MHOUSE Talks — NFTs, Cryptopunks & Squiggles with Erick Calderon aka Snowfro of ArtBlocks
We talk Cryptopunks, generative art, security, Bored Ape thefts, sustainable NFTs and a life of obsession — by Def1nft of MHOUSE
I met Erick Calderon at The Digital event during Art Basel Miami in December 2021, the end of a monumental year for NFTs and for ArtBlocks. In a pop-up gallery, a vast minimalist space of concrete and glass, iconic artworks of the NFT world adorned the walls — the virtual made real. I met Erick’s wife Mara, from whom I really got a feel for the person that was in a large way responsible for the generative art movement as we know it. I hope you enjoy my interview with that person — Erick Calderon or Snowfro.
Def1nft: Interesting to learn that you are a tile distributor in the Houston area with about 15 staff there. Was art always important for you?
Snowfro: Yes but I always found it intimidating with the exception of a local friend and screen print artist Carlos Pozo who sold prints for an affordable price and so I collected that.
Def1nft: Was technology always important for you?
Snowfro: Yes always since I can remember I have been tuned into the latest and greatest in tech.
Def1nft: Was it crypto and punks that first got you interested in generative art and the intersection between art and technology?
Snowfro: I was programming art for a few years before crypto/cryptopunks to make interactive light art installations. Punks certainly peaked my interest with the ability to pack so much punch into 24x24 pixel images.
Def1nft: I believe you got into crypto in 2017. Is that correct? And how did that happen?
Snowfro: My first crypto purchase was late late 2016. I had this crazy desire to own 1 bitcoin by midnight 2016 and so just before New Year’s I pulled the trigger on the rest of a bitcoin. Then once I was immersed I spent the entirety of 2017 diving into crypto.
Def1nft: How did you first come across crypto punks?
Snowfro: Reddit! There was a link on reddit in r/ethdev and I followed it and thought it was incredible and started syncing my ETH wallet to be able to claim. Took a few hours.
Def1nft: Did the folks at Larvalabs help out at all with your first attempts at generative art?
Snowfro: They have always been a huge inspiration. But directly no they were not hands on with my project.
Def1nft: During your talk in Miami, security was a big topic. What are your thoughts around security generally for NFT creators and collectors… for example where do you see the biggest vulnerabilities?
Snowfro: People getting into the space might not take their seed phrase or private key seriously because of a relatively low value of NFTs in an account. Often the details get lost… but then the NFTs gradually become more valuable, but the assets become irrecoverable.
Def1nft: What do you think are the biggest / most common mistakes being made?
Snowfro: People not using hardware wallets
Def1nft: Do you offer advice or support to the ArtBlocks community with regard to security?
Snowfro: Yes we have a specific episode of After Dinner Mints, a show we do weekly with artists and community, that covers security. We always give advice on extra precautions people can take.
Def1nft: What are your thoughts around the spate of recent Bored Ape thefts?
Snowfro: There are lots of new people in the space, which makes it easier to scam newcomers because they haven’t experienced a lot of these super deceptive strategies. Of course it could happen to anyone, but Bored Apes specifically are a relatively new community in crypto.
Def1nft: Talking to Mara, squiggles sounded like obsession, I heard all your all staff got a physical framed squiggle one year for Christmas.
Snowfro; In 2018 I sent not my staff, but all of my clients (over 2,000) individual framed physical squiggles. Sort of as a teaser to the weird crypto world I was navigating but also to share my squiggle with a bunch of folks. Out of 2000 only 14 followed the instructions and claimed them. They were sent official squiggles in November of 2020.
Def1nft: Do you approach everything in life with such obsession?
Snowfro: I do tend to live my life in obsession.
Def1nft: I can certainly relate! So what are you currently obsessed with?
Snowfro: Cars. I love 90’s BMWs……..
Def1nft: There are a lot of generative art releases happening now. Who are your favourite creators / platforms?
Snowfro: I love all my children equally. Haven’t quite found another genArt platform that has drawn me to want to mint on it for one reason or another. There are many, and there will be many more.
Def1nft: Ok, but where do you see the digital art innovation coming from in the coming months and years?
Snowfro: I am really excited about the concept of generative manufacturing, or 1 of 1 of x manufacturing. Where there is a direct production of a physical good associated with the creation of a generative object. https://plottables.io is leading the way here.
Def1nft: What are the trends to watch for?
Snowfro: In generative art we’re going to see more compelling figurative art. Most projects on Art Blocks are pretty abstract, which is great, but figurative will be a big winner next year. Also as people explore utilizing AI tech within the limitations of the Art Blocks infrastructure you’ll see some wild stuff.
Def1nft: If we think of virtuosos of the past… is there somebody in generative art that you consider a true virtuoso?
Snowfro: Tyler Hobbs, Dmitri Cherniak, Alexis Andre, Matt DesLauriers, to name a few.
Def1nft: Punks and squiggles aside… what is your all-time favourite piece or collection?
Snowfro: Stina Jones made a collection called “1-up”, an edition of 300 rainbow hearts that she sent out for free to anyone that replied with an ETH address. I can’t remember what was going on but it was a dark-ish time in the NFT world and that gesture, along with a really special NFT, really stands out to me as a great moment in our little movement.
Def1nft: MHOUSE is creating a gallery for its members to showcase their collections and creations — these range from generative art to fashion to music and more. Some ArtBlocks collectors have agreed to show their pieces. Would you consider displaying a squiggle or other piece in our (non-custodial) online gallery?
Snowfro: 100%. I have a huge collection of Squiggles and other Art Blocks pieces just let me know.
Def1nft: MHOUSE is an international members club for NFT innovators. As a pioneer of NFT technology and art, what is your one piece of advice or alpha for the next wave of pioneers and leaders?
Snowfro: Avoid, at all costs, the “us vs them” mentality as our technology starts to penetrate the non-NFT world. There is room for everyone to shine and our technology is simply a new medium with an objectively technically higher quality of authentication and provenance than anything that has existed before. Let’s determine which tools in the tool chest are specifically useful and viable for OUR projects and stick to those, and explore those fully with our heads down and in tandem with the existing art world.
Def1nft: We care a lot about sustainability at MHOUSE We heard you purchased 250 tonnes of carbon credits to offset the environmental cost of the energy used by the blockchain to create and authenticate the ArtBlocks collection. Well done! We are excited that Ethereum is moving to PoS (proof of stake) and many other blockchains are already there. Do you think there is value in creating standards in the NFT / crypto industry around the sustainability of blockchains so that people can easily understand… and if necessary mitigate… their environmental impact?
Snowfro: The more information and standards, the better. We’ve actually purchased over 20,000 tonnes and will continue to offset regularly.
Thanks so much to Erick for the interview, to Mara for inspiring me and to Patrick Nugent for helping arrange.
Also thanks to Sofia Garcia for arranging The Digital event in Miami where we met.
Thanks to MHOUSE members, many of whom are ArtBlocks collectors, for contributing questions to this interview.