As NFTs became more popular, many artists aspire to launch their own projects, minting their art as a non fungible token on a blockchain. The obvious benefit is the opportunity to sell your work and open up your art to new collectors anywhere in the world. While there is tremendous potential, there is a lot of work that happens behind the scenes to make a project successful.
As a long time supporter of Tawan Zher’s project, Manekirei, I think his story provides a great model for aspiring NFT artists.
Tawan Zher and the Manekirei Collection
Tawan is a Thai artist who first started thinking about NFTs and creating art when he lost his job during the COVD pandemic. He always loved characters and games and he had seen people starting to upload their art on OpenSea to sell as NFTs.
Tawan was working in music and voice acting, and spending his free time developing the Manekirei collection. It took a two weeks to complete the first 20 Manekirei and another two months to finish them all once he decided to make a collection of 100 items.
The idea of making art about hope, and luck was something he felt everyone needed. It’s something he cared about and wanted to share with the world. Tawan researched any different cultures and decided that pulling characters from Japanese folklore would have a widespread appeal.
In his inspiration post, Tawan writes: “’Maneki’ means ‘Beckoning’ and ‘Rei’ means ‘Souls’. I took the idea from the Japanese beckoning car or ‘Manekineko’ and combine them with Japanese folklores and yokai. All the Manekireis are also white colour with red pattern which has shown very commonly in Japanese representation of divine and spiritual being.”
After months of creation, the journey was just beginning because it took a long time before he started to get any sales. He tried to share his work on Twitter at least once per day but found it exhausting. At times he considered giving up and that the work wasn’t good enough, but luckily he found a few collectors in a larger community called Kaiju Kingz.
Connecting with Early Collectors
I first saw a post shared by Special Edge who had heard about the collection from a friend of his. The art was simple and appealing. I reached out to Tawan around this time and bought a few pieces and we started to communicate over twitter.
Tawan remembers a day when he decided he wanted to connect more with his collectors so he started reaching out to the people he knew had supported his work. This led him to create a Discord for the Manekirei community. Another early collector had experience moderating discords and set up the infrastructure with holder-verfication and giveaways.
At this point the collection of 100 was only about 25% sold out. With his early collectors in a small discord, he started sourcing ideas for growth. Below are some of the great ideas that came as a result of working closely with early collectors.
Tawan made it clear from the start that there was a lot of thought put into the characters, their names and their traits. People could ask questions about the different names to learn more about what they mean.
This allowed a natural way for Tawan to continue building on the lore of the collection. One example of this was the idea of ascending your Manekirei. Through this process you select a Daruma, a Manekirei and a sacred location.
Tawan then plays out a scenario where your Manekirei ventures to the sacred location and has to make decisions about what to do. The decisions you make influence what happens in the storyline, then he makes an ascended Manekirei according to the story you co-created.
Custom Manekirei for Early Collectors and Giveaways
Tawan also offered his early collectors the opportunity to create a custom Manekirei. Not only was this an amazing perk, but it also encouraged collectors to share the collection and the art more on twitter which brought attention to the project.
As an artist, Tawan has such a distinct style that he was able to bring to any type of animals and objects and replicate them in a way that felt aligned with the original collection. For example, this the custom piece he made of my two dogs.
Along with offering custom pieces to early collectors he also held giveaways where people had to share a tweet and they would be entered to win a custom piece.
Art Contests and Project Crossovers
He also started participating in art contests with other projects where he would make art that combined the two styles. This also brought attention to the project. This was a great way to tap into new audiences and spread the reach of the project further.
For example, Tawan made an entry for Good Morning Cafe.
What’s next for Tawan
Now with over 3eth in sales and collectors from top communities like Kaiju Kingz and Nanopass, Tawan is still supporting the Manekirei community, but he also got a job making the art for an upcoming NFT project. He will be relocating the Dubai to help launch the project and continue pursuing his work. He hopes to find an environment full of opportunities and more welcoming to artists.
Uplifting Smaller Artists
While Tawan is still working hard on his journey as an artist, he’s also finding ways to uplift other artists from his community. He cares deeply for the small artists who are still trying to sell their collections, and he’s used some of the ether he’s earned from Manekirei to collect from smaller artists. He sees potential in art before it has all of the attention on it. He’s even shared some of these with the Manekirei community and I’ve collected from a few collections like Ducktopia and Gummy Bear.
Every artist has their own journey and inspiration. Tawan’s story is powerful but it’s not a roadmap you should blindly copy. Take this story as just one way to build your following, to share your art and start to carve out a space for yourself in this new world of web3.
Success does not happen overnight. Build relationships, learn, join communities, support other artists and you will slowly find yourself achieving your goals. Most importantly, enjoy your time here and stay patient.