From Ceramic Tiles to Generative NFTs: The Origin Story of the Founder of Art Blocks


Erick Calderon, aka “Snow“, made himself known a year ago as the creator of NFT Art Blocks generative art platform. But his journey into crypto was a detour.

After almost a decade working in the ceramic tile company he founded with his father, Calderon first heard of Bitcoin from his brother in 2013. “He mentioned something about mining bitcoin with thumb drives, but it was too late to mine with a thumb drive,” Calderon said in the latest episode of Decryptthe gm podcast. “And I’m like, ‘That would have been really cool to know that a year ago.'”

Fast forward a few years, and Calderon read an article about Bitcoin that struck a chord – and at a pivotal moment: “I feel like the world has been on fire for a very long time, and I’m starting to make less and less confidence,” Calderon said. Consumed by a “crazy desire” to own exactly one full bitcoin by the end of 2016, he achieved his goal “just at midnight” on New Year’s Eve, after taking “a few drinks”.

But that’s when he found out Ethereum and his smart contracts that “My brain literally exploded,” he said Decrypt.

Calderon experimented with smart contracts, creating a time-locked Ethereum gift for a friend’s baby that wouldn’t open until he turned 18. a home,” he said.

After NFT collection CryptoPunks launched in 2017, “everything clicked”. Since that time, Calderon said, “I’ve spent far more time than any human in NFT space.”

Build Art Blocks

This led him to create the generative art platform Art Blocks. NFT artworks produced on the platform, including the Fidenza series and the iconic Chromie Squiggle, have sold for millions of dollars – an explosive growth path Calderon recounted Decrypt “I felt unreasonable” even though it was exciting.

“Art Blocks was a hobby, I didn’t expect it to become what it is today,” he said. “I am not someone who has been financially driven in my life.”

calderon said Decrypt he feels that the current assessment of NFT technology against the underlying art is biased.

“I think during the craze of the last year, maybe 60% to 70% of the value of NFT was attributed and attributed to the technology that is NFT, and maybe 30% was the value of the content,” he said. “For me, it shouldn’t be more than 5%.”

He also thinks we may soon stop using “NFT” jargon altogether. “I spent a week in Basel, Switzerland a few weeks ago, and made a very deliberate point not to use the term NFT – to use ‘blockchain powered art’, or simply “art”, for the most part”, he said.

Generative communities

More exciting for Calderon is the technology used to produce generative artwork. “The product-market fit of generative art is so beautiful,” he said. “An artist can, in a single action, produce a thousand, ten thousand – one day a million – independent, unique and individual works of art, without having to do it manually.”

Where a single artist cannot produce tens of thousands of individual paintings over their lifetime, he said, generative art “allows that to exist”, allowing an artist to define a whole rules by which art is created.

This, in turn, allows communities to form around art, he said. “At a time when an artist is a precocious and up-and-coming artist, this fully democratizes access to art because it’s usually not hugely expensive to acquire art from that artist.”

In the future, he predicts, generative manufacturing will be commonplace. “Your coffee table won’t be the same as your neighbor’s coffee table, even if you buy it from the same place.”

As for the future of NFTs, Calderon expects them to branch out beyond art. “NFT art or crypto-powered art, blockchain art, was the least successful use case of the non-fungible token concept,” he said. “It’s the easiest way for the world to wrap their brains around and understand.” Eventually, he said, “your mortgage will be on blockchain, your house title will be on blockchain.”

And, to close the loop, the Calderon tiling company will be there to furnish it. “I spent the first 18 professional years of my life doing this,” he said. “And I’m actually still in space now, although unfortunately I don’t spend any time on this business. It still works, it still works and it’s still part of my process to get here.

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