Seashell Tapestry

Camila is a Portuguese creative and Fashion Design graduate currently living in Peckham, London. She focuses on creating colourful tapestries by making patterns and mixing textured yarns. She’s also started experimenting with paint and mirrors during the pandemic of 2020.

Camila and I met while working at Wool and the Gang, where she currently works as a Sales Manager. We bonded over tattoos, being born in 1994 and having cigarettes ︎

︎ So tell me a bit about where you’re from? 

I was born and raised in the beautiful land of Portugal, which obviously, has been my biggest influence. I currently live in Peckham, London. It's not that I'm not comfortable here. It's just that most of the things I love are in Portugal. Nature, landscapes and the whole setting.

I decided in fourth grade that I wanted to be a fashion designer. I used to draw people and clothes, then I would cut out the little clothes and stick them on the people and change their outfits. Barbies, and Bratz, were also my jam. I wasn't much of a tomboy as you can imagine, very pink on pink.

︎What did you study at University?

I went to the University of Lisbon to study Fashion Design. I then realised that I wasn't really into the whole sewing thing. No one else was doing knitwear crochet and then towards the final year, I decided that’s what I wanted to do because it's a lot more fun. 

︎ What did you do after you graduated?

After I finished uni, I had that feeling of fulfilment on one side because I had a degree. On the other hand, I didn’t have a job. I went back home and I stayed there for six months; I was just working on this collection with a friend of mine. I wanted to have a good portfolio because I didn't have much work from uni.

My mom started asking me what I was going to do next. I got offered two internships. One in Maiami, Berlin and one in Sibling, London. I had two really good friends in London, so I decided to take that. I had no money though, because I had been working on my portfolio. I did work at Zara for 3 days, but they were trying to train me during Christmas with queues of 30 people. It was madness. I said goodbye, thank you for the opportunity and left. My mum gladly agreed to support me for 4 months while I was in London.

︎ That’s madness! How fast did you start your internship after that? And how did it go?

I started three weeks after I got it. It was a four month internship until London Fashion Week. I moved into my friend's house, I stayed there forever pretty much.

I learned so much from that internship. I lied and said I knew how to crochet. One day the creative director came up to me and asked me to crochet this belt for a photoshoot with Anthony Joshua for the Evening Standard. It was a crown with wings, proper complicated crochet stuff. I just agreed and continued with the lie. He gave me a book that explained the pattern and I just started reading it. Every time I did an attempt with this really expensive thread, it would look horrible. I kept putting it Inside my bag, hiding it away from him. I had to sit at the office and work on it every day. He would walk past me and ask how it was going, I would just tell him it was going great! But kept hiding the belt.

I shouldn't have lied to get the internship because I probably would’ve gotten it anyway. But yeah, tough love, I learned how to crochet and the belt turned out okay.

Paint on Mirror. 

︎ That’s so brutal! It’s like throwing a kid into the ocean so they can learn to swim. How did the rest of the internship go?

Yeah, that was in the beginning, I could still chill a little bit, but then as we got closer to the show we went into full intensity. We would work from 9am to 1am, every day for two weeks before the show.

That's where I learned how to do tufting which is what I use in my tapestry now. I did a few tapestries before but I didn't do the tufting ones before I interned. Otherwise I’d learn from the other interns, they had experience with other stuff. We got along really well. So they would teach me different things. It was so nice.

It was unpaid. They only paid for travel expenses. It was a struggle, but I was living with my friends thankfully, so I didn't pay rent. I feel very grateful for it. I was only 21 at the time.

I think the funniest moment was the day of the show. It was finally coming to an end. I had zero energy. I slept about three hours and managed to sleep through my alarm. I was panicking. I ran to the tube in Shadwell and the guys who checked the Oysters came around. I was confident because I had my monthly Oyster and was pretty much a zombie at this point. I gave him the Oyster, and he said he needed to fine me. I forgot to tap the oyster at Shadwell! I started crying and telling him I had no money, but he still fined me for £90.

