The Underground Library

The Underground Library is a mysterious project that I eagerly backed. Promising entry to a secret book club, the Library felt a bit like Pynchon’s W.A.S.T.E., the secret organization behind The Crying of Lot 49. The people behind the project also remained largely hidden (though they will email you happily if you reach out), and so the overall effect was one of intense intrigue.

For $20 I was offered membership in the organization, invites to parties/events, and one heirloom book. I didn’t really know what they meant by heirloom book until last night, when my reward arrived. It even came with instructions (click to enlarge):

In the inside cover there’s more (click to enlarge):

There’s a library card with my deadline to read the story. I have until this Sunday, when I have to pass it off to someone else. The book isn’t long though, so I’m not concerned.

My name inscribed:

The story is a memoir by Michael Myers of the Halloween horror movies. Based on the first ten pages and the excellent illustrations, I’m already finding him a sympathetic character:

The pages themselves are thick and hand cut (or they seem that way) with lots of illustrations:

Like my experience with Amy Wilson’s Tiny Fabric Houses project, I’m really blown away by the quality of my reward. This is exceptional value for just $20. Very impressive.

You can see more pictures of the Underground Library book in this Flickr set as well as our own Flickr pool.

For anyone intrigued by these photos and my experience, good news: the Underground Library has a second project that’s currently being funded. You should totally join.

Creator Q&A: Grand and Lorimer

Emily Wilson spent more than a decade trekking the Brooklyn underground and snapping shots of then-unknowns like the Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars and Nada Surf before she decided it was time to make a book. Her photo retrospective, Grand and Lorimer – Photos of Brooklyn’s Art and Music Scene 1997 – 2005, will showcase a selection of her best work from the period alongside writing from Rolling Stone contributing editor Jenny Eliscu. Featuring everything from portraits of a baby-faced Karen O in a Pepsi shirt to candid shots of Modest Mouse swigging beers in baseball hats, these are the behind-the-scenes/before-they-were-stars moments that music fans can’t help but adore. Definitely worth the wait!

Check out our Q&A with Emily below. Support her project here

When and why did you decide to compile your work into a book? 

Within the past five years I put together two handmade books for a series on Summer Camps and I loved the creative process of designing. They were so well received and I began thinking about going back and producing a book from the Williamsburg era archive. This time I will be sorting through thousands of medium format negatives, scanning 100’s and using for design and printing.

Any favorite subjects you’ve had over the years? 

My favorite subjects have been those who had a great story to tell and I’m creatively inspired by people who are passionate. My work of the early Yeah Yeah Yeahs years is definitely a favorite. I photographed Paul Smith in his suite at the Mercer hotel ages ago but I still remember the fun we had collaborating like it as yesterday. Another one of my personal projects has been about up and coming race car drivers. I’ve been following a young-gun named Chase Austin for the past four years; documenting his journey from dirt tracks at age 15 to NASCAR has been thrilling.

I got to know all those Williamsburg bands because we were part of the same scene. Art, music shows and parties always featured the same list of usual suspects.

How are people responding to your use of Kickstarter thus far?

People LOVE the Kickstarter concept. It has been a great vehicle for reconnecting me with people from my old neighborhood and introduced me to a ton of strangers who I share a common interest. I hope I have the opportunity to meet every single one of my backers and thank them personally.

Any closing thoughts? 

The series I’ve been working on about young race car drivers has been a labor of love the past four years. If everything goes well with getting this project out into the world.  I’d love to find myself shooting again on a dirt track somewhere south of Virginia and east of Kansas.

Drinking and Writing

A couple weeks ago we shared some clever rewards added to Michael & Lenka’s Mysterious Letters project:

At the time we wondered if anyone would choose the $24/sober option, and promised to keep track on which proved more popular.

And so as Mysterious Letters comes down to its deadline, how did these two rewards fair?

By greater than a 2-1 margin, backers are picking the drunk letters to the sober ones. No surprise there! Let’s all say a prayer for Michael and Lenka’s livers tonight. They’ve got a lot of drinking and writing to do.

Hiring: Rails Developer

Kickstarter is hiring! Though we only launched last April, it’s time to to expand the team to keep up with our growth. Things are rockin’.

We’re looking for a NYC-based Rails developer with a history of tackling interesting problems and building fun things; someone who seeks elegant solutions to difficult problems, while still pragmatic enough to get things done.  We love generalists with experience in every part of the stack and an innate technical curiosity.

You’ll be working on every part of Kickstarter’s back-end, from infoviz and geolocation to APIs and authentication, alongside our small team of passionate geeks.  A sense of humor, sense of play, and an open mind are mandatory.  And it helps to be well-rounded; it’s no coincidence that everyone on our team has a background in the arts, as well as tech.

