On Zen and NFTs with ZENFT's Creators
Dear Bankless Nation,
What goes into building a new NFT project?
How to approach doing so?
This week I put these sorts of questions to the pseudonymous builders of ZENFT Garden Society, an upstart AR- and VR-compatible NFT project they’ve created to evoke calming experiences and meditativeness.
The answers of these builders, which you’ll find below, offer some really interesting insights into how creatives can approach NFT projects on Ethereum today. So read on, enjoy, and stay zen as ZENFT dev Seed Meister puts it! 🧘🏻
Talking NFTs with ZENFT Garden Society’s Creators 8ncient Gardeners, Eternal Caretaker, and Seed Meister!
ZENFT Garden Society is a new NFT collectibles project centered around 8,888 AR and VR bonsai sculptures. Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind the project, what led you to creating these bonsai on Ethereum + NFTs and why now?
We observed the artistic landscape of NFT collectibles and saw a lot of derivative projects. As career artists, it wasn't too appealing to us to just copy and paste the same ideas over again. We also saw a lot of chaos and anxiety among these drops, so we came up with Bonsai and ZENFT as a unique mood for people to enter into.
We wanted to create an environment of experiences where people could focus on calming thoughts, a giving mentality, and just be less stressed in general. We also thought the opportunity to get creative with a non-avatar based art project opened up more doors for collectors’ personalities to beassociated or even “assigned” to their art. With an avastar’s face depicting a distinct personality, youre pigeonholded into whatever the avatar visually presents. With artistic renditions of bonsai, it's been easier for people to enjoy their own creative interpretations of the art. In fact, we’ve noticed people so far are trading solely based on aesthetic value and with no regard to rarity value. We are honestly really proud of that.
Really, where else would we create our NFTs besides Ethereum? Ethereum is where everything happens and was the obvious choice, even in spite of gas. We didn’t even pause to consider any other chain. Adding to what EC said above, we’ve seen plenty of low-effort work with no utility sell out rapidly. This made it clear to us that there was in fact a large opportunity for anyone willing to put in the time to create a high quality collectible set with utility and foster a community. As to “why now,” it seemed to me there was a finite window of opportunity to create sets of this size that won’t last forever. We needed to move quickly with the project to seize that opportunity, and we did with success.
Two things that personally clicked with me about the project are 1) how it employed flat distribution prices, and 2) how it grants commercial rights to ZENFT bonsai holders. What influenced the thinking behind these two choices?
We discussed this a lot with our early community members and everyone agreed, flat distribution is the way to go. We watched several other projects lose steam simply because of tiny price ramps or over-engineered drop mechanisms. We thought simplicity was key in the drop mechanic: make it flat and get out of the way. The psychological effect created by the sense of “being late” to a drop risks the success of the entire project.
With regards to commercial rights, I hope our community creates amazing things with their bonsais! If someone wants to capitalize on their incredible asset they spent time searching for, negotiating a deal on, or luckily pulled in a drop, they should be able to use that however they see fit we say.
We wanted bonsai holders to have commercial rights to their art because we want collaborative creativity to be a major possibility in our work. We are less concerned with owning the trees as we are in creating a movement of inspiration. We are seeing tons of art being made with the trees, and some people are even starting side businesses and Patreons creating art for others using the trees. We love it, creative freedom is a very powerful feeling. We don’t want people to borrow our art, we want to give inspiration.
So one thing we’re seeing more of lately is NFTs as access tokens, e.g. holding a specific NFT in order to gain membership to a group or event. ZENFT is going this route by granting all bonsai NFT holders with membership to the ZENFT Garden Society. How do you envision this society will work over time?
We’ve already started a Snapshot which allows verified bonsai owners to vote on proposals. We also just launched the ZENFT Community Fund with a small seed amount and we plan on letting bonsai owners in the future vote on which efforts to fund. We want the ZENFT Garden Society to be a full-fledged and active DAO, and we are working on upcoming projects to realize this. Stay tuned!
Adding to what SM said above, bonsais will be used as access tokens for a few experiences we’re working on in The Sandbox and VR Chat. If we move to build in other Ethereum metaverse projects like Decentraland and Cryptovoxels, the access token element would also apply. We’re envisioning our metaverse gardens to be a place of rest, beauty, and tranquility for owners to enjoy.
ZENFT delivered a portion of its sale proceeds to La Via Campesina, an international farmers organization. It reminds me of how Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin recently said we’ll likely see more NFT projects start diverting money to social causes. How did this process work for ZENFT, and what motivated it?
Well first of all, the environment is a huge concern to all of us. If this project was successful it would mean a decent amount of money coming in, so it felt like a great opportunity to make a sizable donation to a worthy organization. We also wanted to stay true to our brand. Our mission as an NFT collectible project was to start a trend of giving and caring for our community. This is a core component in all of our decisions. We wanted our customers to enter into this project with the right mindset, and I think focusing our initial sale towards a donation helped with that.
Also, personally I have noticed that a lot of NFT involved artists / projects are trending towards minimizing the climate impact of their work or finding a very easy solution in greenwashing it. Honestly, I hate this. Let's be honest about the sacrifices we are making. Charities are very tricky, there are many trendy charities out there that do very little for the causes they claim to help, but offer a lot of “karma” for the donors. Many charities are created as a PR-friendly method of testing a new technology and often have a board of directors from large tech companies. Long story short, the decisions in many cases are happening from 3rd-party investors, not by the locals they claim to help. This causes a lot of problems.
That said, we consulted with experts to try to find an ideal organization to send our money to, as we didn’t want it wasted on a sub-standard organization. We care more about actually helping than the PR karma of saying “we donated.” LVC is an amazing organization, all of its decisions are made by the locals that the money is going to. It's a “Peasants Movement” organization run mostly by women in multiple countries across the world. They are helping fight the influence “Big Agriculture” across the world, helping preserve the environment in ways that only they would know the answers to.
The only thing I’d add here is it was never a question for us to donate proceeds — the team was aligned on this from the beginning. We’re in an amazing situation where we have the opportunity to send a large donation to a great organization, and that fact makes me and all of us super happy and proud.
What does Zenft have on the roadmap next? Is there anything coming up that you’d like the readers to know about?
We have a lot of upcoming plans, but some things we’ve already revealed publicly include working on developing $WATER, building The Sandbox Garden and other metaverse integrations, reviewing grant applications, and preparing our next drop for the Garden-verse. We also just posted our full roadmap in our Discord, so consider joining there if you want to stay up to date with the project. Beyond that, stay zen readers!
- 👀 Check out the ZENFT data dashboard on rarity.tools