Gotta Mix 'Em All!
When NYC-based digital artist and early NFTs digger Nicole Ruggiero comes up with a new creative project, expect A1 gripping 3DCG visuals fuelled by in-depth web-culture references. Upskilled by a strong presence on social media platforms, late-night doom-scrolling activities and gaming marathons, and back in the day intensive use of Tumblr, Ruggiero knows a shitload about web culture. And it goes way beyond aesthetics: Net subcultures, URL identities, online dating, and many more specificities that popped up within the internet era.
In her most recent project, Meemz, she has teamed up with digital sculptor PLANTTDADDII (Sam Clover) on a new NFT collection inspired by meme animals from the last decade. But on top of the kitty and puppy pawty, the Poké-verse also has its lil’ influence (well, if you know Nicole just a bit, you already noticed that she is an assumed Gengar freak).
Conceptualized during Summer 2020 as a part of the Voice NFT Residency, this tokenized-pets project merges weird - yet cute - glowing rendered creatures, net culture, and even vaporwave-ish classics. But here is the point: collectors can combine different drops to reveal rare breeds, and this mix-and-match gamified part is the core of Meemz and a smart way to generate community interactions and push second market sales.
Season 1 is just over on the carbon-neutral platform, Voice, but given the community's interest in the project, season 2 will likely follow. I asked Nicole a few questions to get some details about it.
Hey Nicole! Could you talk to us about the genesis of Meemz?
Meemz started as a project between me and PLANTTDADDII. We wanted to create a collectible that felt like a 50/50 creation between us. Since she works a lot with animals, and I work a lot with internet culture, focusing on meme animals seemed like a no-brainer.
What was your workflow/creative process like to create that project? How was your collaboration with Sam, and who made what?
Well, we decided we wanted this to have a cool utility, which the platform Voice helped us build. The NFTs are mix-and-match, so you can collect two matching NFTs and make a third NFT. This explanation simplifies it, but I’ll get more into that later.
Sam and I were both very involved in the entire artistic process. We both came up with the color selection, sculpted and rendered to varying degrees. We also had our friend Harley (Taurrvs) help us with the sculpting and texturing too!
Which tools/software did you use to create that series?
We mainly used Zbrush, Substance Painter, and Cinema4D//Octane Render.
Can you develop a bit about the mix-and-match part of this series ?
Yes! I think the easiest way to explain is to refer to the combo sheet here.
So there are bases and bits. You want to combine a base with one or more bits to create a successful combination. All successful combinations can be found on the sheet. Each base, bit, and combination is limited and varies from 100 editions (the base animals) to 3 editions (for some of the special combinations).
You can see how many are available for each combination here on the voice website.
Did you encounter any difficulties, and what was your biggest challenge while working on this project?
I think the biggest challenge was managing all the files and maintaining consistency. We didn’t want to do another generative project, so we created everything from scratch with no algorithms. It was a lot of files transferring between us, a lot of rendering, and a lot of color consistency. We revised one-piece sometimes 3 or 4 times.
Let's backup a moment and talk about your relationship with web3 and the NFT space. How and when did you get in?
I got into the space because I was invited to FND, I think late 2020 or early 2021. I believe it is important to be cautious in the world of web 3.0 because there is a lot of money going around, and therefore, there are a lot of scams. It’s important to know who you are talking to and make sure they are connected to other people you know! That’s one thing I’ve learned is essential. As long as they are connected to other people you trust, you’re usually good to go! C:
Can you explain what working/creating within the NFT space/web3 brings to this project?
NFT grants digital ownership, so the NFT always traces back to one person. In this specific project, it also enables the utility of combinations that function via the smart contract on the Voice blockchain.
What’s next for both of you? Any ongoing projects you can share with me?
Sam and I have a collab coming out that you can catch on Superrare in June. I’m personally excited about doing more character sculpting and real-time animation, and I think Sam will be getting into more of that as well!