María Paula

Posted on Feb 06, 2023Read on

Café JPG: Rafa x Stellabelle and the Chocolate Factory

Another week on JPG - started off with 11k mints from our Café JPG genesis pass on Mirror, and ended with the launch of the Crypto-Social Aesthetics canon. We like our weeks active and this one was no exception, on the contrary: even the Tuesday Café talk, with guests of honour Stellabelle and Rafa (Folklore, Project Local) was full of energy and action, burgeoning with ideas and promises of follow-ups in multiple formats.

As always, we’ll let the protagonists tell their own story. Let’s dive in. ** **

Stella: Almost seven years ago, in 2017, I founded one of the first creative commons crypto artists' collectives, on the Steem blockchain. This was before NFTS really took off. My group was called Slothicorn. We had a whole team, able to run autonomously, and a bunch of different curators. Back in those days, everything was just voluntarily done by anyone who wanted to do something. Before Slothicorn existed, there was no interest in artists on the Steam blockchain. And we built the mechanism to pay the creatives entirely through voting. It was much different from nowadays, since it was not about ownership of art equaling the mechanism by which artists made money. It was by consensus, and popularity. This has been a very valuable experience that has informed a lot of what I do lately. I do a lot of experiments based on the gift economy, around the idea that the things you create become your own currency. And the reason that I'm interested in those concepts is that I find it more of a good feeling, I find that my life is richer. One of such experiments was the Slothicorn painting, which I did not want to sell. I wanted something else, and in the end, that something else was an exchange with Hueviews, that wrote an article about it that I really liked. I've also paid for one of my bot services on Twitter with a painting.

I'm actually dismantling the fundamental systems of transactions, for me, when you operate in a transactional way, it feels very hollow. Why does it bother me? It's because I think, if you start looking at the whole system, and the way it works, is that you've got people that are deciding what is valuable based on their philosophies, what they believe, what's inside of them. And if you're not on their same wavelength or, you know, if your value system is not valued by them, and suddenly you're not valuable.

I'm building projects so that I can operate without thinking about this kind of stuff. And I can live in a way that I feel is more true to my philosophies. Back in 2017, I realized that the open source model is superior to proprietary control. It's humans are constantly taking information and then regenerating it and saying it's ours. Open source, creative commons, it all is part of nature. And to go against nature would be to put these arbitrary controls over things that don't need the controls over them. This is what I'm tackling in my next project, Gigatura, which is launching in May. There's a lot of stuff that people are largely unaware of, that I'm bringing into the storyline of Gigatura to make people aware and just understanding what is going on at a macro level of society, control, technology access, and all these things.** **

Stellabelle - Gigatura (2022)

Rafa: I’ve been until recently working on Community at Mirror, and currently focused on two projects: Folklore and Project Local. I think the theme for me has always been thinking about NFTs as a new type of media that has a specific type of complexity because of all the contract base that we have, and its portability and composability. And thinking about how we can connect that to community utility and functionality. One of the projects that I'm working on is called Folklore, that utilises NFTs as a way to create a sustainable content development community. It’s capped at 150 members that curate articles together. People buy NFTs for membership, and that money is allocated to a community treasury to both provide support for local charities and also commission new writing on the same content that we're interested in as a group: new media culture and human coordination.

Part of the Folklore imaginarium

The second project that I'm working on is called Project Local, around how can we use NFTs to bridge the gap between just the Web3 community and local economies, so local communities. In Local, we’re creating different NFT collections and those NFT collections are redeemable for physical handmade crafts made by artisans from local communities. One of our goals, therefore, is to onboard a new group of people which are specifically artisans and people who collect artisanal crafts and fill their world and their home with handmade goods, which communicate cultural heritage and that oral history. 

Web3 media really provides a new channel of participation for how we interact with digital goods, and I feel like the next step is for the blockchain to enable kind of a new supply chain and allow those physical goods to receive a fair market price from a global perspective. Project Local is a bit of a lab that's going to explore that interface between digital goods, and what it looks like to redeem that, burn the NFTs, or trade them in.** **

On the importance of human connection in the web3 space

Rafa: Stella, something that comes to mind is that, I always feel there's two components of data really missing from the NFT market. One is that there's a real amount of difficulty of finding out who your community is, regardless of how many wallets minted or own your art. For example, 150 membership passes were sold for Folklore, but only 80 people are within the forum. And I don't actually have a way to get in contact with them, I don't know what happened to those memberships.

