Interview: Artist and Designer Camille Walala

Ahead of Us By Night, we discuss staying true to yourself regardless of trends with the beloved artist

Multi-talented artist and designer Camille Walala creates unique work that’s influenced by multiple eras, styles and disciplines. Whether it be the Walala Lounge (which was on display during London Design Festival), a colorful building facade in Ohio, or a clothing collaboration, her goal is always to attract and excite viewers. It’s not surprising that the person behind these vibrant creations is dynamic, thoughtful and optimistic. We were fortunate to chat with Walala ahead of next week’s Us By Night—an annual nocturnal affair in Antwerp, where guests are granted access to a variety of keynotes and an all-night market—where she will be discussing her artwork and career.

Like Walala, Antwerp itself boasts positivity that’s instantly recognizable and dually unique. Some 170 nationalities contribute to a population that prides itself on its ingenuity—one in six enterprises exists within the creative sector. Plus, it’s within a short distance of other bustling metropolises—including Walala’s hometown of Paris and current base, London. This melting pot of creative energy makes Antwerp the ideal place to visit, and similarly, to offer Walala a platform.

Your work is so distinctive and you have such brilliant influences from Vasarely to Memphis Group to the Southern African Ndebele people. This style has been having a moment in the last couple years, but you’ve been at it for far longer. How do you feel about the way trends pass in and out of your aesthetic?

Certain tastes and styles always swing in and out of fashion, you can’t rely on this to build a longterm career. I begin with a lot of intuition and experimentation before a project. There may be a brief, or specific challenges or people to collaborate with, which I respond to. But everything I do is distinctly Walala. I’m not interested in what may be cool in the moment. You have to stay true to yourself.

Tell us a bit about your creative process. It’s just as easy to imagine your work being entirely handmade as it is to believe there’s technology in the background.

It’s a bit of both. I’ve always used notebooks. Starting with sketches and collaging is very important to get colors, pattern and textures to work together. Then I finalize things digitally. It’s nice to experience the work in another format. With the projects I work on—whether it’s a textile or large-scale building—there are specific challenges, like the texture of the material or the characteristics of the building that inform the process too.

To inspire joy is such a beautiful mission! Joy, however, is somewhat subjective. Do you think about your audience when you’re making your work or is it more of a self expression?

I think about the audiences for my work a lot. For example, painting a mural can really transform an area for the people who live there, as well as people who may stumble past it. They’re totally different kinds of interactions, but hopefully it will change their day and sense of the place. But also, it’s OK as an artist to be a bit selfish, too. I am very much exploring my influences and interests, which I hope resonates with others.

Can you share a little bit about what you plan to present at Us By Night?

I’m talking about my career and the experiences I’ve had. I was 28 when I went to university, and hadn’t done anything creative until my mid-20s. My father used to say that as a creative you should either be established or comfortable by the time you’re 40. I don’t know if I necessarily agree, people start at different points. But it gave me some solace at the time. I feel in a good place now, and I want others to know you can take your time on your own path.

To be in the audience for Walala’s presentation at Us By Night, simply purchase tickets online. Entry to the dynamic festival grants access to plenty of panels and an evening-long night market. We’re excited to partner with Us by Night to help spotlight the 70+ artists in attendance and celebrate the creatives in attendance. COOL HUNTING is a media partner of Us By Night.