Decrypt’s Art, Fashion, and Entertainment Hub.
Nearly a decade ago, Art Blocks founder Erick “snowfro” Calderon began 3D-printing cubes, painting them, and assembling them into hearts that he placed in public spaces. Now, that block art that preceded Art Blocks has inspired a generative art drop that in turn will let collectors assemble their own physical renditions if they see fit.
Launching on August 24 via the recently launched Prohibition NFT art platform—which is built on top of the Art Blocks Engine tech suite—“Heart + Craft” is a collaboration between Calderon and Prohibition founder Jordan Lyall.
Each “Heart + Craft” NFT will depict a blocky heart of varying complexity and vibrant coloring, generated at the time of minting by a blockchain algorithm developed by the pair. The NFTs will be available for just 0.01 ETH (about $18 at present) and minted on Arbitrum, an Ethereum scaling network that enables cheaper, faster transactions than mainnet.
The project continues the colorful gradient vibe expressed in “Chromie Squiggle,” the very first Art Blocks project that Calderon himself launched in 2020—months before Art Blocks surged in the 2021 NFT bull market, driving certain Squiggle pieces to sell for over $2 million apiece.
But it also hearkens back to Calderon’s years-old practice of spreading “a nice message” through public art, as he told Decrypt, while maintaining the physical aspect of the earlier work.
That’s because each “Heart + Craft” NFT will come with instructions for 3D-printing, painting, and gluing together the blocks to create the heart. Depending on the size and complexity of the generated heart, it could take considerably longer to paint and assemble some pieces than others—should owners choose to construct the physical rendition.
Eventually, Prohibition will also offer the option for owners to order a complete set of printed blocks, a fully-assembled custom block heart, or even a limited edition collector’s version that’s made with premium materials, assembled by hand, and finally signed by Calderon himself.
It’s a personal project for Calderon, of course, but it also reflects his ever-evolving thinking about the NFT space and hype cycles. He raised the alarm over “FOMO” and NFT hype around Art Blocks amid the 2021 market boom, and has been working to help brands understand the Web3 space and how they can effectively engage a wide array of fans and users.
“Heart + Craft” is a synthesis of a lot of that thinking. It’s much cheaper than the typical Art Blocks mint, plus it’s a type of open edition mint that Calderon and Lyall are calling an “inclusive edition”—there’s no set timeframe for the mint, but they reserve the right to cut it off at some point, or potentially launch successive mints if they want to riff on the idea further.
Calderon told Decrypt that he’s trying to think of the project like piecing together a physical puzzle—a creative project with its own intrinsic benefits, eschewing the typical expectations that usually come along with hyped NFT drops.
“You make a puzzle. You get the thing at the end, and you spend time on it. It's relaxing. You get the satisfaction of making a puzzle. And these are all things that I think are part of normal consumer dialogue, not necessarily Web3 dialogue,” he said. “I'm just trying my hardest to demonstrate the value of digital objects beyond scarcity, FOMO, and promise of future value.”
He sees another route for “Heart + Craft” to reach a broader audience, too. In the future, Prohibition may sell the kits at retail stores like Target or Michael’s, or via a museum gift shop, with the blocks and paint included—and include instructions to claim the wallet with the NFT.
Maybe the buyer won’t care about the NFT, or won’t bother to claim it. That’s fine too, in his view. But it would give people the option to approach “Heart + Craft” in multiple ways and then choose their own level of engagement. For some, it could be a way to start playing with crypto assets for the first time and enter the generative art ecosystem.
“It’s a continuation of my artistic career that I feel like I can really lean into, which are these color gradients—which are there to make people smile,” he said. “It is an example of an inclusive edition… something that can maybe be appealing and accessible to a broader audience.”
Calderon admitted that he’s gotten some pushback around the idea of continuing the color gradient theme of “Chromie Squiggle,” with some people suggesting to him that “Heart + Craft” could dilute the value of his original NFT project.
“I think that's wrong, personally,” Calderon told Decrypt. “But everybody has these feelings in this space, and ultimately, I feel the weight not just of Art Blocks and Art Blocks collectors, but of the entire ecosystem.”
“I feel like we're just failing at speaking languages outside of our space, and I think that can lead to a pretty bad situation,” he continued. “I think we have this consistent loss of collectorship. All of those things together, I just felt like it was necessary to put something together that can start to expand people's horizons, and maybe other creators will start thinking about these things.”
That’s the complex answer, but Calderon provided a simpler one too.
“It's time to have a little bit of fun in crypto,” he said, “and not ask people for a ton of money.”