Stella: I mostly use typeform for the Cryptostellas collectors, to first ask them for feedback, and I’ve even sent custom chocolate to my collectors. At that point, I felt like I know these people, they know me, they trust me, they gave me their address and I had to put my address on there. So trust goes both ways.

Rafa: With some Web3 media, I would say, that you're actually selling with an intention of future relationships, and something that I would love to see is the ability to actually like, voluntarily register to say I'm buying this NFT with an intention of a long-term relationship. I want a connection with the creator. In marketplaces, this doesn’t exist. There’s no registration process. I think this is one of the Achilles' heel of a lot of communities.

Stella: That's why I use typeforms. I ask people if they want art and chocolate for free, and the artwork is imprinted into the chocolate. It's a work of art. Through that process, I got to know who's in, who wants the relationship, and also who’s not interested.  A year later, whoever didn’t eat their chocolate got another gift. And then that showed me what do these all have in common. Why didn’t they eat their chocolate? I never told him they were gonna get a gift for not eating it. And now, they're in an even more select group.

Rafa: For Project Local, you know, we're going to be selling a very limited edition NFT. It's probably going to be just 50 pieces because we have to coordinate with local artisans, probably ship them all over the world. Since there is no easy registration process built within creator tools, we’ll have to do the manual reachout. I would like to see a new stage in web3 where relationships with the creators are facilitated by easier abilities to connect with your audience that aren't dependent on tracking people down or voluntarily joining a Discord. I want to be able to have forward-looking relationships with people without them having to put in the attention investment, because they've already put in the monetary investment.** **

On privacy, long-term community building and experiences

Rafa: The question that remains is whether we can be creative and imaginative enough to maintain the privacy environment, and still be able to have fulfilling long-term relationships with the people who want to have those. I just wish we had more trustless systems for it. I don't want people to necessarily trust me with the information, but I do want a channel for interacting with them.

I feel a personal accountability to try to contribute to the privacy of the people who participate in the process. And still, preserve long term relationships. Personally, I'm gonna strive for that, because I feel that's where the interesting, like, to me at least, that's where the interesting creative process comes in. Can one both preserve privacy and still develop community?** **

Stella: I have a sticker machine that I built in the metaverse that it's just programmed to spit out digital stickers, but you can actually get real ones sent to you. You have to fill out a typeform and give me your address, of course, but that's all voluntary. Only the people that want the stickers and trust me enough with their address, get them in the mail. I did it as an experiment just to see what would happen, there’s no charge for it. You honestly get stickers in the mail from the metaverse delivered to your door.

The first website I built was called Wrong Land and the whole point of it was that if you searched hard enough within it, something you find there would manifest in the real world. So I programmed a plastic sandwich that said :”You won a plastic sandwich. Send your address to this, blah, blah, blah, and you will get a plastic sandwich in the mail." I just want the world to be more interesting and less transactional. I think it's just boring when everything is known and there's no mystery left. We need more mystery. ** **

Rafa: This brings a question also on what does the funding model look for experimentation look like? There’s obviously crowdfunding but I'm curious what other novel funding mechanisms are gonna show up, and how we actually provide them the right context. I really liked Mirror's crowdfunding campaign work that they had last year, although it's not available right now. I hope more creative solutions like that exist in the future. And creator residency programs too, I'm really looking forward to protocols and products to create kind of more artist residencies, and grant programs that really push the boundary on like, what you were just describing, which is going beyond the transactional and going actually into speculative play and being able to invest in that.

Rafa: I love the idea giving people fun experiences, and being able to execute on that is like, it's a certain level of freedom. Have you seen the unboxing videos on YouTube? And that unboxing experience? How cool would it be that if you bought, a membership pass, or you bought the artisanal craft, that you get a tailored unboxing experience to interact with this. And I kind of came to this point where we have a lot of tools today to create and sell art but we are missing an entire layer of experiential interaction. I don't want to just do memberships. I want to focus on long term interaction and experiences.** **

Stella: Speaking about experiences, I’ve thrown metaverse parties We had the rug party where anyone that wanted to help or learn build an exhibition in voxels, they did it. That brought a lot of people together, the metaverse is the only place right now that, you can all be in the same room together and be spread out across the world.

Rafa: Top-down NFT projects also provide interesting experiences. For instance, Blitmaps, where holders were getting in contact with each other, doing derivative projects. I want to create pathways for people to actually have those experiences in the same way that a music fan base organizes themselves to do merch and memes. I don't know what that looks, run your own, you know, Stella festival. Or a Folklore reading session.** **

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

For more Cafe JPG, follow us on Discord. 

**Cover image: Cryptostellas chocolate, photo by Cryptofelix