The author is selling her oil paintings as NFTs including this one called “Carmel.”
Photo courtesy of Arabella Proffer.
I’m an oil painter. Why should I bother with NFTs? That was the question in my head back in 2020 when I first heard about NFTs. Fast-forward to March of 2022 when I sold my first NFT. That’s when I “got” it.
Still, a question that makers continue to ask is why bother with NFTs? My answer is If building community, giving value, cutting out gate-keepers, and supporting creators are important to you, NFTs are actually a great option for selling your work.
In my experience, many people in the craft industry are early technology adopters, too. The first to use Etsy, Square, Knitty.com, selling PDF downloads, selling online classes, and remember the shock when Ravelry first hit one million users? How about a new technology that is community-driven, and earns you passive income? This is why you should take the time to research and understand blockchain and Web3.
The image problem
To be fair, NFTs have had an image problem. Maybe you’ve heard of the Bored Ape Yacht Club? Or stories of teenagers becoming millionaires? The environmental issues are a definite concern as are stories of people who lost millions with one false key-stroke.
Women only make up 19% of the space at this moment, another serious concern. The good news is that women in crypto are banding together to steer Web3 while it is in its infancy. Web3 is built using decentralized blockchains, and ownership is the name of the game. I have found the NFT scene to be very welcoming, dare I say — supportive. All the action is on Twitter and Discord, and my Twitter feed has never been such a nice place! There are genres and sub-genres with varying popularity. For instance, black and white photography NFTs are very big right now.
It all sounds scary and maybe even silly, while at the same time so complex it’s hard to dig in and dedicate time to learning more. The thing is, all you really need to know about blockchain is the lingo, and that is where we come to the glossary. Actually, the glossary is changing daily and new things are added all the time.
The truth is that creating or buying an NFT is done using commands you already know – just with fancy names.
For instance, I didn’t know what “fiat currency” was until 3 weeks ago. It just means currency like USD or Euro. And because money is involved, and things move slow, it all adds to the suspense!
Any digital asset that can represent a real-world object can technically be turned into an NFT. Also called “tokens” these could include music, hotel or flight reservations, a passport, an event ticket, or merchandise. With an NFT, you cut out any middlemen or corporation taking their share. For example, I have old paintings that sold in real life many years ago that I now sell as NFTs. No gallery commission of 50%, no Etsy, no print-on-demand costs.NFTs aren’t always image files.
Utility is a word you will see a lot in the NFT space. It means, what other benefit does the holder get for buying your NFT? What value can you build into that NFT? Unlike a digital image, you can’t “right-click-save” an event or club membership. Many NFTs are a ticket to a membership community similar to Patreon. I have been to a few NFT pop-ups in real life and art exhibitions. I even visited an NFT vending machine! Could you give your collectors free NFTs to their wallet or a product in real life? How about access to classes or private lessons?
There are a number of crochet-based NFTs, for example, and even someone selling physical crochet products that come with a free NFT. In one of my collections, I sell animated videos of my paintings that include a high-res static image to download. Some artists sell videos documenting their process of making the piece. Poets sometimes include audio files of them reading from the book of prose. Zines are being sold as NFTs with no Amazon to take a cut!
“LilBUB” is another of the author’s oil paintings that she is selling as an NFT.
Photo courtesy of Arabella Proffer
While in theory, you could mint one NFT, this is almost never done and it will probably be ignored. Everyone needs a Collection. This is a set of NFTs that have a cohesive theme and represent the tokens you have created. A Collection can be as little as five up to 10,000 tokens. I like to think of it as uploading products to my store, or a themed show at a gallery. Meta will be rolling out an NFT integration for Instagram and Facebook, so you might be seeing them more often in your feeds in the future.
I know that some makers have concerns with security and the environment and this is why they wouldn’t bother with this new technology. Security comes down to you, and make no mistake about that. If you don’t share your passwords, open weird emails or messages, and interact with a site that has a strange URL, you will be fine but do stay on your toes!
Please understand that making NFTs are not the issue with high energy consumption; it is the algorithm the currency needs to verify transactions that uses lots of energy.
If you use Solana or Tezos which are considered cleaner currencies, then it is less of an issue. An update to the most popular crypto, Ethereum, will reduce its carbon footprint by 99.95% or more soon.
Ready to get started? First, you need to pick a currency to add to your wallet so you don’t run out of gas when you mint your first NFT to sell on the marketplace. What do I mean?
There are hundreds of coins out there. Bitcoin is just one of them, but perhaps the one with the greatest name recognition. Others include Ethereum, Solana, and Tezos which are what I consider the penny slots of NFTs. Popular places to purchase NFTs include Nifty Gateway, Mintable, Objkt, and OpenSea. I personally like Objkt and think it is great for newbies! For understanding the dollar to crypto conversion rate visit CoinGecko because, as a volatile currency, it changes hourly.
Next up, you’ll need a wallet and there are many kinds to choose from. This is where your crypto is kept and your wallet also records all of your transactions. You will be issued a wallet address like a bank account number. All crypto wallets are a browser extension, but I’d advise against doing anything crypto-related on your phone, especially with the latest news about a back door through iCloud for hackers to get your information.
The most popular wallet is MetaMask for Ethereum and Kukai for Tezos. Closely guard the wallet information, always double-check URL links, and follow all of the directions to connect it. And if you are really concerned about security, you can get a cold wallet (see what I mean about the glossary?) which is an actual physical device to plug into your computer.
You might hear the term “gas fees.” That’s the price you pay for computers heating up and working hard. Think of it like transaction fees, just like what Square takes out – except at a variable rate. Networks like Polygon and Solana are under $1 for transactions, while Ethereum can exceed $200. Tezos on the other hand is a penny, and others are a fraction of a penny. Weekends tend to have lower gas fees, and there are many sites dedicated to tracking them, like Etherscan.io While gas fees are a pain point for users, it is no comparison to giving a cut to a gallery or vendor space at an event.
As they say, do your own research. Luckily it is all free, and Web3 education is the mission of many NFT projects! Crypto Witch Club, UNBLCD, World of LGBT, and My BFF are just some of the dozens of women and BIPOC-led projects who are growing communities and are a great resource. There are so many YouTube videos and podcasts about crypto, and I’ve also found discussions on Twitter Spaces to be very informative. I’m a huge fan of UNBLCD and the Unchained podcast which have a mix of content for beginners and more advanced users. The general agreement is that no one knows everything, but if you ask for help, believe me, you will get it from this crowd!
You don’t have to create NFTs to be involved in Web3! You can invest in projects you believe in, or collect the work of artists you like. Artists like myself are called “1/1 artists” because we don’t make art that can be used as generative profile pictures, or “pfp” tokens made with artificial intelligence. We issue only one token and the rarity adds to the value.
Many visual artists end up making collaborative pieces, in-person events or working with brands to create NFTs.
You can also invest in collectibles and assets to utilize or sell later, such as 3D characters, fashion, or music. Investors in the NFT space can make money selling on a secondary market. Think of it like Sotheby’s, except investors and creators also receive royalties every time the NFT is re-sold in the future. Can you think of any other service that does that for creators? Makers, foundations, and communities that create NFTs can receive lifetime royalties on future sales, in addition to initial sale profits.
Web3 is still early, and it is moving fast, but as blockchain becomes more common, I am confident that makers will continue to be the early adopters they have always been.
For more on NFTs see What are NFTs and What Can Makers Do with Them?
Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and bred in Southern California, she lives on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio.