Camilla Huey started out as a painter. But when she came to MCA on a scholarship, she discovered a love for textiles that ultimately turned into a lifelong passion. Now, Camilla owns her own fashion and home design firm in New York City. She’s designed celebrity event and wedding fashions, crafted props and wardrobe for film and TV and worked with some of fashion’s biggest names. She tells us how MCA played a role in guiding her course.
What was your major?
What’s your job now?
Couturier at The House of Execution. (Tongue-in-cheek title: “The Executioner”) I create dramatic, couture gowns, corsets and costumes for celebrities and socialites for performance and appearance. I have created costumes for film, theater, opera and ballet. In my work, I consult with designers, architects, stylists and editors producing designs and prototypes for accessories, retail display, editorial, advertising, set design and the home. My job is to articulate a vision.
What is your favorite memory or highlight from your academic career at MCA?
My work-study for scholarship was in the library. Most nights, I had the entire place to myself. I devoured every book, resource, art magazine, vertical file and, in particular, I consumed the back issues of AFF (American Fashion Fabrics) the private publication of a fashion maven who not only wrote about fashion, art and technology but also included swatches of actual fabrics and colors. It was divine! It was serious. It was high fashion incorporating art and design that demanded high criteria that wasn’t self-defined.
How do you think your studies at MCA influenced your career?
The last semester we all took a class “Functioning As An Artist,” with Ruthie Haizlip. The class was common sense, the importance of being on time to appointments, taxes (She suggested throwing all receipts into a drawer to sort out later, it’s proved very time-efficient!), portfolio, resume, etc. She stressed never making excuses when presenting your work. To this day, I pause when someone looks at my work to let them take it in alone for a moment.
Ruthie told me probably the most important thing I learned at MCA, with more meaning today in this bottom-up economy. She said, “If you do work for no pay, accepting nothing, that becomes your market value. NOTHING. It not only determines your value, it affects everyone else in the market, devaluing your entire occupation.”
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by literature, history, lost craft traditions, technique and materials. But the materials and techniques are only as interesting as the cultural context within which they are set. My skillset relies on the vanishing traditional techniques taught to young women for centuries coupled with an understanding of form, materials, colour and design.
My base knowledge comes from my very accomplished mother and grandmother. These two women along with many teachers, family and friends have taught me that everywhere in life are opportunities for design, redesign and consideration.
How is your life impacted by art?
The art is in the living, because it’s all point of view. I read widely, with a deepening appreciation of the facts mattering less than the concepts. I’ve been interested all my life in how people live, specifically how they arranged their lives, family, friends and houses. I find strong women fascinating because of their concepts of themselves so often being at odds with culture. The mendacity is as compelling as any number of “facts,” more clearly exemplifying who they truly are.
What advice would you give to students pursuing or considering a degree in fine arts?
READ FAT, fill your head!