The Equal Bytes curators and the MakersPlace team had a fascinating conversation over Twitter Spaces. What follows is a condensed and remixed version of that conversation: condensed for ease of reading and remixed to emphasize how each of these women were responding to each other, even if each statement wasn’t a 1:1 back and forth.
What is the Equal Bytes program?
Today we are speaking in celebration of the Equal Bytes program. For those of you who do not know, Excedrin has teamed up with MakersPlace to introduce Equal Bytes, which is a new artist accelerator program that is centered around recruiting, onboarding, and supporting women creators in the NFT space.
Through this program we are looking to support the minting and sale of their first NFTs. 100 creators that will receive a guaranteed bid of $800 USD when the auction goes live. In addition, the program is also supporting current women creators on Makerspace in the NFT space by offering them the visibility they need to increase their NFT sales.
A group of handpicked curators, who are themselves women working in the NFT space, will be helping us make the selections of which applicants will receive the guaranteed bids on their pieces.
We are so honored to be joined by this amazing crew of women.
On being “women artists”
“We are at this point in our lives with web3, we are all artists. Let our art speak for itself. Let us create quality, great art and not be selected just because of our gender. I would be quite insulted if somebody were buying my art because I am a woman. I want people to buy my art because they like it, and it speaks to them and can relate to it.”
“Earlier, I would get very offended when I was in the NFT space, and they would say women artists. What do you mean “woman artist”? But then I realized that maybe certain things need to be spelled out, that maybe as women, we do not have enough representation here.
“A lot of times I have heard people say, Oh, there are women selling. But if there are ten people selling, three are women and seven are men, and if the three women sell, you see those women sell, but you don’t see that there are seven men selling.”
“There is an overarching attitude — not just within web3 but in culture in general — that men’s work is for everyone, and women’s work is specifically for women.
“We are socialized to think that men are entitled to everything, and women get our little chunk. The more we can push against that narrative, even if it is a subconscious narrative, the better things would be for not just women, but for men too. All of us have femininity within us.”
Why Equal Bytes is necessary
During their introductions, each of the Equal Bytes curators weighed in a bit to encourage women listening to apply.
“We see more performative actions in other people being like, How do we raise up women? Well, you buy our art, you pay us, and you give us a bigger piece of the pie so we can support other women. This is the first time I have been approached with an initiative where it’s like, Hey, we have money, and we want to help. I was totally on board because this is going to actually do something and make a little bit of a push forward.”
Iranian artist Neda offered the perspective that web3 creators have one major advantage over web2 and traditional artists simply do not have: censorship resistance.
“For people who have been under censorship for many decades, the hardest thing would be to encourage them and tell them, You can show your work without censorship; you are safe and there is no need to silence yourself and be afraid. This platform and what we are doing appealed to me. So, I wanted to jump on board the moment that I knew about it.”
“Initiatives like these change the dynamic, and it’s a start of a conversation. It addresses something, but it is not the end point. So, any of the creators that we onboard from this wonderful initiative, we also need to make sure that we educate in a way that anyone who is onboarded and supported is prepared for the reality of things as well.”
The importance of the first sale and what comes next
“One of the points of pride throughout [curating more than 30 exhibitions] is really shining a spotlight on artists’ first mints and helping them find their first collectors because that first sale gives them the empowerment to pursue a career here in space. The fact that this program is allowing so much funding through the Excedrin grant not only encourages women to enter the space, but gets them into their first sale and will empower them to stay here.”
“So the headache is dealt with for the first sale, but what is going to happen after? They have to have a long-term vision of their own longevity in this space. They need to come into this space and have that idea already. Unless there is, there is not much chance of survival.”
How to build a career after that first sale
“Stay with the people who are trying to build a positive environment for everyone and an inclusive one. It can be tricky to navigate sometimes but having those guideposts to people really helped me navigate even now. It helped me navigate to where I am now.”
