“They’ve made me who I am today”: Camille Walala shares five significant titles from her bookshelf

The London-based multi-disciplinary designer is an avid book lover, and these five titles continue to inform her practice to this day.

17 June 2020


A designer that needs no introduction, the multi-disciplinary Camille Walala has brought splashes of colour to building exteriors, clothes, prints, public installations, road crossings and many more objects both big and small. A lover of books, this week, we have a very special treat for you. The London-based designer shares five significant titles from her very own bookshelf and sheds light on how they have influenced her highly acclaimed practice.

“I have so many books,” she tells us. “Anything with an exciting approach to colour and pattern” – something Camille is well known for today. She often finds herself picking up kids books without realising it. As long as she finds it inspiring, for Camille, the form of the reference is irrelevant. If she’s working abroad or on holiday, Camille gravitates to bookshops as an invaluable place for research. “Most importantly,” she adds, “it’s the opportunity to discover something unexpectedly. It’s not always clear why a certain cover catches your eye in the moment, but years later, it eventually makes sense.”

For this week’s Bookshelf, Camille’s selection highlights some of her favourite artists, architects and kids books. They’re all titles she came across unexpectedly, either at a bookshop or by chance. One thing they all have in common is they continue to inspire her today. Not only that, “they’ve made me who I am today,” so without further ado, please enjoy Camille Walala’s Bookshelf.

Ricardo Legorreta and Victor Legorreta: Legorretta Architectura, Architecture 2003-2010, published by Area Editores S.A. de C.V.

One of my favourite things to do during a holiday is look through bookshops. I bought this one after visiting Barragan’s house in Mexico City. This was such an inspiring trip – I was ecstatic! So much beautiful architecture and bold shapes, I knew I wanted to capture something from the experience. On my way out of the house I stopped by their little gift shop where I saw the book. The cover was so colourful it drew my attention right away, and there were so many bold architectural details to delve into. I didn’t know about the Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta before this visit. He was a disciple of Luis Barragan and had an amazing sense of colour and volume. This, as it always does, blew my cabin weight allowance when flying back from from Mexico to London. Totally worth it. I look at it very often, dreaming that one day I will have a house just like this! One day...

Keith Haring and Tseng Kwong Chi: Subway Drawings, Art in Transit, published by Harmony books, 1986

This magnificent book was a present from my partner last summer. She got it from our all-time-favourite bookshop on Broadway, Donlon Books. It did and still does fill me with so much joy. I got really spoiled! I love this book so much. I am famously a huge fan of Keith Haring. This book transports me to his world, with a look at the start of his career when he was drawing with chalks on blank advertising space in the New York Subway (genius!). The photographer Tseng Kwong Chi really captured a sense of 80s New York. It’s magical.

David Shrigley: Human Achievement, published by Redstone press, 2002

I remember very vividly when I bought this book. It was 18 years ago, in a basement of a bookshop in Camden Town. I was living nearby at the time. I was intrigued by the cover and have referenced it time and time again since. David’s work is more well-known now, but at the time it was totally different than anything I had seen before. When I opened the book, the illustrations were totally crazy. I couldn’t tell if I liked them or hated them. I couldn’t understand any of the text at all either (maybe it was because I had just moved to the UK from France and my English was pretty terrible then). But I bought the book anyway.

For years it stayed on my shelves and just gathered dust. It was only a few years later when I moved in with my flatmate that we decided to go to Hampstead Heath to smoke a joint, and I took the book with me. I opened the book, and his work began to make a lot more sense to me, or let’s say I couldn’t stop laughing at all the pages. Me and my flatmate were laughing with the same intensity for each page. We really bonded over the book and are great friends to this day. Since that time, I’ve been obsessed with David Shrigley and the book became my test for any new friendships. For anyone I met, I would show them the book. If they didn’t laugh, they were out. It hasn’t failed me since.

Daniel Buren: Comme Un Jeu D’Enfant, Travaux in situ

Daniel Buren is one of my all-time artistic inspirations. As a child I used to climb his art installation Les Colonnes de Buren in the inner courtyard of the Palais Royal in Paris. They are candy-striped black-and-white columns, each with different heights. It’s mesmerising. And since then I have been obsessed with black-and-white stripes in unexpected places, and his general approach of bringing art and architecture together. I am always fascinated when I see his work in situ. His work makes me smile every time I see it. This book is a catalogue from The exhibition Like Child’s Play, Works On-site, 2014 presenting works he created for the Strasbourg Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (MAMCS). A big regret of mine is that I never got to see this installation. It looks like an architectural landscape built with geometric shapes, like a giant child construction game. But I get to experience it through the book now.

Dick Bruna: I Can Count, published by Methuen young books, 1968

One of my first memories of books must have been when I was around three years old, this one is from Dick Bruna. He’s the author of the famous Miffy series. I absolutely love his books. I love everything about them. I was fascinated by them and especially this one titled I Can Count. The illustrations are simple and bold, using primary colours with a perfect thickness of black line (I am a bit of a nerd with the thickness of black lines). Who says kids books shouldn’t have such amazing artistic qualities? I find them very inspirational. It’s a comforting feeling when I look at this book even now. It’s clearly had a long lasting impact for me.

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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