It’s safe to say that women-centered projects have been killing it at the start of this year. This has been long overdue and I’m glad that they’re finally getting the recognition they deserve. There’s still a long way to go, but we’re on our way to making this space reflect the rich diversity of human life. What I love about this movement is that all these women-led projects lift each other up! Collaboration is more important than competition in the Web3 ecosystem. The success of one project does not have to be at the expense of the other, quite on the contrary in fact.
There is no artist more suited to the recent developments we have seen in the space than the one and only Leah Sams. You may also know her by her Twitter handle “The Power of Women.” Her work immediately catches the eye with the (as she says herself) bold, striking and vivid colors she creates. Through her illustrations she celebrates powerful women from all around the world and creates a fair and inclusive representation of all women. She uses NFTs to raise awareness and money for social causes and would like to do her part to make this space more inclusive, diverse and child friendly. Like she says, the best part is how NFTs are changing the world for better!
Rei:Hi Leah! Tell me a little bit about yourself in general. How was it like growing up in South East Asia and now living in London?
Leah: Hey Rei, I’m 28 years old, I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and now live in London. My mum is Malay, my Dad is British and I identify strongly with both heritages (although would go for Malaysian food any day!) I came to London to study in 2011, and have been here ever since! Both KL and London are incredibly multicultural, and it is the rich culture in both cities that makes me feel at home. Having said that, there are times when I really definitely miss the 30°C heat when it’s cold, rainy and windy here in London.
Rei:How did you start out making art and how has your style of art evolved over the years?
Leah: I’ve always loved creating art, and was fortunate to attend a wide variety of art classes as a kid – from water colours, to oil painting, to sculpture. When I left school, I trained as a Set & Costume Designer and after 3 years at university in London, embarked on a brand new career in theatre. While I was fortunate to be involved in some stunning productions around the world, I found that the industry wasn’t for me, and began suffering increasing anxiety around my work.
Back in 2019, I started illustrating women, at first for fun, but quickly found that I was able to take the elements I enjoyed most as a Costume Designer (researching fashions from different eras, sketching costume designs, and going wild with colour!), and bring these to my illustrations. As my focus shifted towards illustration, I found my mental health improved dramatically too.
When Covid struck in March 2020, and the theatre industry collapsed, I took this an opportunity to dive head first into a new career. Two years later, and I now split my time between illustrating, graphic design and teaching art to young children.
As illustration is still a relatively recent discovery for me, I feel like my style is still evolving. However, I’ve always loved creating work with strong, powerful compositions. While my style is minimalistic, it is at the same time very deliberate. One of the most important elements of my art is the colour palettes – bold, striking, vivid colours are always at the core of any work I create.
Rei:You seem to draw inspiration from many different cultures around the world. Tell me about what inspires you to make your art!
Leah: As I child, I was fortunate to travel a lot with my family. Deep down, I think it was this exposure to so many different people, cultures, languages, food and places that has shaped who I am today, and the art I create.
In May 2020, the murder of George Floyd triggered important conversations about systematic racism, racial inequality and unconscious bias in around the world. As a mixed-race woman, I am all too familiar with discrimination, and to this day, still have conflicting thoughts about my identity. It was these conversations that sparked inspiration and set the tone of my artwork. It was also at this moment, that I decided my illustrations would not only focus on women, but should be a fair and inclusive representation of all women.
Deep down, the reason why I illustrate is because it makes me happy. When I teach art to kids, I make sure it’s all about having fun. It is this sense of fun and enjoyment that inspires me and – while it may sound cheesy – if I’m not having fun, I’m not able to create good work. At heart, I guess I’m just a big kid!
Rei:What’s the process of marking your art? How long do you work on your art each day?
Leah: It all starts with an idea. Once I have the idea of a piece I’d like to create in my mind, I start my research. This includes sourcing reference images of a person’s pose, their face and body structure, their fashion, identity, style and potential colour palettes. I always find that my strongest illustrations derive from real people, in the real world.
Once I have my inspiration, I start with a line drawing, then add colour, detail and finally, texture. I create my artworks digitally using Adobe Photoshop, and an old WACOM tablet that was gifted to me well over ten years ago now!
I currently illustrate for anything between 5-10 hours a day, although like to break this up with research, teaching, exercise, and seeing friends.
Rei:Do you have a certain vibe or message that you want to convey throughout your art?
Leah: My illustrations have always been about celebrating powerful women from around the world. However, since joining the NFT space, and building the Power of Women community, I feel a much greater responsibility to create art that not only inspires, but empowers women and girls, both in the NFT space and in real life. My mission now is to create artwork that empowers all woman, to engage a community that celebrates diversity and inclusivity, and to curate collections with a social impact – through strong messaging and charitable donations.
