Artwork for podcast Not Real Art
Mary Lai: What It Means To Unlock Your Dreams
Episode 22420th June 2023 • Not Real Art • Crewest Studio
00:00:00 01:07:10

Share Episode


Pablo Picasso once said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” While the imagination is a powerful—and necessary—tool for artists, today’s guest believes success takes more than simply having a dream; it requires a solid game plan to become a reality.

“The key to manifesting a dream is by daily actions,” says Los Angeles designer Mary Lai, who joins host Scott “Sourdough” Power on today’s podcast episode to discuss her two-decades-long career in the arts. A tireless source of positive energy, Mary creates colorful work—murals, sculptures, digital art, mixed media—that reflects her can-do attitude and sunny disposition. 

Prior to working as a fine artist, Mary built a decade-long career in NYC as a fashion accessories designer, even creating an award-winning namesake handbag collection. While the time she spent as a designer offered Mary invaluable insight into commercial art, she feels more at home with her current role in fine art. “I don’t think I would have felt as fulfilled doing handbags as I am now,” she tells Scott. “After all those years and experiences, I’m at a point where I can find that balance [between commercial and conceptual art].”

Mary also shares her experience as an artist-in-residence at the W Hotel in Westwood, LA, where she recently launched Unlock Your Dreams, a characteristically colorful installation that blends inspirational fantasy with elements of playful nostalgia. The installation celebrates the power of inclusivity, optimism, and individuality, encouraging viewers to follow their own path, in their own way. “I wanted the theme to be ‘unlock your dreams,’” says Mary, “because I wanted to [show] that dreams can come true by creating these doors and opportunities for yourself.”

Tune into our conversation with Mary Lai, who sheds light on the importance of community, collaboration, and failing your way to success.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • How the opportunity to be an artist-in-residence at the W came about.
  • Why artists need to learn to “wear multiple hats.”
  • Finding a balance between commercial and conceptual art.
  • Dispelling the misconceptions that many artists have about overnight success.
  • Insight into Unlock Your Dreams, the theme for the body of work Mary created for the W.
  • Why Mary believes it’s important to lift other artists up and showcase their work.
  • A behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating work for this artist-in-residence program.
  • The inspiration for Mary’s Dream Portal sculpture, which employs augmented reality.
  • Benefits of collaborating with other artists to bring your vision to life.
  • What it means to be an artist-in-residence (and whether it included a stay in the penthouse!).
  • How Mary’s graphic design experience influences her artmaking practice.
  • Artists as magicians and the emotion and soul it brings to their work.
  • Why having journalist Lisa Ling at the opening night was so special for Mary.
  • Art as an essential service that reflects the culture of the time it was created.
  • A look at Mary’s high school experience and when she knew she was going to be an artist.
  • What’s next for Mary, where you can see her work, her definition of success, and more!

For more information, please visit