︎ Noooo I can’t believe you got fined for so much as well! How did the show go when you got there?

I finally made it to the show, only half an hour late. I got there, and just asked how I could help. I was there to be the most helpful person in the world. I just lost 90 quid but go ahead, throw some work at me. The show was really good. It was a few weeks before Brexit happened and two of the founders of Sibling, Sidney and Cozette, were wearing this t-shirt that said “IN”. A lot of people were also wearing that t-shirt. We had hope for a minute.

I got to see how everything works backstage. Pinned a few models in the back. They were slightly pissed. But it was, what you see on TV, madness finishing it on the spot. I was actually sewing a sequence. I thought it was so incredible though. It was so impactful. It was the first time I actually felt a team effort of everyone involved. I think we went to a River Island party after but we left so early because at that point, we just wanted to go to sleep.

I could have stayed at Sibling but it was a matter of money. I was completely dry out of money. I had to move back to Portugal that summer. Suddenly, I found myself in the same situation as before. I didn't do much that whole summer. I was living my best life. Going out and going to the beach. It was great. My mom thought I was a lost cause. I kept telling her I wanted to come back to London, I knew I was coming back.

︎ When and how did you come back to London?
In October, I told my mom I needed 100 quid to get here, and stayed with my friends again. I ended up living there for 10 months, which was insane and because they're amazing. I allowed myself one weekend of freedom. I went to Brighton.

I started to look for any job. I wasn't really in the position of looking for a job in the industry. I wasn't sure if fashion was what I wanted. I started working at Zadig & Voltaire as a sales assistant; it taught me a lot. I got some money and moved out of my friends’ place, and moved to Peckham, 3 years ago.

I went from sales assistant to supervisor to manager. I just didn’t understand how that happened. I was just going with the flow and one thing led to another. It was really intense though.

︎ Were you still working on your tapestry, while you worked at Zadig & Voltaire?

I worked 40 hours a week. Never had weekends off. I was still working on my stuff, but I was so uninspired. I would just come home and be hating my life, I needed change. I had a proper meltdown. Especially when I started having to go to meetings with people. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Also I was going bankrupt just buying yarn. It was a bit of a struggle. I couldn’t afford it here so every time I went back to Portugal I would always bring back my luggage full of yarn.

Tapestry Graphic.

︎ That’s some real commitment. Did you quit that job then?

One day this person, also named Camila, came in. She used to work for a different shop and she mentioned she moved to another job and needed an assistant manager. It was good money and at that point I didn’t care what I was doing. I just wanted to get out of that job. I went for the interview and got the job, resigned at Zadig & Voltaire and went to Portugal on holiday for two weeks.

While I was on holiday, I got an email from Wool and the Gang, saying that they had an opening. I’ve been emailing them for 4 years, asking for a job. On my first day at the new job, I left work at 7pm and went straight to Wool and the Gang for an interview.

After around a week, I left my new job and started working at Wool and the Gang for their Customer Service. I finally got a discount on yarn. After over a year, I started working on the retail team, which was better. It’s my two year anniversary at Wool and the Gang in May 2020. 

︎ What do you like the most about what you do?

I've learned so much from working with Elinor and Anna at Wool and the Gang, and pretty much everyone who works in the office who is female. This is something I never felt before because everyone used to instigate women against women. We’ve all caught ourselves saying the sentence “I work better with men”. Not now. Maybe in the past, which is so bad. However at Wool and the Gang, for the first time, I really felt what it was like to work with women and feel empowered by it. It’s just a different vibe.

Paint on Mirror

︎ I really remember saying something along those lines, which baffles me now. Working at Wool and the Gang has also changed my perspective completely on that, I’m so happy about it.

I have thought about it so many times. Why did we say those things? Is it because we felt threatened by each other? Or is it because we believe the things society wants us to be? Also making comments about other females just because. We used to say nasty stuff that most of the time wasn’t even true, but we felt like we had to, to put ourselves in a better position.

︎ By putting someone else down, you're putting yourself up. It freaks me out to think back at that, but it's also really nice to realise that we're not like that at all anymore.

