Ceramics and Cryptocurrency
This article was guest authored by Portland artist Ruth Frances Greenberg. In this artist spotlight, she explores her experiences integrating blockchain technology into her life and creative career. Specifically, she is a veteran of Steemit.com, an application created around the cryptocurrency Steem which is used to reward content and online engagement.
An Unlikely Creative Crypto
My introduction to cryptocurrencies came through the decentralized blockchain blogging platform Steemit. It was a mind-bender for me to grasp initially, but here I am nearly 2 years later and it has become an integral component of my art-making, income and professional growth. It has opened up my world in remarkable ways that I couldn’t possibly have predicted.
I had never blogged before so I started tentatively with writing about some completed mosaic installations. Slowly over time as encouragement and compensation increased and my confidence grew, I experimented more with my content and included more and more of my process and studio life as well.
Ceramics as a medium offers an involved process to witness so I have a ready supply of interesting content to blog about and I soon found that the very act of regularly writing in-depth about my work and ideologies was making me feel very different about myself as an artist.
The writing itself along with the compensation – and I want to highlight the importance of being paid – gave me the perspective to recognize my skills, my experience and I began to value all of it at a new level. The impact of this has been profound and I’ve become a more confident maker, enjoy my work more and am even much better at selling it.
The truth is that even as a relatively successful tile artist with accolades under my belt, the market has almost never borne the real cost of making my work nor the years of training required for it. This unfortunately isn’t an uncommon predicament in almost any creative field and the long-term lifestyle of overwork and underpay chipped away at my morale so effectively that I had begun to reconsider whether I could continue. Thus, these new experiences of support and compensation for the work I was already doing were a powerful contradiction and breathed new life into just about every part of my career.
On a collective level, this kind of support is a game changer for creatives. Pair it with the demystifying of the artist and the creative process, and I see the potential to impact societal values over time. Learning what goes on behind the scenes helps educate us individually and culturally about the value of art and the people behind it. It trains us to identify quality and develop our tastes. To make something classic and poignant takes a whole lot of expertise and effort and unless we’ve had the rare opportunities to learn, most of us have no idea what goes into a song, a handmade cup, or into a building that is just as beautiful 200 years ago as it is today.
Another life-giving component of being a creative crypto is finding myself in the midst of a world-wide community with some amazing people who are doing incredible work. I relish the challenge of stretching to create high-quality content and finding others who are doing the same. Within this decentralized paradigm, we are able to support one another’s endeavors and talents through our upvote at levels most of us couldn’t otherwise afford. This system has a built-in circle of giving < > receiving satisfaction that produces especially tight bonds and loyal connections among its users. The many “likes” on social media always felt good, but when support is backed by financial currency as it is on Steemit, it feels a whole lot different!
These rich relationships and opportunities to empower inspiring projects – both my own and others’ – are largely responsible for drawing me over and over to this blogging endeavor despite the tremendous time it can take to maintain a successful presence within this ecosystem! I quickly became committed and continue to savor being a part of a paradigm of mutual support through which financial autonomy and empowerment are more accessible to everyone.
At this point in my experience with cryptocurrency funding, I have developed a strong enough stomach for the roller coaster rides of market volatility and I am fueled with the confidence to visualize projects that I might want to try that don’t already have a customer or market – artwork, design, and products that are wholly my creative vision.
I’ve watched people all over the world pursue their dreams and it’s incredibly heartening to witness their experiences. For me taking time and space to create from a more experimental place at this point in my career is such a departure from my years of commission-based work that it is most definitely going to bring change. I have glimpses of collaborations with communities in other parts of the world, of taking time to learn to work with fibers, of travel to reinvigorate my inspiration and of simply having time to play and discover in my studio. It has been a long time since I’ve imagined a project of my own making like this. Maybe I’ll do some of this or maybe something else, but regardless, I can’t wait to watch it unfold in these next 18 months.
The aim of using technology is always to expand our lives and our opportunities. I am the least likely person to have hopped onto a technological anything, after all I have always avoided all but essential technology and wasn’t even a writer! If you’d have told me 3 years ago that I would become a committed blogger within a cutting-edge blockchain cryptocurrency ecosystem and that this would be a key source of funding, relationships and support for my creative life I would have said “a what in a what?” and thought you were deluded. But against all odds, I embraced it and am so glad I did.