My latest collection, ‘Women of the Metaverse’ aims to fulfill this mission by shining a spotlight on womanhood from a series of unique angles. For example, the next drop of 10 artworks will celebrate motherhood, and draws inspiration from the incredible mothers in the NFT space who have shared their experiences and stories with me. While the pieces in this drop will of course be true to my style, I hope that they will also convey the realities of womanhood, rather than society’s preconceived images of what women are ’supposed’ to look like.
Rei:Tell me how you found out about NFTs! How do you like the journey in the NFT space so far?
Leah: In August 2021, I stumbled across NFTs by chance. My partner is a firefighter and some of his colleagues invest in NFTs. When they saw my work, they encouraged me to enter the space, share my work, and challenge the norm of what was (and to a degree, still is) an ‘all boys club.’
I was apprehensive at first, but the more I learned, the more I fell in love with the community I’m proud to be a part of today. Yes, NFTs are a platform to share my own art and discover incredibly talented artists from around the world, but they are also so much more. I am inspired by the amount of NFT projects, collectors and artists who use this space to empower women, promote diversity, raise awareness of mental health and support amazing causes.
The past 6 months have been a whirlwind of an adventure, but the best thing about NFTs is without doubt the community. I have loved connecting with so many like-minded people, who not only share my values, but want to make a real impact. It is truly inspiring to be among such amazing people every single day, and I wish I could meet everyone I’ve connected with for a coffee, drink and a hug in real life. What’s more, I am so excited that we are still at the very start of this journey, and can’t wait too see what the future holds!
Rei:Do you have any specific goals that you want to achieve in the NFT space?
Leah: Women are still underrepresented in the NFT space and Web3. However, we are growing in numbers, and now have an opportunity to carve a space for ourselves, break down barriers, and make this space inclusive, diverse and child friendly. If I can do a little bit to help facilitate this movement through the Power of Women, that would be fantastic.
Rei:Which other artists do you look up to the most, in the NFT world and in general?
Leah: If we go back to basics, it was Van Gogh and David Hockey who first inspired me as artists. Their ability to look at something fairly simple or mundane, and interrupt this with so many powerful colours is incredible. Ironically, Hockney has become known for being vocally anti-NFTs, despite him embracing technology to create some of his most iconic pieces.
In the NFT space, I would love to expand this question to more than just artists. For me, Geena Anderson is the most amazing role model to me, and so many others in the space. Geena’s dedication to uplifting women in the community is astonishing, along with her work in advocating for NFTs to be so much more than just art, but a driver for social action and change.
It was through Geena, and my collaboration with her on the Cova Project’s Dignity Collection that I met the artist, Sarana. Sarana’s work is pure beauty, and I am so excited for her next project, Meta Angels to drop.
Rei:What are your thoughts on the future of NFTs? Where do you think the space is going in the next few years?
Leah: I feel like the Metaverse if going to become a huge part of our lives, and that we, in the NFT space, are some of the best people to shape and define what this looks like, how it feels, as well as acting as its guardians.
Right now, the potential for Web3 seems limitless, and it is certainly going to change how we approach education, business, entertainment, and so much more in our lives. However, in the short term, I am most excited about the potential for us to use NFTs to raise awareness and money for social causes.
In the previous question, I touched upon The Cova Project, who created a non-profit collection of artworks where many of the initial sales and all ongoing royalties will go directly to their work providing menstrual health solutions to girls in developing communities across Africa. 5% of all primary sales from my ‘Women of the Metaverse’ collection will also be going to organizations supporting women and girls, equality and mental health, with partnerships being curated to each of the collection’s themes.
If we are to bring more people into the space, and make this a truly inclusive environment, it is vital that we use NFTs (and a portion of the income they generate) to empower, enable and elevate underrepresented communities in real life. It is also important to remember that our children will be the future pioneers of Web3, so we have a duty right now to create a space in which we’re able to educate young people safely.
Rei:Could you give me a sneak peak of something new you are currently working on?
Leah: I’m currently working on 10 artworks for the Motherhood drop of my current collection, ‘Women of The Metaverse’ (a collection of 101 artworks released in multiple drops over the coming months). Over the past couple of weeks, I have been blown away by SUPERmums in this space who have shared their powerful experiences of motherhood with me, and I am using these experiences to shape the illustrations I create for this drop. As a society, we have a false, preconceived image of what motherhood looks and feels like, so my hope is that this drop can instead convey many of the ‘realities’. Here’s the first ever sneak peak of ‘Bisi’, with the drop currently due to take place in early-mid February.
I’ll also be revealing some more alpha about my collaboration with Fame Ladies, my work on a brand new PFP with an awesome member of the NFT community, and some really exciting commissions for International Women’s Day very soon too…
Rei:Lastly, where can people find more about you and your art?
Leah: People can find all my links in my Linktree!