Crafty, colourful creations from scientific minds
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
Kickstarter is full of unique and wonderful projects by creators who are passionate about their specialized fields. This is particularly evident with science-themed projects that aim to raise awareness about specific subjects and attract new audiences through different outlets, such as greeting cards, art books, and card games.
“Big companies often shy away from niche markets. I think that crowdfunding supporters appreciate the science-themed art projects because they can be hard to find in stores,” said Christine Snyder, PhD, founder of Nerdy Words in Tottenham, Ontario. Nerdy Words is currently crowdfunding its third science-themed greeting cards project through Kickstarter.
“When we go online and see projects that speak to our interests in things like science and math, by people who seem to have a genuine interest in these things, we want to support them,” said Dane Ault of Monkey Minion Press in Portland, Oregon. Ault and his wife, Ashlie Hammond, recently completed a Kickstarter campaign for their art book Eureka!, which features professionally drawn portraits of scientists and one-page biographies about them.
Daniel Dulek, a high school chemistry teacher in Illinois, created his first Kickstarter campaign for Molecules, a card game he invented for his students that has players assemble molecular compounds from various atom cards. So far, the project has raised more than US$2,500 of its $6,000 funding goal from over 100 backers. The campaign will finish on October 29.
“Running my first Kickstarter campaign has been very challenging. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to build support for my project,” he said. “My biggest obstacle has been trying to find a way to let people know about my project.”
Snyder knows from experience that gaining support is all a matter of time when it comes to crowdfunding.
Nerdy Words’ first campaign was for geeky Valentine’s Day cards and raised C$2,532 from 135 backers last December. Its second campaign was for birthday cards and raised $2,392 from 68 backers. While the second campaign had fewer backers than the first, the backers’ made more expensive pledges on the second project.
“All of my campaigns have been a blast, but what I’m most excited about is the level of repeat backers,” commented Snyder.
Nerdy Words’ third Kickstarter project features Halloween, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, wedding, baby, graduation, and retirement cards. The campaign has already raised more than 30 per cent of its $1,000 funding goal and will continue until November 13.
For many Kickstarter campaigns, reaching the funding goal is their main focus.
“When we got funded, we jumped around the living room like crazy, we were so excited,” Ault said, referring to his wife and himself.
However, some projects receive far more funding and support than they initially anticipate. To thank these generous backers, many projects offer additional rewards called stretch goals. Eureka! is one such project that surpassed its original funding goal of US$8,500 by raising $40,087 from 998 backers. The project also met all of its stretch goals—the final one occurring at $35,000—which included adding additional scientists’ biographies and artwork, fancier book design, a custom “Eureka” song, and PDF colouring pages.
“We want to inspire our readers to take it upon themselves to learn all they can about these amazing people,” Ault said of the book, which features 30 famous scientists. “Eureka isn’t designed to be a tell-all textbook, but a primer for people who have a passing interest in science and more than a passing interest in art.”
Dulek hopes his Molecules card game will encourage players who enjoy gaming to explore the world of science too, more specifically the field of chemistry.
“If I can inspire someone to look up and learn more about a molecule they saw in the game or wonder why carbon has bonding areas, then I will be very happy,” he said. “I wanted a game with a chemistry theme that anyone could play with the hope that it would inspire or ignite a curiosity in someone.”
Snyder and Dulek theorize that the increase in science-based art projects on crowdfunding websites might stem from today’s pop culture portrayal of science.
“I think the gap between arts and science is definitely closing, especially with shows like The Big Bang Theory making science cool. In fact, one of our Halloween cards—‘Rock Paper Scissors Lizard SPOOK’—is inspired by the show, and will hopefully draw in a broader audience,” Snyder said.
“I think when you mix science with pop culture it removes the stigma that often comes with science. I think the idea of playing a game based on chemistry is a better way to introduce a topic than just having students read about it,” Dulek said. “I also think that geeky and nerdy things are trendy nowadays.”
For more information on these projects, check them out on Kickstarter.com or on their official websites at NerdyWords.ca, MonkeyMinionPress.com, and PlayEFG.com