Interview with Andrej - Minty Art Collective
Updated: Jul 2, 2021
Welcome to the second issue of the TezEdge Blockchain Survey.
This week, I met with Andrej from Minty Art Collective, a platform connecting NFT artists with clients that also offers blockchain education, social networking and marketing services for its illustrators. Andrej has taken an interest in Tezos as it is one of the smart contract platforms he is considering to use for the Minty Art Collective, and we were interested in hearing his opinions on the current state of blockchain.
You can read more about Minty on their website, or scroll down to begin reading our interview with Andrej, Minty’s co-founder and Creative Director.
1. Hello Andrej, introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do.
My name is Andrej Kiszling, I’m a co-founder of Minty, which is a long-standing platform for illustrators where they can upload their artworks. We have about 4,000 illustrators and 19,000 artworks so far. We have been dealing with cryptocurrencies since about 2018, and basically with the advent of NFTs we decided to set up the Minty art collective alongside our standard platform (offchain, non-crypto). Minty is a gateway collective that allows selected artists to get into crypto, we help them with minting their first NFTs and we also help them with marketing. The Minty Art Collective artists are published across various marketplaces, Foundation, OpenSea and Hic et Nunc.
Our goal is to create a collection of the first works of art from certified quality artists who have track recordings exhibited in galleries and did work for large companies such as Microsoft or Samsung, as well as various small art projects. We quite successfully launched the Minty collective in February. Our first artist was a Slovak illustrator living in Prague, Bessa, she was also the first to sell NFTs on our platform. Now we have another 10 artists in the pipeline, whom we will gradually roll out, although I have to note that we currently do not have our own [smart] contract. We currently do that through partners while we take care of the marketing. However, we are working on creating our own contract, which we would implement directly on the tasteminty.com
2. Why are you interested in crypto currencies and/or Blockchain?
I'm interested in crypto mostly because I am not a fan of the current banking system [laughs]. Basically, as we progress into a cashless system, banks have something of a monopoly. Before crypto emerged, if you want to transfer money or do some other completely basic operation, I have to send it through the bank, it passes through 4 intermediaries, everyone got involved some fee or they extract some other form of value of which you have nothing, other people get to decide what happens to that transaction so that if you get a debt or sign up for a blacklist, then a third party, with whom you have nothing to do, can penalize you at will.
With crypto, I like that it is decentralized and it is a true cashless payment system for which you do not need a third party, because it goes through a decentralized blockchain and is written onto a shared ledger. And of course there is quite attractive money-making potential and the market is very dynamic. I like blockchain as well, especially in the current situation when we are beyond the first wave of ICOs. I like the function of the decentralized ledger that allows you to verify transactions and issue certificates in various fields, e.g. logistics, money transfers, the art world. For example, with digital art, you've usually created a GIF or a JPEG that anyone could take from you, there was no proof of ownership when compared to the physical world. With the advent of NFTs, this concept moves from the physical world into the virtual world. This is thanks to that ledger - a unique record that ownership has passed from the author to you.
3. What was your first experience with crypto-currency or blockchain?
I wasn't a miner, and my first experience came from visiting the ProgressBar [author’s note: a now defunct meeting spot for technology and blockchain enthusiasts in Bratislava] and there were all these guys who mined. Then came the boom years [in 2017/2018] when crypto really started picking up. In this wave, I met various people e.g. with David Stancel from Blockchain Slovakia and I bought the first cryptocurrencies - Bitcoin and also Cardano as it had just come out. I operated a Binance account for a while, that was about it. I didn't pay much attention to contracts, I just watched who made the contracts. I admit that at that time I did not know what use case it would have for ordinary users.
4. Other than your own, what do you consider to be the best blockchain project and why?
We are pretty much a social project at this time, i.e. even though we want to implement our own contract, we are currently just a community of artists and [Minty] is an educational and social platform. At the moment I really like the Foundation (on Ethereum), I’ve made some connections there, they are invite only but have a very good UX design, one of the best. Currently, there is a rising eco-friendly trend, which means there is an effort to reduce high gas fees. Also, the PoW approach costs a lot of energy, so there is pressure on our Minty art collective to come up with ecological solutions. That's when we noticed Hic et Nunc, which uses Tezos. Of those smaller projects, I'm a big fan of Larva labs, they have their collectables, for example the Cryptopunks, they also have something new called the Meebits. I follow NFT projects. I also like Artblock.io which is actually generated works of art that are on-chain. And then I also like ASCII punks, and it's also all written on-chain.