Every time I see someone putting someone else down I'll call them out. I’ll tell them that what they’re saying is actually not cool, what’s the point? You also have it the other way around. When I see my friends saying awful things about themselves, I ask them, “Would you say that to me?”

︎ Where do you get inspiration from for your tapestries?

I'm a visual person. My inspiration comes from exhibitions, art and random people on Instagram who make drawings.

Films are also my main source of inspiration for everything. I think it's mostly about the vibe of the film. When you're watching something, there's this interesting atmosphere you can be drawn to. That's why I'm really into old films. They used to put more weight into the costumes designs rather than plot twists, like it is now. It's like when you get inspired from music, It's definitely not visual, it's just a vibe.

Music is another whole theme. I should probably work with music at some point. I really love it so much. I think it's because my dad is a musician. I was always down for a bit of music or a gig.


︎ Obviously you do your tapestry on your own time. How do you find time to do that on the side? Do you allocate time? Or do you do it when you're feeling inspired?

I tried both. For a while, the idea would be to work on it when I felt inspired. But obviously, the timing isn't always right. I feel like with creative work, you need to do and dislike a lot of it until you get to something good. Sometimes I feel like I have to force myself into doing it. Even when I'm not in the mood or I have zero inspiration, I’ll still give it a try.

There’s also this ego thing of thinking that everything I do has to be good on the first try. I can't do any shitty work, but you have to. For such a long time, I thought it was a failure to do shitty work that no one cares about. Now, I'll do something really ugly and maybe that's gonna be awesome for someone else. Who knows?

︎  What is your biggest fear as a woman, and as a creative?

I think my biggest fear as a woman is to be in the shadow of a man. I've always had this example at home of my single mom, who raised me on her own whilst doing everything else. I'd see other women, the same age as my mum, literally in the shadow of their husbands. That was always such a weird thing to me. It made me feel that I can't let go of my freedom ever. It’s hard, you have to let that go a bit if you ever want to be with someone. In the beginning of any relationship though, I always get a bit defensive and think it's just me against the world. It's hard to be vulnerable like that.

As a creative, it used to be making work that no one cares about. Now however, I’m just scared of not being vulnerable enough to show my work. I have that problem because I think it's never good enough. I never show it to anyone because I never think it’s good. I want to break that cycle. My biggest fear is to continue like this forever.

Seashell Tapestry

︎ Currently in our society, we value results more than experience. We are obsessed with monetising our hobbies and our salaries measure our worth. Brands don’t take chances, they copy trends because they know these are profitable. What do you think we can do to bring a more emotional approach to our day to day lives?

I think that's a process for sure. Sadly, we're trained to do productivity like men do, and so are they. It links to toxic masculinity... We need to check in with ourselves more. We need to check in with our friends who do similar creative work. We need to support each other, to make sure that what you're doing is important and relevant. Not on a big money scale. Potentially creating a group of friends who you can actually talk to about the work you do, linking back to the process rather than the final result.

Women do have a completely different approach to things. It's so sad to see some of them losing it because they feel the pressure to be productive all the time. Even if they'd like to have a different approach to it, this isn’t accepted.

︎  Do you feel like you tend to focus more on your feelings and emotions, rather than the financial side?

Money is important to me but only to the extent of making sure I pay my bills. People and feelings always come first because I'm such an emotional person.  I'm always worried about people. I'm constantly checking in with myself, wondering if I was horrible or if there was something I could’ve done better. It's a good exercise to do, but if you overdo it, you just spiral down.

︎  Are there any women or nonbinary creatives that you really look up to?

I was just thinking today how much I love Fiona Apple. She just released an album and I love her so much. She makes my life so much easier. She's my first love in terms of female musicians.

I do have loads of female artists that I look up to. There’s Paula Rego, a Portuguese painter I really like. She's older, wise and has an amazing way of talking about her work. She’s also really sinister but has beautiful paintings.


︎  Is there anything specific you struggle with in your practice or that you want to improve on as a person?

