Marle Woman: Camille Laddawan

Industry leaders, new talent, quiet achievers and progressive thinkers, Marle Women is a regular journal series featuring one-to-ones with women of all ages and stages of their lives; women who challenge, excite, teach and inspire us. 

At her family's insistence, artist Camille Laddawan studied not art at university but a Bachelor of Design. This was followed by an Art Therapy postgraduate before finding her way to the work she does now.

Combining her interests in art, design, language and cultural theory, read on to uncover Camille's creative process, connection to her craft and the exploration of communication through visual codes.



Hi Camille, please share a little bit about yourself, your upbringing and any defining moments that lead you to where you are today?

Hello! Thanks for having me, Marle. I’m an artist living and working on Wurundjeri Country. I grew up in a family with an eccentric combination of creative and technical skills — my grandmother was a photojournalist, my sister is a classical violinist and photographer, my uncle is a furniture maker and my mother is a botanical artist.

When I was 10, my mum used to drop me off at a bead shop in Prahran, where I would spend time looking at and selecting beads and thread. I remember having a little tray and thinking about what I could make for my grandmother. I took it quite seriously, I remember it felt like I had gone to work. I felt a sense of independence, and a state of flow when picking and sorting through the thousands of tiny different beads and threads. It took me another 20 years to find beads and to find that feeling again.



How would you best describe what you do?

I’m a bead weaver and I make conceptual work with glass seed beads on a loom. My work is often inscribed with fragments of text and music notation by way of a visual code that I invented. I often draw on personal experiences to explore the nature of language, how it operates both as a system of expression and control. In this sense, music is also a kind of language: a system that makes order of sounds to affect people in different ways and with different intentions.

My most recent solo exhibition explored the sounds of my child between the age of 0-4 months. Along with my partner, I recorded her vocal sounds, translated them into Western music notation, and then into the music code, which I beaded into a series of works. I was interested in pre-linguistic speech. How does one communicate before words appear, and how do we classify language more broadly?

Making art is a multifaceted process, it involves lots of research and thinking through concepts, as well as designing each piece, and then the slow and deliberate process of bead weaving. What I love most about it is when my work generates conversation, connecting personal experiences with more universal themes and questions.With impressive academic accolades including a Bachelor of Design, Master of Art Therapy and Graduate Diploma in Publishing and Communications (Advanced), talk us through your career to date and how your further studies impact or influence your work…

After leaving high school, I completed a Bachelor of Design. I wanted to study art, but my family wouldn’t let me! As artists, they knew first-hand what a hard road it can be. That course ended up being foundational to my thinking and practice, and had a really fantastic flow-on effect. In my twenties I was pretty determined to become a child psychotherapist, though to study the course I wanted, I needed a background in psychology, social work or art therapy. I chose art therapy. After graduating, when I was practicing as an art therapist with children, the pandemic hit, and my work was put on hold. During the long Melbourne lockdowns I began beading. I didn’t expect to connect with it so deeply. I love the repetitive nature of beading, the rigidity, mathematics and strict material laws of the practice. I found that it combines all my interests, in art, design, language and cultural theory.

It sounds like you’re right where you’re meant to be! Woven into your works are messages composed in your own unique aesthetic - we once read your work being described as ‘beadings inscribed with fragments of text and music notation by way of a visual code’. Can you explain more about this visual alphabet?

The code I invented was inspired by Morse Code. Instead of dots and dashes, I use combinations of light and dark coloured beads to represent each letter of the English alphabet. I have also tweaked it for efficiency – giving more frequently used letters shorter combinations, and I have invented new code for punctuation. The Music Code I invented runs along four parallel lines, also using combinations of light and dark beads to represent rhythm, pitch, ties and octaves. Creating this kind of visual language has helped me to combine the conceptual and aesthetic elements of my work.



At Marle, colour plays a big part in the overall feeling of a collection - what role does colour play in the art you create?

Colours and their various combinations carry associations, which are sometimes culturally formed, and sometimes incredibly personal. I often work symbolically with colour. For example, I chose to use gold beads for a large work called Ref., which commented on the way legal and healthcare institutions can sometimes use inaccessible and bureaucratic language to deter people from making complaints. In this work, the gold represented the charming infallibility of these institutions, and the coded language, embedded into the work, represented the experience of attempting to understand and navigate the language they use.

How would you describe your personal style and how has this evolved over the years?

I have been wearing the same pants for a decade now. I truly love trends but am incredibly slow at catching them.

Marle is designed to add effortless ease to a woman’s wardrobe, how does wearing Marle make you feel?

The pieces I have from Marle make me feel relief when I wear them. I really love throwing on my Marle jumper, it feels like a big hug but somehow that hug is still stylish.


What is your most treasured object and why?

An infinity ring that my friends gave me for my thirtieth birthday. Each friend chose a coloured stone to embed on the band, so whenever I spin it around on my finger I’m reminded of their love.

Favourite home cooked meal?

I go to the market every Saturday with my friends and family, so we cook quite seasonally. At the moment all I want is to sit in front of the fire with a green minestrone with melting soft goat’s feta on top.

Favourite thing to wear?

A pair of gold earrings my partner gave me in the year we met.

Your non-negotiable daily rituals?

Coffee in bed every morning, which is now in negotiation, as our baby has things to do at dawn.

Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter?

I’m reptilian, so Spring/Summer.

Last Book You Read?

A thousand drafts of Ekhō, a poetry book by Roslyn Orlando (my partner), that is coming out in New York next year.

Current Podcast Recommendations

BBC Radio 4 series In Our Time.

Favourite Spotify Playlist?

Not my favourite playlist but some of the songs on this playlist are good to cook dinner to — Spiritual Jazz - Esoteric, Modal + Deep Jazz from the underground 1968-77.


Shop Camille's edit here.

Photographed by Lilli Waters

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