Sep 26, 2019 | By Jane Boddy
Camille Walala is a name you’ve probably heard by now. The self confessed ‘purveyor of powerfully positive print’ has taken the world by storm with her bold patterns and large-scale pieces. We were thrilled at WGSN to team up with Camille for our report special called ‘Yeah…Graphics 100th Birthday’ (for subscribers), where she chose some of her most inspiring images to feature in our weekly inspiration report. Check out the interview with Camille below.
Can you tell us about yourself and what makes you tick?
It took some time to really find what I really love: applying patterns on everything I can! The bigger the better. I’d actually never done any fine art or design until few years after I arrived in London. I was always passionate about pattern but for years I lacked confidence and never thought I would be able to work as an artist full time. Starting with a few evening classes, followed by a foundation course, I then progressed on to a BA in Printed Textiles at Brighton.
I like good composition of colours, drawing with a ruler and eating with chopsticks.
I am pretty impulsive but always make sure to finish my work with perfection.
What’s important to me in life? A good quantity of sun! Luckily I travel with work enough to get a good dose of sun when I start to look grey in winter.
What are your major inspirations and who are your design heroes?
I have always been attracted by colourful, bold graphics and art. The Memphis movement has been part of my life for years, as I grew up in the 80s and was surrounded by it in my Dad’s house. I love the playful quality of Optical art and bold patterns from African tribes like the Southern African Ndebele.
Design Heroes: Nathalie du Pasquier, Victor Vasarely, Esther Mahlangu
What is your process when doing your large scale commissions?
I visit the place and try to get inspired by the space and volume itself. Usually I’ll do some sketches or collage in my sketchbook – the best part is finding a composition and colour combination that I love before translating it on the computer.
After the design is completed on the computer, I will scale it to the wall. My designs are quite simple so when I paint large-scale the lines need to be sharp and accurate to get that geometric quality. Depending of the size of the wall I will have a little team of people or otherwise I will work with Julia my assistant. Again depending of the size, to reach the height I will use a ladder, scaffolding, or a scissors lift. A lot if tape must be used if the design is to be sharp! And I use good masonry paint in just a few colours, starting with the pale colours and finishing with black.
What has been your favourite project to date?
The Walaladreamcometrue building in Shoreditch! I still can’t believe it happened, such a dream come true that was. I always wanted to do a whole building, and two years ago Jenny Lewis sent me a message on instagram with a photo of a brown building saying “Would you like to paint it?”. I was like “OMG Yes please!”. Not only was it ugly, so the perfect challenge for me, but it was also in the best location in Old Street where everyone could see it.
They had a limited budget for the project (covering only paint and cherry picker) but I asked if I found some volunteers if we could give them lunch and prosecco at the end of the day – and they said yes. I put an advert on instagram for volunteers to help me to realise my dream project and I got more than 60 replies.
At that stage I didn’t even know how we would execute the painting, but I chose 8 people based on their experience and warm emails and everything actually went very smoothly!
My design was simple enough to reproduce from a sketch on an A4 piece of paper to a four storey building. We painted it all in eight days with full sunshine for the whole week and prosecco every night! Perfect.
What are the most fun and most challenging parts of your job?
I love translating small designs or patterns from my computer to a massive space or wall. The design becomes so much more powerful. The challenging part is working on big scale and to get it right. Sometimes designs on the computer and in my sketchbook look too simple but I have to trust myself than once blown up it will be bold enough.
What are your Top 3 favourite people/blogs/places to go?
I adore Sabine Zetteler and her team at Zetteler.co.uk. They always write beautiful articles on artists and designers with so much love.
The amazing Sight Unseen for their vision.
And my favourite place is the Foundation Vasarely in Aix en Provence, which I featured as one of my picks for the special 100th edition of Yeah Graphics – curated by me!
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