Interview: The Strange Case Company (2018)

The Strange Case Company has showcased the collective work of BAFTA award-winning designer Jamie Durrant since 2009. His beautifully detailed prints are available through select galleries and via his website, and he has very generously donated a stunning aluminium-framed Master Tom print (pictured in the interview below) as a Brighton Bear Weekend raffle prize.

We chatted with Jamie about his background, his work and his plans for the future. Continue reading below …

Jamie Durrant
Jamie Durrant

Hi Jamie! How did the Strange Case Company get started?

Originally, I had plans to create these story puzzle boxes. Each was an original Victorian box that was customised with a diary of the last owner, combined with original (and some constructed) objects. All these artifacts inside were related to passages within the diary telling a story as to how they were all combined together and leading to a greater mystery that needed to be discovered and unlocked. It soon became apparent that the effort and cost I was putting into these “puzzle boxes” would have meant that they would have been far too expensive to sell, so instead I focused my attentions onto creating artwork that would be more affordable. The Strange Case name stuck.

Puzzle boxes by the Strange Case Company
Puzzle boxes

Your background is in TV, film and video game design, where presumably you were always working to a brief. How was the transition into being able to produce whatever you want? Are constraints important for an artist?

Yep, I left (got kicked from) Art College and started in visual effects. My first job was for the Anglia TV show Knightmare – that led onto creating animatronics, sculpting and more computer graphic work leading eventually to a career within video game design. Working within constraints can be infuriating at times but will often lead to a creative solution. With my own artwork, I don’t have those same constraints but I have to bear in mind the final format of the art, how much it would cost to produce and whether it’s feasible for that artwork to sell. Artistically, I feel it’s better to work without constraints initially so that the mind is free to soar, then refining that image into something that works well on paper, aluminium or as a lenticular image.

Huge Jack by the Strange Case Company
Huge Jack, made with 1425 stamps

Thank you so much for donating your amazing Master Tom piece to Brighton Bear Weekend! Can you please tell us more about it?

Master Tom (and his daytime alter-ego, Mister Tom) were based upon a combination of two of Tom of Finland’s men. It measures 70cm by 70cm unframed, and is surrounded by the positions of the constellations of Touko Lassksonens’s death and birth, marked out in Swarovski crystals. It was made by taking measurements from the faces of his designs and turning them into a three dimensional model that I could then light as I wanted. I try and aim for a stylised realism for my Icon range of prints. I like to straddle the real and unreal.

Master Tom print
Master Tom print

Have you always been interested in Touko Laaksonen’s work?

Yes, from an early age. I always remember a kid at secondary school coming into class wearing his famous artwork of the two cowboys facing each other, their genitals touching. I thought that was brave move considering that a shop assistant for the shop SEX was arrested for wearing and “exposing to public view an indecent exhibition” back in 1975. Touko’s work was a revelation coming from the 1970s where the only visible gay people on television were portrayed as camp and sexless. His work portrayed the gay man as hyper-masculine and highly sexed.

The younger Laaksonen stayed true to his artistic vision without any audience at all, but embraced great popular success later in life. How do you balance staying true to your own vision with doing what you think might be popular?

It is a concern. Initially I was creating artwork that I wanted to be commercial, but now I just create artwork that I would like to see on my own walls, or on friends’ walls. As I am unable to create my artwork full time (due to a long commute each day to a full-time job in the video games industry), I just try to create art that I like and hopefully other people might like too. Sometimes you can create art that you love and which receives a lot of praise, but then that doesn’t translate into sales which can be a bit disheartening. It’s all a learning process. One of these days I’d like to be in the position where I can focus 100% on my artwork instead of the hour or so a day that I can.

Monrobot and Marlene Shadow by the Strange Case Company
Monrobot 2.0 (left) and Marlene Shadow (right) from the Icon series

Do you have any particular favourites among your own pieces?

My favourites are always the latest pieces I’m working on. Currently, it’s Sex Sells. ( It’s a recreation/reimagining of all the neon lights that used to appear in Soho and other areas. I wanted to reminisce about all those times I went into London, seeing these signs in shop doorways and windows offering forbidden fruits. Soho is undergoing gentrification so it won’t be long before all that history has disappeared, and I wanted to create an image to remind me of those wet neon nights. Add to that, actual neon is so expensive and fragile to produce and I wanted to be able to create something more affordable, that still had that buzz and feel of real neon.

Sex Sells by the Strange Case Company
Sex Sells (work in progress)

Where can we see your work exhibited or for sale?

You can see my work in the Cloud Gallery branches in Brighton, Worthing, Chichester, Horsham and Guildford. My work is on my website, and I also post a lot of ideas and pictures on my Instagram account (which is an amazing tool for artists to connect directly to their followers). I’m also on Facebook and Twitter.

Clone Trooper and Adore Trooper by the Strange Case Company
Clone Trooper (left) and Adore Trooper (right)

What are you working on next? Anything exciting coming up?

I have a long list (it’s getting longer every day) of pieces that I want to produce. Sometimes an idea can take a year with me thinking about it and working out how best to realise it. Other times, I can have an idea and a finished piece of work within a day. I’ve signed up with Pulse Fine Art in Worthing, who will be getting my pieces into more galleries and helping with the production of my pieces, so I’m very excited about that. Art is nothing without visibility.

Thank you so much, Jamie!

You can win Jamie’s beautiful framed Master Tom print in the big Brighton Bear Weekend Raffle. Tickets will be on sale all weekend (14-17 June). The prize draw will be held at our Bear Bust and Raffle Draw at the Camelford Arms (Sunday 17 June, 5:00-7:30pm).