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Meet our Creators - Sam Lehane

· MYO Team

1. So, tell us a little about you.

I set up M.Y.O with my girlfriend Diana in 2017 in South London, where we also live. I must admit, I was a reluctant creative for years! I guess I was expressing my creative side on the sporting field (I did lots of hurling! It's an Irish sport - not that type of hurling), rather than with colourful things. Times have certainly changed!

2. What’s your story? Tell us a little about your background and what you do.

I studied business, trained as an accountant and didn’t really enjoy it, so volunteered

full-time with and then got hired by a social enterprise (camara.org) in Dublin that provides digital literacy skills to children across Africa. I then moved to London to set up Camara’s UK operation. After that I worked supporting startups in Virgin StartUp and somehow meandered to setting up M.Y.O as I began to unearth my own creative side (I bought LOADS of colouring books) and felt other grown ups may enjoy it also. I always wanted to have a go at running my own business and this (finally) felt like the right one!

3. What artist or artwork inspired you the most growing up?

Some of Dali’s paintings really fascinated me. A melted clock? I didn’t understand them at all! But, they looked cool and whirred one side of my brain. He also made a lobster phone. I’d like that. There is a re-make of Francis Bacon’s studio in Dublin and some footage of him talking about how he made his paintings - he basically says he doesn’t over think it and just sees what comes out - truly expressing himself. I always found that inspiring. Just being yourself and following your instinct can lead to wonderful thoughts and making of things.

Dali's persistence of memory

4. What artist most inspires you now?

The M.Y.O guests that come into the studio every day of course! Everyone is an artist in their own way and I love seeing what people create in the studio. There’s a really good instagram called streetartglobe. I’d recommend following that. It has great portrait photos, installations, all sorts. Gary Reddin is a friend of a friend who lives in Sligo and does some brilliant designs and posters - I’ve bought quite a few. He is my only investment as we’ve put everything into M.Y.O - come on Gary, hit the big time! HAHA. Below is an image he did of Tom Crean - an Irish hero of mine - that we have in the studio. The book about Crean called an Unsung Hero is one of my favourites - is about expeditions in the cold and ice of Antarctica with the famous Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

5. What do you create mostly for work and what do you create mostly for fun?

For work, there is always things that need to be quickly whipped up in the studio - mainly examples to show people for different classes. With the new studio, we spent a lot of time fitting it out ourselves, so were painting a lot and figuring out where things should go. For fun and to relax, decoupage or a bit of tile painting is my go-to. Here's a picture of the first tile I ever painted! It's pre (left) and post (right) glazing and kiln firing.

6. What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?

I didn’t paint before I met Diana, but me and my Mam decided to learn to paint, so I made the below for Diana as my first piece.

7. Do you think people are just born creative or is it something everyone has, but many don’t explore?

Everyone is creative! Yes, some people find it easier to express themselves in creative ways than others, but we all have an inner self that can be expressed through different mediums, with sometimes a little help being required to tap into it.

8. What’s your favourite colour? Why?

BLUE. Dublin’s colours (where I am from) are blue and navy, my Dad’s county Waterford wore blue and white in sport and my local club St. Jude’s was blue and navy too. Finally, Chelsea who I support are blue too. Blue, blue, blue.

9. What’s your favourite album to listen to whilst you create and why?

The National are equally haunting and inspiring, perfect for digging up emotions to create to. If I want to just mess around, some Foals can be quite nice and they have a studio across from where I do Crossfit in Peckham.

10. If you were stuck on a desert island and had to bring 3 items with you to create with, what would you bring!?

PVA Glue - crucial. Could make a work of art and possibly build a boat with it. Calligraphy pen and paper - so I could beautifully document how I ended up on the island. I love writing out thoughts, ideas and stories... I just better sit in on one of our calligraphy classes with Polly beforehand!

11. If you could give advice to yourself growing up, with the benefit of hindsight, what would it be?

Chill, there is plenty of time to learn and make things happen, so maybe be a little more patient with things. I was 30 when I really stumbled across my creative side. Also, stop being so socially inept (I still am). I kind of fear speaking in groups of people I don’t know that well in social situations, but for work or when I'm doing a talk to a group it’s fine. Is rather odd. Hmmm. Part of the reason I do M.Y.O is because being creative can make a common connection amongst a group of people so there is less pressure/ awkwardness - which I like.

12. What / who made you decide to become a professional creative, rather than doing it as a hobby?

I got a kick out of exploring my own creative side more after years of not doing it and I really enjoyed helping others in general, so the two morphed into the magical journey of M.Y.O.

13. What makes you most happy?

Walking round the studio at the end of a class seeing what people made and how satisfied they are with themselves. It properly amazes me how different everything looks too! Opening the kiln to see people's amazing creations come to life after hours of glazing is also a personal joy.

Non-business related, jumping into the sea, spending time with my family in Dublin or having some proper chill out time with Diana. She’s great fun :).

14. What’s next for you? What you would like to be doing in 12 months?

We’ve just opened (July 2018) the 2nd studio in Peckham Levels, so would love to see that busy and vibrant. More time during the week to create would also be nice, along with launching all the other things we want to do - spend more time talking about benefits of being creative (there are many), launch our art gym memberships, build an online shop, start corporate wellness packages, 3rd studio? (cough cough). We’re just getting started!

15. Is there anything exciting coming up that you would like to let people know about?

In the next few weeks we're doing a collaboration with Sofa.com, doing creative things at the St. Katherine's Dock 190th anniversary, making festival headdresses with the NED, launching new classes (reduction lino print and tassel earrings) and hosting tonnes of lovely people while they get creative. Is all very exciting and long may it continue!

16. Where can people find out more about what you are up to?

I have been documenting the startup journey when I can on my medium blog and I also post on Instagram occasionally @samuellehane. Swing by the studios any time for a chat too, I'll be hosting, sweeping, moving things around or glazing in the background most likely!

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