“In the NFT space, you need to make a name for yourself. It is much more work, and it is not like a traditional world where you create a body of work, and the gallery does the rest. Here you need to be a curator and do your own marketing and PR.
“[Equal Bytes] is great that this program has been created to alleviate all that stress. However, it would be great if women were super aware of the fact that this is just the start, but later on, they will have to learn how to continue that journey.”
“There are so many different people buying art, and most of them are men. We are talking about statistics of artists selling, but we are not talking about statistics of buying. So, let us onboard more women, and they will be more related to our art, and the art will be selling.”
On women’s sexuality in their art careers
“One of the reasons that I like this program is we do not have to sell our sexuality in order to get sales. This is something that is seen a lot in places that are dominated by men, even in the real world. I remember I wanted to go and meet a gallery owner some years ago and I said, I want to get an introduction. And they said, Put some nice lipstick on and he will see you are pretty, and he will come to you.
“The reason that you are chosen is not because you are young, beautiful or sexy, it will only be because you’re a good artist. This is the most important thing for me, that [participants] understand: You are a good artist and that you have worked hard.”
“I am a highly sex positive person and it bleeds into my art a lot. I am a former sex worker, so it is one of those things for me, I find joy in presenting my sexuality in my artwork. It is coming from an authentic place. So therefore, it brings me joy. That is the point of it.
“You should not feel pressured to use your sexuality to sell your artwork if it’s not something that brings you joy. But you should also feel empowered to use your sexuality or present your sexuality if it makes you feel empowered.”
“I have been thankfully successful with my NFTs in Ethereum, but I am also the same person who’s not had a sale in the last eight months. And why I am saying this? I have had people tell me, “Oh, you’re not showing your boobs enough.” Is that all that I have? No.
“So, I make Indian women, whether they’re representing trans women or sex workers, because I work with all these people in my real life. I am an art therapist and I collaborate with these people in real life. I somehow try to portray these bold women in my artwork. I make Indian women and I can’t put her in a corset, because that is not an Indian woman. She has all those different attires that Indian women have.”
What you need to know getting started as an NFT artist
“Learn about the security of protecting your crypto wallet address and seed phrase. Learn how to protect yourself, to act as a foundation to all of the actions that you take concerning your wallet. So that type of protection and safeguarding is of course, as an artist, it is talking about protecting your provenance.
“You want to protect that provenance and that wallet address associated with your provenance as much as you can. So, I would suggest the best resource out there is Simone Art. She is wonderful and fantastic in space. She hosts a lot of security-related spaces, and it is really the baseline of how you can build your art career and your art practice and essentially your art business in the web3 space by learning those security foundations.”
“People need to know what decentralization is… The idea of decentralization is that there are little pockets of opinions, and everyone has little satellites, and they are not necessarily true. So, you need to step out of your own bubble to look at your own circle, your art and everything else from an outsider’s perspective to have a bit of objectivity in your own life and your practice as well.”
“When it comes to resources and knowledge is basically doing your own research and following the artists that are slightly more successful. Look at how they got there. Find artists that are creating similar art to yours. And if they manage some form of success, try to find out how they got there. If not, then maybe try something new.”
“Make sure that the people you are getting information from are reliable sources of information because there is misinformation out there, take a moment to scrutinize where you’re getting your information from when you’re coming into space.
“@NFTGirl is a very standout person, amazing, grounded individuals. She hosts regular Spaces. She has a lot of content about the NFT space as a whole.
“Two other people who provide great education materials are @NFTignition and @JENFTEACH. When people are asking me questions about tech things, I refer them to her because she has built out so much amazing material about things like how to mint on different platforms, how to use manifolds, how to create your own contracts.”
“I want to stress also that we are in a tech environment, so learning about the space is a little bit of an advantage. Follow the developers in the space who are also women, like H.E.R. DAO, which is a developer group that supports women. Following them and connecting with people who make it possible for us to take advantage of this tech environment is important.”