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Cameron Tea


"EDAS has always been a catalyst to community build.
When I first discovered Cameron Tea at the top of quarantine  I had a instant connection to his work and technique. I was enthralled by his unique approach to make folk craft completely his own, yet still finding ways to preserve the traditional style that we saw a lot of in the late '60s and 1970s. Beading has a rich history of global trade, it has spiritual ties and even serves as a therapeutic practice for many. At first glance, I could feel and see that Cameron's work was not only beautiful, but it was a form of storytelling that is so affluent and alluring, that I was bound to know more. We hop on a call to chat one day and I spill all of the abstract thoughts that live in my head with him. We get to understand each other, sharing our truths, and our stance on the state of America, and the global shift from the results of a pandemic. We comb through all the things two creatives do. We troubleshoot, we test run, we build our own foundation of community, even while being 2,445 miles away from each other, we developed something. If you told me that I'd have the emotional capacity to produce a body of work during a pandemic, I'd never believe you, but theres something so beautiful about finding the moments to be exactly who you are even amongst the challenges that may surround you.
Below is a glimpse of one of those interactions. I hope you enjoy it.


SM:Who are you in three words?

Creative, Black, Angeleno

SM:How did you get started with beading work? Who taught you this craft?

I had started to take an interest in incorporating beads into my crochet work
about a year ago but didn’t really know much about beading until my girlfriend,
who has experience making jewelry, took me to a couple bead stores and it
opened my eyes to a whole new world. There’s not much in the way of schools or
lessons specifically in beadwork so my learning process was a mix of Internet
research and a lot of guesswork to be honest. The last time beadwork was really
prevalent in fashion was the 60’s and 70’s, so I spend a lot of time researching
pictures from that era for beading technique inspiration.


SM: California is such a beautiful place, one of my favorite states, actually. How has California influenced your creative process?

As a native I’ve definitely inherited the California spirit of working at my own pace
and it for sure influences my creative process, places like New York overwhelm
me because they want everything done yesterday while I’m more like next week.
The cultural blending of Los Angeles completely shapes my fashion sense and my community is definitely my main inspiration when it comes to style. My focus
on accessories is definitely rooted in the early 2000’s Pro Club LA of my
childhood, where everyone wore (and could really only afford) the same clothing
but it was the accessories that set you apart. The only negative impact California
has is the endless amount of distractions it provides, there’s always a million
other things I’d rather be doing than working!

SM:I think so often we look to capitalize on all the things that we are talented at and that can sometimes make us lose sight of why we loved "the thing" we are doing in the first place. I've struggled with this as a designer and
creative within the digital age especially. Did you always know that
you'd one day want to sell your pieces or was this just a hobby early on?
Explain that journey.

Growing up I was surrounded my family members who were incredible artists but
never saw their work as bigger than a hobby that served a function in the
household or a side hustle for extra income. I initially worked with the same
thought pattern, trying to supplement what I considered my “real” design job
income in footwear with my pieces. Anyone who’s worked in fashion knows it’s
not a business you enter for the money, and as my day job stalled financially
while my hobby continued to grow I realized I had been prioritizing things
backwards. The hardest part of maintaining that balance of loving what you do
while also monetizing it is definitely setting boundaries, for yourself and your
customers, on what you can physically but more important mentally take on
without burning out. Especially artists doing almost everything by themselves like
us, it’s very common to have periods of intense output but then also need a
period to recharge, and also design/source inspiration. Consumers have to look
at us in the way they do other types of artists, you don’t expect your favorite
singer to put out a new song every week, there’s more forgiveness and
understanding of the process when it comes to other mediums.

SM:How important is tradition and storytelling through craftsmanship to you? And if it is important to you, in what ways does it show up? How are you honoring that?

Honestly I’m not exactly sure how it started but I’ve developed this really organic
process of learning crafts that aren’t generally relied on in functional design and
trying to present them through a contemporary fashion lens. I try to honor the
intent and process of the original craft while avoiding making something that
might look vintage. The best compliments I get are when people say my work
reminds them of something their grandmother owned, but also couldn’t possibly
have because it feels so new. A lot of the skills I use I was taught by my Mother
and Grandmother so I feel honored to be able to continue the tradition and share
our gifts.

Your goals as a designer/creative/artist?
The main goal is definitely staying happy doing this, I never want to feel like I
have job again if I can help it. Id also love to grow my practice to a point where I
can share this knowledge with my community, I was grateful for the art education
I was given as a child and it was fundamental in shaping who I am today.