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Welcome to the wonderful world of Walalaland. A place full of colour, patterns and positive signs encouraging us to Dance More, Kiss More and Hope More. When I first met artist Camille Walala it was a sunny Saturday and Camille was 40 feet high above the ground in a cherry picker, transforming a dull brutalist building in Old Street into one of the biggest and brightest pieces of street art London has ever seen.

I met up with Camille again last week, minus the cherry picker, and we chatted about her early influences, how being sent to London changed the direction of her life, her first installation at Supermarket Sarah, having Pantone Days, turning brutalist buildings into Walalaland, plans to transform a school in Harlow and how she is finally living her dream.

Was there a lot of colour and pattern in your house growing up ?
Well my Mum actually had a notepad next to her phone, and she was always drawing little patterns in it, all in one colour, a bit geometric and quite graphic. I remember drawing a lot of different houses when I was younger. It is funny because my Dad is an architect and his house is quite minimal in style and my Mum’s house, she lives in Provence, is really colourful and she loves a lot of African patterns.

 

All of the houses in Provence are quite colourful and my Dad has a lot of really beautiful little pieces of furniture, a bit Memphis influenced actually. He has really stylish taste and my Mum has a much warmer and more colourful house. I am just now realising that I must have put all of those elements in my head, just shook them all up and my style has come out the other side.

And I discovered recently that my mum wanted to be a textile designer when she was younger ! and now it’s nice as she is proud of me. When her friends comes to the house she is always asking me to show them things on Instagram ! They are probably bored to death of it !

What was the journey you took to be become the artist you are today ?
Well I hated school ! I knew I wanted to do something creative but I didn’t have much confidence and no one really pushed me to be creative and also I kept changing my mind all the time about what to study. I studied economics in the end in France and I hated it.

 

My Dad was keen for me to learn English so he sent me to London for three months to learn the language. I hated him for that as I didn’t want to go. At the time I was living in a small village in the south of France with like 300 people. I was wearing these crazy outfits and everyone used to laugh at me for trying to be different. I wore Buffalo shoes (before the Spice Girls !) I was going out with the same friends, going to the same nightclub, the dj played the same set every time, I would pretty much know it by heart.

So I went to the UK. I was so scared as I couldn’t speak a word of English but after three months in London I loved it so much, I didn’t want to leave. I still say thank you to my Dad now. I thank him so much as it changed my life. It’s like sliding doors, my life could have gone in a completely different direction. And now I have been in London since 1998 and I absolutely love it.

I worked in restaurants for a long time, and ran a small catering business and then when I was 29 I finally went to university, living in Brighton, studying textiles. After graduating I moved back to London and I worked in La Bouche, selling cheese on the deli counter for two and a half years and on the side I was doing my own thing. The wife of the owner opened up a shop called Fabrications on Broadway market and asked me to do my own prints. We did ten rolls of my own designs. For me that was really exciting, and I started making my own cushions and for a while I was selling them on Broadway market.

And was it around this time you created your first installation with the brilliant Supermarket Sarah ?
Yes ! Supermarket Sarah saw my work and asked me to do a wall around four years ago, it was the first time I was able to show my work. That was my very first installation, I wanted to do something quite fun, paint the floor, create stickers with positive words and screen prints.

 

And pretty much just after that the owner of XOYO contacted me, he must have seen my work at Supermarket Sarah and asked me to decorate the whole place. He gave me Carte blanche which was amazing. It was the first time I have ever done something that scale before. I did exactly what I wanted, a real clash of patterns. XOYO gave me so much confidence, they trusted me. I got a lot of inspiration from the Memphis Movement and my own textile patterns and positive words.

At the opening night there was so many people having a great time in a space I had created. It was such a great vibe in XOYO, it was amazing. It was a revelation for me and I realised finally what I really wanted to do, I wanted to create spaces that have a positive impact on people.

It has long been your dream to paint the brutalist buildings around London and you finally got your chance with the amazing Splice building in Old Street. Can you tell me how this brilliant project came about ?
So (photographer) Jenny Lewis and myself met on Instagram and she contacted me because her husband, who runs the post production company Splice, had just taken over this building in Old Street. At the time I had just done a massive mural in Melbourne and Jenny sent me a photo of the Splice building and a message asking if I would be up for painting it. Of course I jumped at the chance.

