Renée Rossouw is a Cape Town based architect working at SAOTA while running RR Studio, a South African pattern lab, as a side business. The studio which was founded in 2013 is dedicated to creating work for and in South Africa, focusing on the conception of a new South African aesthetic. The patterns that RR Studio creates are graphic and colourful, and are applied to a variety of mediums from wallpaper to ceramics.
We chatted to Renée about her background, process and plans going forward:
Was there ever any indication, growing up, that you’d be doing what you are now?
I think so. I was obsessed with Lego, world maps and flags and loved drawing. The simple geometries of world flags still fascinate me. I also used to love drawing hospitals and houses inside of trees with chocolate and sweets everywhere. I am almost thirty and still love sweets and spaces.
Your work is able to fall under the categories of both art and design. Of the two, which title do you identify more with?
My processes might be more associated with art but I value commercial appeal and enjoy making things that can be used in homes and by people. The useful aspect appeals to me. Design also evolves all the time with world trends and I enjoy working within this ever-changing realm.
How would you describe your style or aesthetic?
Colourful, Geometric, African. Sometimes comical.
How has this developed or changed over the years?
I’ve become more interested in not only drawing but collage, painting and the unplanned processes involved with creating work.
What do you find more rewarding: the process of designing, or the final product?
Most definitely the process. It can get addictive! Sometimes I feel a bit guilty for not thinking about the final product enough!
On that note, could you tell us what your process entails?
I like to keep a lot of scrapbooks with drawings etc. Whenever I receive a new project, I use these scrapbooks as inspiration. It’s a two-step process where I use my art to lead to a design result.
How does the environment around you influence your work?
Hehe, I’m not always sure, but whenever I see new buildings or cities, the building details and urban mishaps usually make a strong visual impact on me. I like to record what I see with drawings or photos. But I always get bored with my own drawings and they turn into cartoons.
What other things are you influenced and inspired by?
Always cities and interesting architecture. Along the way I have discovered designers who I feel a connection to or inspired by, the Memphis group, Picasso, any vernacular African architecture, derelict buildings. I also love futuristic worlds as depicted in The Fifth Element.
Out of all the projects you have worked on, is there one that stands out as a favourite?
Recently I have been a part of a Colab project for a good cause by Mr. Price home. I really loved the process and working within a very commercial realm. Mr Price Home have a great team. I also have my first solo exhibition opening this week which is a dream come true.
What are your plans going forward?
Continue to develop new patterns yearly for the South African market and creative industry. Regarding RR Studio, it depends what projects come my way. I also really enjoy working as an Architect. SAOTA does a lot of work in Africa and it is fascinating to get to know countries like Camaroon and Kenya and all their cultures.