Queen of her craft

Name: J. Michelle Hill-Campbell
Age: 45 Occupation: Independent Textile Designer/Com puter Aided Design Artist (CAD)
Location: New York, NY
Duties: Design and create patterns, and motifs for all forms of textiles and various surfaces used in home furnishings, fashion and theater.

New York’s “Great White Way” has never been the same since the appearance of J. Michelle Hill-Campbell’s bold and colorful textile designs. Three years ago, Hill-Campbell’s 15-year career as a textile designer/computer aided design artist (CAD) moved fast-forward when she and a small team of independent designers produced the striking costume fabric patterns used in the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of The Lion King.

Training: In order to learn preparation of designs for production and printing and sophisticated fashion design software, respectively, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is helpful for textile design and necessary for computer-aided design.

Ms. Hill-Campbell was introduced to the competitive world of textile design as a student at Rhode Island School of Design. “I was originally planning on going into fashion, but after taking a course in textile design my freshmen year, I never left. I realized I was more excited by creating traditional folk patterns,” says the New York-based designer, who also holds an M.F.A. in printmaking from Howard University.

Hill-Campbell cites the desire for a clear understanding of the ever-changing trends as a key prerequisite for success in the field of textile design. Acquiring technical knowledge of textile production will also enhance one’s competitive edge as an independent textile designer, says Hill-Campbell, who divides her time as an independent designer and as a computer aided design/digital printing instructor at the Parsons School of Design/New School University in New York.

Before her big break with The Lion King in 1997, Hill-Campbell worked as a CAD designer for Liz Claiborne Inc. and as a textile consultant for various fashion studios including Bill Blass Scarves, Echo Scarves and Harlem Textile Works. Her first “official” job in the industry came when she was hired to create original designs on fabrics for Jackie Peters’ Cully Design Studio in the early 1980′s. “Jackie is the only African American textile designer who ran her own studio in New York, and she was one of the big-wigs in the industry that inspired me,” says Hill-Campbell.

Her designs are often inspired by African and Asian traditions and themes, and have also appeared in the hit Broadway play, Aida, and in American Ballet Theater productions at New York’s Lincoln Center. She is also the contract printer for The Lion King’s Walt Disney world tour productions.

Salary: According to Michelle Hill-Campbell, independent textile designers generally earn between $30,000 and $60,000 annually, depending on experience. She further states that designers with advanced technical abilities can earn significantly more. Rates for freelance independent textile designers/CAD artists can range from $25 to $45 per hour, she says. “Computer skills are paramount. Before putting together a portfolio of your work, take a course in portfolio development,” advises Hill-Campbell.

In addition to mastering the latest technology, Hill-Campbell is currently working on taking her textile designs into the world

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