Among blockchain projects, I tend to like NFTs and I like it the most when the artwork is written directly into the code. I'm also a big fan of colors.io, these are the guys who tokenized hexadecimal color codes in some way. You can buy different colors, each specific color is tied to a token.
5. If you could change one thing about blockchain and crypto in general, what would it be?
One problem is that there are a lot of barriers to accessing the blockchain, one such strange barrier are wallets. For example, we are an agency, in addition to NFT art, we also sell illustrations, so for example, when big brands such as Forbes or Leo Burnett, or any other multinational corp, wants to buy something, it could be interesting to use crypto. However, to sell it directly for crypto, most of these big companies would have to have a wallet. This is actually a big issue for crypto. Okay, for example you have Meta Mask and other wallets, but there is no 'corporate' wallet to bring the crypto world closer to the finance departments of major companies. First, there are the usual accountants who won't download the wallet. Even if you want to use blockchain commercially, you can't get it among 99% of large corporations. What is needed is a solid corporate wallet that could handle multiple cryptocurrencies at once and would be accepted among large companies.
So something like masking the complicated nature of blockchain? Something that would make blockchain more user friendly for 'normies'?
For ordinary users yes, but especially for the commercial world - for large companies. Because when someone buys our art and pays with crypto, then it’s always miners, crypto enthusiasts - we never see these purchases in crypto from corporations. Our core clients are in the realm of advertising, and these are all real world businesses that haven’t yet become fond of wallets. And when I try to introduce them to, for example, Meta Mask, they're always like "umm okay, we'll see about that" [laughter] it's like I'm talking to a wall .. So if there’s one thing, it’s this.
6. What would you like to see implemented in blockchain? Either in your own project, in your favorite blockchain or in blockchain in general.
I know it sounds like a cliche but since we are a platform of artists who care about this planet, [crypto] is not compatible with our philosophy. With Ethereum (in the state as it is today) and especially Bitcoin, there is so much energy usage. We create art to make this world a better place, we don’t want to hear that your artwork has consumed as much energy as one household does in 2 months.
7. What is a question you most often ask in relation to crypto currencies and blockchain?
Gas fees, that's a common issue. It’s quite a problem on Ethereum, often you don’t have enough gas in situations such as digital auctions. There is also a new project from Euler beats - they make NFT-secured sound recordings - they have a very interesting concept: each time they release 32 new sounds, the person who manages to buy them first ‘wins’ because their value increases ten-fold in less than a year. And this accompanies many NFT projects, in which buyers spend a lot of money on the Ethereum gas fee, you ‘win’ by paying for more gas than other buyers, even though like 70% of that money is really being wasted. The whole PoW concept is an issue - we should develop something better. It also creates an entry barrier for some people.
8. What is the most common problem you have, and how would you solve this problem?
Although there have been improvements in this area, there still is a significant problem in visual arts - people just steal works of art from each other. How many times does an illustrator upload something to their portfolio, then someone sees it and downloads it, if it doesn't have a watermark, then it can be then shared on Instagram without giving credit to the author. This also happens, for example, with illustrated maps, e.g. one illustrator made a nice low-poly map of Iceland, and then a Chinese travel agency started using it on their website, using it commercially [without paying the artist]. This is something that blockchain solves, because when an image is written onto a blockchain, it is easy to trace who created it. Or another thing that happens is that someone changes a small part of the picture and then the question arises as to who created it first. Then it becomes very difficult even for the illustratrator to prove that they were the first, and that's another problem that a distributed ledger could solve.
9. Where do you see the future of blockchain?
The future of blockchain - I think it’s in government, the government can be run via blockchain, we can eliminate a lot of unnecessary jobs in this way. It may be unpopular what I’m about to say, but right now there’s a lot of people employed by the government who are really there just to write down information. We can free up these people to do more inspiring jobs.
So blockchain would be useful for the government, in logistics, etc. And then of course finances, cashless payments, cryptocurrencies are the future of this. I also believe that international organizations such as the EU will eventually move towards using the blockchain, I know that there is already research in this area.
We hope you have enjoyed our interview with Andrej. If you want to find out more about the Minty Art Collective, head over to their website.
Do you know of an interesting blockchain project that would be interested in an interview with us? Feel free to send us an email, we’d love to hear your thoughts and publish them on our blog.