Candidates should have a strong background in optimizing and scaling Rails applications, solid understanding of jQuery or equivalent frameworks, and comfort with the Amazon stack.  Experience with Amazon FPS would be very handy, as would iPhone app skillz.

This position is full-time, on-site at our top-secret NYC HQ.

Send us a little something about yourself, along with links to your personal homepage, resume, and some of the interesting projects you’ve worked on or contributed to.  (Extra credit for a link to your Github profile.)

What Fans Will Pay For

Zed Equals Zee blogger Debcha recently wrote a post entitled What Will Music Fans Pay For? that nicely articulates what kind of things we value as consumers — with special attention paid to direct commerce. As you might expect, a lot of what Debcha looks for corresponds with what’s found success on Kickstarter.

Let’s quickly examine her list of what she would pay for:

The music. First and foremost, many people will (and do) voluntarily pay for digital music, even if they don’t have to. This might be because it’s easier to use iTunes than BitTorrent. Or it might be because they want to support the artist. Or both.

CDs and merch. Atoms, not bits. Do you pledge money to NPR to support the programming, or for the This American Life DVD? I’ve bought merchandise even when there was no rational reason for me to, simply because it was a way to support an artist I love. I buy CDs at concerts, because I know the money goes directly to the artists (and because I can listen to them in my car).

Relationships. Anything signed or limited-edition is not just about the article itself—it’s about expressing a relationship with the artist. And relationships aren’t fungible. Jonathan Coulton and Amanda Palmer are two excellent artists who have close relationships with their fans, who in turn support them.

An experience. The canonical example of this is, of course, the concert – whether it’s $5 to see your favorite local band or hundreds of dollars for an arena show. But this also includes things like doing ’shrooms in a Lamborghini with your favorite drummer.

Something unique. The illustration at the top of this post is a commissioned portrait (“Portrait of the Blogger, with Johnny Toaster,” by rstevens). Definitely worth paying for.

A narrative. What’s a story worth? Apparently, quite a bit. The Significant Objects art project posts thrift-store finds for auction on eBay, along with the back stories. But the back stories are fictional, and are described as such. Nevertheless,  the items go for substantially more than their market value.

Debcha’s list might lean heavily on music, but it’s a solid approach to pretty much any kind of artistic patronage. And notice her last four in particular: relationships, an experience, something unique, and a narrative. Couldn’t agree more — in fact, I’d say there’s nothing more important than those four. Any endeavor that can bring those things together will find tremendous success and a lifetime following. It’s what we all want.

Kickstarter is built on those same desires. It’s not just about The Thing (the finished record, the completed film, the postcard in the mail), it’s about the process of making The Thing and the life around it, and how we as fans/audience can be involved. Make us part of the story. Make us feel special. As Debcha’s post makes clear, if you do it right we’ll reward you with our support and gratitude. It would be our pleasure.

Creator Q&A: Learn How to Doodle

Andrew and Tom are a pair of doodle enthusiasts that’ve taken it upon themselves to publish a whole book on the topic. Their how-to Teach the World How to Doodle will come full of original doodles, tips, techniques, and a treatise on doodle theory that — according to the boys — will “reign as the most definitive seminal contribution to doodle scholarship EVER.”

Admittedly doodling is not the most serious of subjects. But Andrew and Tom transform a (to some) insignificant habit into a thoroughly legitimate artistic behavior. They take their work seriously — in an unserious way.

Read Andrew and Tom’s fun/serious banter below. Support the project here.

So - doodling! Why doodling? What about it got you so interested? (I say this as a person who is a chronic doodler. Really. It’s bad.)

Tom: Yes, doodling! I would say that having to sit still and quiet all the time got me interested in doodling. As a child there was school and church, and now, as an adult, there are meetings.

Andrew: Cassie, please. There is nothing bad about doodling.

Tom: Doodling has all the joy of art and making and writing, but its also outside the world of Art or Writing, which are Important Productive Endeavors. The beauty of doodling is that it creates no product.  Of course, we’ve ruined all that by putting them in a book and trying to sell it.

