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  • Claire Low

5 Creative Questions with... Samuel Leighton-Dore

Samuel Leighton-Dore, a visual artist and writer, is probably best known for his Smile Tiles - small, square, Insta-friendly ceramic works that encourage us to rest, remind us that "old you would be stoked with present you", and point out that we have survived 100 per cent of impossible days so far. And much more. As an illustrator, he has an inclusive, celebratory and loving approach to all types of bodies. This is sounding a bit heavy, so it's time to bring up the fluffy butts. He draws a lot of butts, many of them with cute little tufts of hair exactly where the sun don't shine. Meeting him face-to-face at the launch of his book, Wow It's All A Lot, and an accompanying exhibition at Kinokuniya Sydney. I mentioned the butts. He was visibly delighted and talked a few minutes about how humans are strange, bodies are baffling, and we might as well embrace that.


Samuel Leighton-Dore. Image: supplied Leighton-Dore is the first in my series of creatives to take five questions.

When my creative process is stuck, I reach for… good books, often poetry. I especially love Frank O’Hara, C.P. Cavafy and Mary Oliver. I also love finding good documentaries about other artists because they remind me how long a career can be and not to sweat the inevitable ebbs.

The weirdest thing about being a creative human is… how inherently difficult it is to value ourselves financially, at least in my experience. I wish there was more transparency and honesty around how much we could and should be making.


The most unusual object in my house is… a ceramic teapot shaped as a tiger; its tail is the handle and its mouth is the spout. My husband sourced it while working as Props Master on NBC’s Joe Exotic series. Kyle Maclachlan and Kate McKinnon’s characters used it and it’s too bizarre to let go.


I celebrate my achievements by… buying myself a piece of art, or a nice shirt, or simply by taking a moment to pause and acknowledge a moment of success. It’s far too easy to move straight onto the next thing and forget to soak in the joy of finishing something special.


Something in the world that already exists that I wish I had created is… the animated series Midnight Gospel on Netflix, which I think moved me more than any other series in recent memory, but was also incredibly creative in its use of podcast audio and visual storytelling.


Wow It's All A Lot is out now through HarperCollins. The Smile Tiles Exhibition continues at Kinokuniya Sydney until 14 August 2023.

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