Oh, yeah, definitely. For example, learning how to be vulnerable. Also, letting people see what I'm working on in terms of creative stuff because I never do. I feel like it's not working for me, so I need to change my approach.

I don't even know why I find that hard. I think that's internalised in all of us. We're not praised for being vulnerable, so it's really hard to do the opposite. However, it’s behaviour we can change. If you start changing it, then you'll get used to it.

︎  How do you find talking about money?

I’ve been getting better. People always measure your success and your happiness by the amount of money you have in your account, which is total bullshit, as we know. Sometimes though, if you're not in the best financial situation, you're ashamed of talking about it. Why? It's normal. We all come from different backgrounds. You can't expect people to be in the same place in life, it doesn't mean that one is doing better than the other. It's just different.

I think it's just about encouraging everyone to talk about it, a bit more openly. That will make things so much easier. Even though let's be honest, we all have those moments of dreaming about buying a house and all the stuff we would buy and how we would decorate it.

︎  Which is perfect for the next question! What is your dream? Where would you want to see yourself in like 10-20 years?

I'm not gonna say have my own business because I'm not sure if I'm that person. I would like to work with tapestry and doing some furniture within tapestry. The same as I do now but I would like my main job to be within tapestry because then I get inspired a lot easier. As a woman, I don't know, maybe in 10 years time I'll start thinking about having some cute babies.

︎ What would you tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to just go for it in every situation because everything is gonna be fine. There's always ways of getting out of things. I would tell myself to not be scared to put myself out there.

Paint on Mirror

︎  What empowers you?

This is gonna sound really cheesy but, experiences with my friends. The deep moments. Those conversations at 3am in the morning in the kitchen, while eating mac and cheese. You get out of those conversations feeling like life is great. I can do anything. I love them.

︎  How have you been feeling during this Coronavirus pandemic and quarantine? Has anything changed?

Yeah. A lot. It's been such an intense six weeks because everything's changed. My initial approach was to take one day after another, but now it's just a few hours. It’s a rollercoaster. You can be super happy in the morning but in the afternoon, you're so depressed and just want to sleep.

I've been having little rituals around the house that make me feel a bit better. For example, tidying my bed in the morning, light up some incense and create this whole vibe. I also try to create separate spaces. In the beginning, I was working from my bed. No respect. I'm working on my desk now, then it's exercise time. I will also have a FaceTime with my friends in the evening.


︎  I also started making my bed now! Is this adulthood? But have you had any struggles or problems surface during this time, now that we don’t have as many distractions as before?

Yeah, the body image thing. During a situation like this, it always comes for you. You'll find problems, even if there aren't any problems, you'll find them. I've been picking my face all the time, I can't stop myself, just anxiety picking my face.

During this time, I feel like I unpacked a lot of things that I have been trying to avoid. I just made peace with a lot of things. But before I got to that point, I wasn't in the best place. Also, I'm sure you also feel this way, because we're not from the UK, our families are not here. There’s this anxiety because you start to wonder, when am I going to get to see my family? If I need to fly out for an emergency, can I do it? That's quite scary.

︎︎︎ Do you think we'll learn anything from Coronavirus?

I really hope so. I've seen a lot of people saying that the way we were going, it wasn't working for us. It's always been down to the level of productivity, we need to slow it down. We need to slow it down for the sake of everyone’s mental health and the planet.

I've been in contact with a lot of my friends that I normally don't talk to every day. I hope that doesn't get lost when this is over. It's so important to check in on people. To make the time to check in.

︎︎︎ How do you think the world as a whole will change, if at all?

I think this might be the new normal. At least for a while. Change was needed, regardless. We should welcome that change, with an open mind. Take it slow.

If we think about it, me and you, for example. We're trying to change. We are working with ourselves when we're at home and tackling some issues that we've been trying to avoid. If everyone's doing the same, we'll probably get out of this a lot better. 

Thank you so much Camila. You are one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met!

More of  Camila:

Interview by Luthiem Escalona
Edited by Luthiem Escalona & Annabelle Mayor