Andrew: YES. Tom has hit it right on the head. Doodling is an artistic activity that ANYONE can do, ANY TIME, and can feel good about. Or not feel anything about—it’s just a doodle. I think people live under a lot of pressure from a lot of different sources to make sure whatever they are doing at any given time is worthwhile somehow: people are supposed to work hard at their job, get the most restful night’s sleep they can, maybe professionally develop their career with a night class, and if they’re going to draw, they should make sure to draw something that looks like a drawing is supposed to look. BUT if you doodle, properly, you can draw something stupid or embarrassing or ugly or wasteful, or manic or ordered or idiotic or mindless or dopey, and then you can just throw it away with the rest of the notepad. And I see that as a GREAT VICTORY for our SOULS.
What is the best/most unusual place you’ve ever successfully doodled?

Tom: The recent opportunity we had to doodle all over a great big white wall in an art space was really a delight. 

Andrew: For a while Tom had this idea that we would doodle love letters to the world, like doodle with crayons on some construction paper and then leave the result wherever we happened to be. I think I did that once and left a doodle letter in the men’s bathroom of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Do you remember that, Tom? 

Tom: Oh yeah! I forgot about those. I remember your Ethical Culture victory, but I forget where exactly I put mine.  Some similarly glorious place, I expect.

Andrew: Anyway that project crumbled, probably under the weight of its great success. So I would have to say that big wall at the Gowanus Studio Space is the most successful doodle thus far. 

Any heroes of doodling that you can think of? 
Tom: That’s a good question. It’s hard to think of a famous “doodler,” probably for good reason. I really get a kick out of people who cut up the advertisements in the subway and re-paste them over others. That seems like doodling to me, and it has the heroic quality — battling the monster.  It’s got spirit. 

Andrew: Probably Tolstoy and Melville.

Tom: Ok, then I’m going to add Victor Hugo.  He drew with coffee.

Where did the inspiration for making a book come from?

Tom: Two considerations. 1) It’s exploiting an untapped niche — very American, very market-solutions oriented. 2) I was going through all these old how to draw books about five years ago and thought, “What’s so great about drawing, anyway?” So I created a page of How To Doodle and took it to Andrew, who immediately made the first installment of Doodle Theory, and we have sort of been noodling around ever since.

Andrew: My first thought was, “Well, someone better make sure this fits into the grand scheme of the humanities.” And no one else stepped up, so I’ve taken on the mantle of doodle theorist to the world. It’s a position that demands a lot of vanity.

As we’ve done it, though, I have begun to think that you actually can teach people a few techniques and attitudes that will help them embrace doodling. Because doodling, really, isn’t about getting better at it, so much as just doing it.  I’m not sure how many of said tips have actually made it into the book, though.

Andrew: Right. Did we mention the book is doodled? So it gets off track, which is maybe charming if you’ve already achieved the sort of mystical doodle zen-state that this book tries to induce, and/but probably a little dizzying if you don’t get it.

Tom: We’re really hoping people are going to be okay with that.

How’s response been to your Kickstarter project so far?

Tom: Great! A some exciting things have happened: 1) Our friends have contributed, which is a very warm and wonderful thing 2) Strangers have pledged! That’s exciting. 3) One of our friends is going to be giving away several copies of our book as gifts, which is really flattering 4) We are getting interviewed, like we are real public intellectuals, which is, of course, our ultimate goal.

Andrew: Yes, if we get invited to speak at a conference, we’ll know we’ve really made it as doodle experts. But until then, we have this modest goal to print a small amount of books, and we’re truly overwhelmed by the thought that other people are willing to help us reach that goal.

What’s been your most popular reward?

Tom: $20, which is the book, signed, with extra doodles drawn inside of it, but we’ve had a surprising number of takers for the $100 level, which includes a screen print of your favorite page, a handmade birthday card, a custom doodle, and of course, the book.  We knew it was a good deal, but who has $100 anymore? Banks?

Any closing thoughts?

Andrew: Please, please, please, take us exactly as seriously as you feel like you should.

Tom: Think about giving at the $10,000 level. We will make the most beautiful book you can imagine.

And also, just out of curiosity, do you have any doodles in public spaces around Brooklyn? (Since that is also where I live, I am wondering if I ever would have seen them while wandering around in the subway and/or random back-alleys).

Tom: Unless you’re a big attender of ethical culture lectures, probably not. I think that was our one and only foray into, um, disruptive doodling.

Andrew: Disruptive but caring.

Tom: Also, they painted over our doodle in the art space, which taught us both important lessons about impermanence and letting go.

Andrew: I read in the latest issue of Professional Theorist Magazine that doodling in public spaces is considered “street art” now, so, strictly speaking, we’re not allowed to doodle around town anyway. Critical consensus could always change, but for now it’s only indoors or on the page.

Tom: Oh yeah, doodling is mostly relaxing, but since we’ve formalized it into a school, there is the constant danger of being excommunicated to the doodle wilderness.

