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An Interview with Michelle Du: Camp Cadmium

Camp Cadmium


Where did the idea for Camp Cadmium come from?

Caitlyn, my best friend from home, and I started Camp Cadmium at the end of this past summer as a spontaneous passion project. Caitlyn is studying Fashion Design Management at Cornell University, and since last spring, we had been dreaming about doing an editorial-style photoshoot together. Summer came along but we both ended up being super busy and didn’t return to the photoshoot idea until mid-August. When we finally sat down to plan something, we realized that we had too many ideas to contain to one photoshoot and it all kind of snowballed from there. As a pre-med, biology major I don’t have many opportunities for artistic involvement in my academic work and as someone who has always been interested in art, I felt like I was missing a creative outlet. As Caitlyn and I started talking about our ideas, we realized how many of our friends are artistically talented and we were inspired by them to create Camp Cadmium as an engaging, community-centric platform for people to share their talents and expressions whether they were formally studying art or not.

You call yourselves "a multimedia experiment." What does that mean to you?

For me, a multimedia experiment means inclusive, open-minded, and fun. Caitlyn and I clearly love design and visual arts, but we wanted this project to encompass other forms of art as well. I am passionate about dance and I think it is a unique form of creative expression and story-telling through movement. We are both super interested in the power of music to connect with people, have friends with film backgrounds, talents in writing, poetry, and tattoo artistry, so that’s where “multimedia” came from. The “experiment” part is about gaining exposure to new forms of art and creating outside of our comfort zones. We talked about wanting to take more risks, both artistically and in general, and I think this phrase serves to constantly nudge us to keep doing that. Essentially, “a multimedia experiment” is a simple phrase to show people our intentions with this project and to remind ourselves of them as well.

What is the inspiration for the name, Camp Cadmium?

We don’t really have a great answer for this one. “Cadmium” has two inspirations: one being the song “Cadmium” by Pinegrove— fantastic band from our home state NJ—and the other being the periodic table of elements. The song “Cadmium” touches upon how as we grow up, we begin to refine our ability to communicate our inner thoughts in a meaningful way but that we often doubt ourselves and our abilities to express ourselves creatively along the way. These messages resonated with us and we felt like they embodied the purpose of our project, so it became a strong contender for our project’s name. Then, since Cadmium is the 48th element of the periodic table, we thought it was a good symbol that merges our interests in science and art. Cadmium’s qualities include being malleable and explosive, which also fit with our intentions for the project, so we stuck with it. For full disclosure, cadmium as an element is also toxic and poisonous, but let’s just ignore that part.

Where do you get inspiration for your collections and volumes?

Inspiration comes from everywhere, and it comes pretty randomly for us, I think. A lot of it comes from the interactions we have in day-to-day life and from content we see on social media. Personally, I spend most of my time in my classes, so I get ideas for concepts from the topics I’m learning about at school. For example, our next collection is inspired by the theme of “dualisms” which was sparked from a discussion in my philosophy class about mind-body dualism. A big visual concept that we are playing with in this collection is mirror-imagery, and that inspiration for me came from a chapter in my organic chemistry course about enantiomers, or non-superimposable mirror im-ages. Other inspirations are just sourced from trinkets we see in thrift stores, or Caitlyn even got inspiration once from a broken CD in a puddle in the city.

Because you are all in different schools, different states, what does the creative process look like when you're developing content and projects?

A lot of phone calls, screen shares, and shared Google docs. It’s generally pretty hectic honestly. Especially between Caitlyn and I, since we both have super busy schedules with school and our other commitments we tend to call each other in the 10 minutes as we walk to or from classes and meetings. It’s funny because at the end of summer, we made a plan to call every other week to work on Cadmium so we could keep it going while at school, but quickly realized that we had ideas or updates to share everyday, if not multiple times a day.

I've seen that you've been working with Undiagnosed recently. What has Cadmium's involvement been, and how do you hope to work with them and other groups in the future?

I was introduced to Undiagnosed through my friend Baili last year, who is on Undiagnosed’s Ambassador team. I love the way that they use graphics and creative t-shirt design to start conversation about mental health and break down the stigma that still surrounds a lot of mental health topics. It’s really amazing that they are using art for such a meaningful purpose, and we admire them and what they’ve started so much. I interviewed Katie and Baili from Undiagnosed last month to feature the way they integrate design with their mission on our platforms, and as we were talking, Katie shared an idea she had about a photo event that we could collab on, which is coming up soon! We’re planning on doing a pop-up photo booth where students can take fun, feel-good pictures, with the goal of addressing the pressures of social media that tend to have adverse effects on mental health. We’re hoping that this will remind people that taking pictures should have a positive focus, rather than induce negative thoughts about appearance or social status. In the future, we’re super open to working with anyone who wants to involve a design or artistic element in their work. Part of our overall goal of being a “multimedia experiment” is to encourage broad interpretations of art, and so we’d love to collaborate with any group that is interested in promoting a similar message.

What do you hope Cadmium will bring to Georgetown?

I was driven to start Cadmium with Caitlyn because I felt like I was lacking opportunities for visual design and artistic creativity in my academic work at Georgetown. I know that there are many, many talented individuals here and they might feel the same. I’m hoping that through Cadmium we can connect with them and share a platform through which they can showcase their work and embrace their creative sides, without the pressure of deadlines or strict guidelines. I also think Cadmium is unique in that our community of collaborators spans from coast to coast and internationally, so hopefully we can eventually connect artists from different backgrounds with diverse talents to create together or even just share ideas and ask for feedback.

What's next for Cadmium?

For the short term, we have just finished publishing the first volume of our informal zine collection, which consists of six issues of content that we started working on at the end of the summer. Right now, we are working on creating content for our next volume that we hope to start publishing by the start of December, and reaching out to more artists to feature their work. Some other ideas we are hoping to realize in 2020 are an interactive art event, a collaboration involving film, music, and design, and whatever else sparks our interest along the way. For the long term, I think we’re trying to avoid imposing restrictive expectations on ourselves and on this project, so we’re hoping to maximize on creative opportunities and just seeing where that takes us…

For more from Camp Cadmium, check out their website, here!


Alexis Gorfine

Photo Credit: Camp Cadmium

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