 

I loved the challenge of Splice, there were certain areas I could not paint on but I enjoyed that restriction. We were supposed to start doing it last June originally but finally started it in April. I put an ad on Instagram looking for volunteers asking for help and so many people replied !! I couldn’t believe it. We were a great team of seven in the end and it took about five days in total to do. It has been really great to see everyone enjoying it so much.

If you could now paint any building in the UK what would it be ?
I would love to paint a council estate. There is one in Columbia Road I would love to do. I love architecture, I guess I must get that from my Dad and I love Brutalism so I think it would be amazing to paint an estate. There is also a council estate in Margate I would love to paint too, the big council estate behind Dreamlands. I am going down there soon I am going to look !
I have long admired your brilliant pantone photos on Instagram. Can you tell me a little bit about this gorgeous project !
A photographer started it on Instagram a few years ago. The idea is to get 100 pantone cards and match the colour on the cards with the colour you see in the world. And I love taking pictures anyway and it is such a nice way to look at the world. Sometimes when I am on holiday I do it or I will decide to have a pantone day and I walk everywhere and my eyes are just open for colour. I love my Pantone days ! I look everywhere, it is great walking everywhere and when you have a project like that you are just so switched on to colour, its great.
You have a lovely bonus section on your website where you have created 'Advice for your own good' art pieces like Hug more, Hope more, Give more. If you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be ?
I think it would be ‘Just be more confident and don’t be so hard on myself’. You know I was very strict on myself, I never thought I was good enough, I lacked confidence for a very long time. And now, god you know I think I might cry actually thinking about it, now I am proud of what I have done, but for years I was comparing myself to others, and was very hard on myself and now I am finally where I want to be. And I am happy. It was so hard, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. But I am glad for the struggle I had now.

 

Last month I had the opportunity to talk about my work at St Martins and let the students show me their work and it was so nice to be able to give back and give them confidence to do what they want. And to tell them it is ok to make mistakes and to do their own thing. Sometimes it is hard to enjoy the journey when you don’t know where you are going, but yes if I saw myself at 20 I would just say relax, just take your time and believe in yourself.

All the things that happened to me, all the decisions, my Dad sending me to London for example, it is all with me now. It has become pieces of this puzzle that makes sense now. It takes time to know who you are, to be happy with what you do, so don’t give up and keep pushing.

What is your next project ?
A school in Harlow just contacted me, it is three schools and it currently has a bad ofsted report and they want me to transform it Walala style ! I went to see the site recently, it was made in the 60’s. It looks quite depressing, very brown. This all has to change !! So I am going to take it over. I need a team of people I think for this one. More and more I realise what I want to do. I liked the challenge of Splice so much.

 

I am going to do workshops as well with kids which is making me very happy. We are going to give them some walls and I am going to teach them little measurements in a fun way. Now I want to give back, I want to do something with kids. I wake up really positive about it. That is why the school is so exciting for me, I want to teach kids triangles and just teach them a few things and put some positive word on their walls. Things like Perseverance and Dance More and Living The Dream and Hope More.

I just want to give these kids some hope and give them some bright things to see. I just want to go to the school and say ‘Ok we have all these words’ and get them to choose which words they want to put on the wall. Choose between these positive words like perseverance and hope. I want to do the whole school ! I want to work with artists like Gary Stranger and create some amazing words on the wall. And the playground will be amazing. Imagine !

Finally if you could bump into your future self in ten years time what would you most love to see yourself doing ?
I want to create ‘Walalaland’ !! Yes I would love to have actually created Walalaland and be able to say ‘Welcome to my beautiful world’ ! that is my kind of slogan. You know how you have a dream and sometimes it can happen ? At the moment it feels like it is for me. Everything I want is just happening. For years I didn’t have any dream, you know when people ask you 'What do you want to do, what is your dream ? I didn’t really know, I didn’t have any vision of what I wanted to do for years.

 

I started years ago doing street art and in my head I just wanted people to start their day every morning and see ‘Hug More’ and the next week they would see ‘Kiss More’ on a sign on the street. And I just did a wall recently in Facebook's office in their lobby and I suggested to them Connect More. And they loved it. The fact they said yes to me. That was so nice compared to when I was starting out way back when I would get up at 5 in the morning with my bucket of glue doing my paste ups and now just doing the Facebook office. It feels so good. Now my dreams are so big !! Walala Land.

What does Walalaland look like ?
It would be a positive colourful patterned world. Can you imagine that ?!!

Funnily enough I totally can. Camille's 'Dream Come True' prints inspired by the Splice mural are now on show in Splice in Old Street and available to buy on Camille's website below.

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