Creator Q&A: 50 Characters

We’ve all wanted to be somebody else for a day — who hasn’t?  — but the difference between us and actor Brent Rose is that he is actually doing it. In fact, Rose is being 50 other people as part of his creative project to make 50 short films based around 50 different characters (all played by himself) in as many weeks. It’s a marathon of creative energy, innovation and personal reinvention. How could we NOT be into this?

Check out our Q&A with Brent below. Support his project here.

Where did you come up with this idea?

It was really born out of my frustration with being type-cast.  I got so tired of agents and casting directors telling me what they thought my “type” was.  If they saw me do one thing, then they would assume that that one thing is all I can do.  So partly it was to prove (to myself, and to them) that I have a wider range than I was being given credit for.  So, that’s where the concept came from.  It wasn’t until I was in a job that didn’t allow for any auditioning, though, that I finally decided to do it.  I get really depressed when I’m not working on my craft (acting and writing), so I had to give myself an outlet or I would have lost it.

Any favorite characters that you’ve conceived so far? All-time favorite episode?

There have been a lot of characters that I’d consider favorites.  Al Griffin (Al Griffin Goes Outside), Lon Zelig (the New Freedomland Dancers), Mike Pritchard (Classic), Ed Byron (Ed Byron’s Last Words), Geoff Boyle (Geoff Boyle’s Apology), and of course, my first character Brian Baumleiber.  I’ve got a bunch of favorite episodes, too, but my top three would probably be Al Griffin Goes OutsideClassic, and The New Freedomland Dancers

What are you some upcoming characters you had in mind?

I’ve got some ideas I’m really excited about, and I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll tell you that I’ve got a nose fetishist, a guy who had his larynx removed but has handled it in a very unique way, and a Christmas music video that’s going to be really funny.

How have people’s responses to your use of Kickstarter been so far?

Overall, really positive.  I’ve had a lot of emails from artists who didn’t know about it yet saying “What a great site!”, and I think a lot of them are starting to plot their own projects.  Truth be told, though, I have run into some people who are really leery of signing up at yet another website, and giving someone their credit card info, etc.  Some have hesitated, and even outright refused because they were so nervous about it, despite my assuring them that Kickstarter is 100% legit.  What can ya do?

Your rewards are really wide-ranging and creative (presiding over people’s weddings! giving character-acting classes!) How did you come up with them? Any advice for other people looking to set-up creative/interesting rewards?

I came up with them in a brainstorming session that lasted over a few days.  I just opened a blank document and wrote down everything I could think of that people might be interested in (in no particular order).  Then I went and looked at some successful projects and looked at their goals, to see if there were any ideas worth borrowing (which I’d highly recommend).  Once I had a lot of stuff in the list, then I started putting them in order, combining them, and assigning values to them.  It simplified the whole thing for me.

Any closing thoughts?

Well, of course, number one would be PLEASE PLEDGE!  I’ve only got until Friday night, and I’ve still got a looooooong way to go.  I would really appreciate your help.  After that, I’d just say be careful/realistic when setting your goal and timeline.  $10,000 in six weeks may have not been realistic, ultimately (though I know it’s still possible!), but I chose $10,000 because I think that’s what it will take to make the project as good as it can be, and I chose six weeks because I didn’t want to pause it for so long.  Hindsight being 20/20, I wish I’d given myself another few weeks, but that’s life, so this week I’m dedicating myself to finding creative solutions.  As of this writing my project is 42% funded, and has four days to go.  It’s an underdog affair, but it’s possible, and that’s what I need to focus on.  Fingers crossed, and thanks in advance to anyone who pledges!

Big Weekend

On Friday we tweeted that we were on pace to have more than twenty projects successfully cross the finish line over the weekend. We were wrong — it ended up being 31.

Thirty-one projects reaching their goal within 72 hours of each other — amazing. We’d like to commend the creators for running such great campaigns. Kudos to them!

Here are all of the weekend’s successful projects by genre:

Live Radical and Change the World
Free Land
The Angola ProjectMaria My Love

Canned Ham

Twilight with Steve Cooper

Patrick Plindauer’s 2009 Puzzlefest
Resonance Retro-styled Adventure Game
Fly Wrench
Laugh Riot
Saturated Dreamers

Robin Writes a Book
Living with Bipolar Disorder
Regret with Math
Save the Nachos

The Loom
Clare and the Reasons
Living Room Tour
Nancy Garcia

The Tank
Existential Pilot

Art and Advocacy
Camper Kart

Pie Lab
Sloan Street Community Garden
Floating Doctors

Photographing Thailand

Well done everyone!