by Stella Hughes
6 min
@leimai_lemaow ©

LeiMai is the artist that does it all. Moving between the worlds of murals, gilding, graffiti and NFTs (both physically and digitally), LM’s artwork has been capturing the attention of big brands – not that she takes much notice. Choosing instead to focus on developing her own creations, which include the Turbo Rave Lords and a series of bored ape yacht club gold pieces.

Still a self-proclaimed learner in the digital art space, LM’s work has also been recognised for showcasing the wider, ongoing social shift in the metaverse, demonstrating how art and creativity will adapt to the new realm and the possibilities of doing so too. We caught up with the creative to talk through her journey – from first being commissioned when she was homeless, to upcoming secret projects that require signing an NDA.

@leimai_lemaow ©

Let’s start at the beginning – how did you get into designing, physical art and NFT art?
I guess as far as physical work goes, it naturally started with graffiti years ago. I actually ended up homeless after getting made redundant from my job, and was spotted painting and then got offered a commission and it all grew from there. I’m an obsessive collector of vinyl toys/bootleg toys, and I have ADHD so sticking to one medium was never going to happen! 

As for NFTs, my friend Numan gave me a call last year and explained what they were and I immediately was so excited. It was something new to obsess over and I knew my art surrounding Gary and the Turbo Rave Lords would fit right into the metaverse!

How would you describe what you do to someone who doesn’t fully understand the metaverse?
Whilst most of my work is still physical, I have been lucky enough to get into painting apes for the bored ape yacht club which is nice. NFTs in general are not just images and artwork that people are selling (although some are) – most come with utility. If you buy the artwork you get utility for doing so, which can either be physical pieces, access to exclusive events or gaming etc. I think the maddest utility I’ve seen was each holder of a bored ape got hundreds of thousands of dollars airdropped into their wallets – which is mental. They’re really changing people’s lives.

@leimai_lemaow ©

How do you see the art space and industry adapting to NFTs and the metaverse in general?
All kinds of artists are making NFTs right now, from painters to musicians, writers, dancers, and performing artists of all kinds. There’s really no limit to what we can do in the metaverse, so I think people are really just going to come up with some wild ideas. People are opening schools, or helping people pass the bar for legal work. 

Others are selling their music with the commercial rights to the holders so they can make their own tracks out of it. I just see it as a helpful place, so I think people will use it to help each other a lot more and definitely just adapt in crazy ways that I can’t even predict!

Do you have a preference between working physically and digitally? How so? 
I have to say physical, because that’s what I’m best at. If I was better at digital work I’d probably enjoy that equally but I still have a lot to learn, and it’s a struggle for me whilst I’m learning. I love working with other artists digitally though – I’ve met so many unbelievable people in the space already. Because I think my Turbo Rave Lords are so cute and the other artists have all been so sick, I just want to buy the collabs for myself! I’m blown away daily by what can be done digitally so I can’t wait to be more skilled in that world.

Who (or what) are your creative influences?

My work is heavily influenced by, but not limited to, rave culture. I grew up going to raves, listening to happy hardcore and jungle but I love hardcore punk and hip hop and every other genre in between as well. As for artists I have so many I wouldn’t know where to start, I have ADHD so one day I can obsess over somebody like Kaws or Murakami, and the next day it will be somebody like H R Giger, Takashi Okazaki or writers from old graff movies I used to watch. It just depends on my mood. 

@leimai_lemaow ©

Do you have a piece that best represents you or your brand?
In short, I don’t know haha! I’d probably have to ask other people what they thought of when they think of my work. My work is so erratic, again the ADHD in me gets bored so easily I jump from one medium to the other and back again. 

Right now, I’m mainly focusing on my bored ape yacht club “Bored AF” gold pieces and my Turbo Rave Lord characters for a while. I’ve even turned down commercial jobs with some MAJOR brands recently, and passed them to friends so I can focus on my own creations.

What advice would you give to emerging artists that you wish you’d known?
This is a tough one! I find taking the wrong advice worse than giving it. If work doesn’t suit you, don’t be afraid of turning it down – just make sure everything you’re doing is making you happy (or making you pleased at least, if you make dark art too). Don’t just do things to please other people, do what YOU love and other people will love it too.

What’s the secret to creating engaging art?
I’d probably say get people involved. Maybe show the process or invite them to interact somehow. 

What’s next for you?
A load of madness this year, I’m pretty overwhelmed if I’m honest! I can’t tell you most of it because I’ve signed an NDA, but keep an eye on my socials and join me for the ride!

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