Elise Swopes raised over $ 200,000 in about 10 months by selling her art in the form of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
After its first sale in March for over $ 17,600, she thought, “‘Oh my god my life is going to change,'” the 32-year-old told CNBC Make It. “And it has been since then. It definitely gave me a lot of opportunities.”
Brooklyn-based photographer and graphic designer lists her art at NFT markets as Super Rare and Clever gateway. Her pieces represent animations of urban landscapes that she photographs. She frequently adds elements of nature that she designs digitally to her photographs.
For example, in his first Clever catwalk collection, Swopes has created several works that combine his photographs of New York, Portland, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and Denver, with giraffes and other elements of the jungle. To honor the giraffes included in his work, Swopes donated a portion of the collection’s sales to the Somali Giraffe Project.
As his work continues to resell, Swopes earns a 10-15% royalty.
With a large chunk of her income, Swopes pays her managers and other bills, but also donates to organizations and buys NFTs from other artists, she says.
Swopes collected the NFTs created by photographer Brittany Pierre and visual artist Lana Denina, among others. She presents her NFT collection in a digital gallery she created in the CryptoVoxels metaverse, which costs around $ 10,000, she says. She also expressed her admiration for the Black NFT Art collective, which amplifies black artists in the NFT space, and its creator, Iris Nevins.
âWhen I make a sale, I make sure I give back to the community who also gives back,â she says, âbecause there is a cycle [of support]. “
“But I also encountered quite a few difficulties with the [NFT] community when it comes to the representation of people of color and black women in particular, âshe said.
âThere are obviously a ton of upfront opportunities for white men, and we’ve seen them continually get more sales. Women have barely made any sales in the last 21 months“said Swopes. Indeed, Bloomberg reported that female artists made up only 5% of all NFT art sales during that time, citing a November report from research firm ArtTactic.
When Swopes talks about it online and promotes diversity and inclusiveness, it “doesn’t always garner the best support from everyone,” she says.
âThey find it uncomfortable to be uncomfortable and hold themselves accountable for the distribution of wealth, especially the money that a lot of these people have made. So I find myself having a lot of money. responsibilities not only as a woman, but as a woman of color in this community, who understands perspective and can put me in different people’s shoes, âshe says.
Many in space lack awareness, she says, making jokes or comments that are “really alarming.”
âI’m hoping people can keep investing in my art and investing in what I’m doing, because I’m actually trying to engage and make a change,â Swopes said.
Swopes’ brand and artistic career first took off in 2010 after joining Instagram as soon as the platform was launched. She sees similarities in how she felt then on Instagram and now in the NFT space.
âIt’s kind of the same as I experienced on Instagram, just like I have to be the voice of the representation in so many ways,â she says. “I found myself in that position, just making sure I supported black women, minorities, in the [NFT] community.”
Next year, Swopes plans to launch a collective called Sunrise Art Club, she says. The club will support women of color through various events and programs, but also fund different NFT projects.
âThere are a lot of black women right now in the NFT community, and they are doing a lot of very good things. We are really great community builders, and I hope the money is better distributed where [the community] gives us a place at the table, âsays Swopes.
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