made for the perfect petri dish conditions for entrepreneur-designers.
How did you decide whose name to put first?
JamesJesse doesn’t have the same ring to it, although it would have made things a lot cheaper in terms of domain price.
What was the first project you guys ever tackled together?
We kicked off our collaborative career with “Slope Flash”, a creative commission from a friend to produce a bookshelf, which had to be paradoxically contemporary and traditional. So we got going doing what we do best and produced a sloped, self-stacking bookshelf out of wood. The unconventional shape made the piece unmistakably contemporary and unique.
Who does what at JesseJames?
We both have developed the business and have had pretty much equal interest in all fields of the business, but we do have our specialties. Jesse takes the edge when it comes to craftsmanship and quality control. He’s a finisher. James, on the other hand, focuses on the formulation of the concepts, which makes him the starter. Having said that we both take charge in both roles collaboratively.
You have such a variety of products. How do you decide what to make?
That’s our main strength, If we could narrow it down, JesseJames’ primary function is to solve any design challenge presented, it’s a dynamic function. We typically design to solve challenges in our own lives, we like to believe that is the primary motivator.
What’s your favorite material to work with, and why?
Would have to be wood. There are so many different ways to manipulate it, CNC routing, laminating, structural and it’s aesthetic and warm. It’s by far the best material to work with.
Take us through the process, from idea to finish.
Most typically when one’s about to doze off, and that imagination hormone fires, you get up, look for that pencil and Moleskine, and produce a quick scamp. The next day we will bounce the idea off each other to determine its novelty and sanity. If the idea passes those tests we will model and prototype, an ongoing process of developing and making parts, testing and resolving. There will be an array of rounds in this cycle, with every echo comes a more resolved prototype. Then there will come a time where we are satisfied, we then brand it, and dress it with appropriately fashioned packaging, and release to your kind to enjoy.
Which one of your past projects are you particularly proud of, and why?
The commission we did for Elle Magazine for the Style Reporter Award. Firstly because it’s fantastic working with such an established client, and secondly because they gave us total freedom in the brief, allowing us to really harness our creative prowess and create an award that suited the project to our best ability.
What are you currently working on?
We are just about to finish a project for the newly revamped The Lock Stock Market. The market is for local design wares, in the Woodstock Exchange building. We are responsible for the designer trestles for the marketers.
We’re also building a colossal environmentally friendly archway for the GreenZone at Rocking The Daisies for Greenpop.
What does a typical day at the studio include?
It’s so varied, recently we’ve spent a lot of time in our workshop off Longstreet to oversee the Lock Stock Project, otherwise it’s nitty-gritty designing and prototyping in our communal studio in “Everybody Love Everybody” in The Woodstock Exchange. We juggle all the design work with many coffees and table tennis tournaments at the studio. Throw in a meeting or two, a skate to get materials and some emails and you’ve got a typical day for JesseJames.
Anything we can look forward to in the near future?
Some fabulous new products and furniture pieces are in the pipes for our ever-growing line of products, which you can find at Sable in Loop str, and yes, we are in the race to produce the first Hover-Board.
Where do you see JesseJames in 5 years?
We see our design firm responsible for some of the greatest, most efficiently executed creative builds in the country. We see ourselves develop a reputation as THE go to design firm for unique and inspirational design commissions.
We would love to see our brand name being used to describe anything that looks inspirational, unique and entirely considered.