Why I messed up the Artefact Tulipmania experiment…

Posted on May 12, 2013 by Shopify API

This is a story about experiments, Artefact Cards, Plumpton Mornings, the 50/50 Good project, visibility and apologies.

The thing with experiments is that they can, and do, go wrong.  The Artefact Tulipmania experiment was one such thing that has gone wrong, and badly so.

I’ve fucked it up.  Sorry.  In short:

i) Nature conspired against me, but it’s not her fault
ii) I completely hid the most important part of the box
iii) I disrupted the visibility of the boxes in use

Now, it could be argued it’s not entirely my fault, but you know, I’m definitely to blame for 2 out of 3, and given nature never asked to be part of this, I’ve probably got to take the hit for the other.

So, what’s happened?

i) Nature conspired against me, but it’s not her fault

It seemed such a good idea at the time; the colour of the Artefact Cards for this seasonal special would be whatever colour emerged from the ground of the Smithery in the form of tulips.  I wrote it all up on the original project description, which is still up here.

And all the while, the suspense was amazing, watching the tulips poke up through the soil…

square pic

Then I went to the Do Lectures, over in Cardigan, which was amazing.

Then I came back, to this, which was not amazing.

Tulip denouement

If the main big surprise of the seasonal Artefact Cards is based on what colour they’re going to be, then my garden producing row-upon-row of yellow and white tulips is not very helpful.

I can hardly make a “special edition” card when they’d be exactly the same colour as the normal cards.

And yes, there’s red in them, but red is a terrible colour to try and make a black pen ‘pop’ against.

What’s the solution?

Well, here’s a thing… whilst I’m not going to do the cards in red, it doesn’t mean that I can’t do the Sharpies in red…

In each box, you’ll now get two new RED Artefact Sharpies, specially commissioned for this – I’ve been testing them on the existing yellow/white cards, and they work beautifully… you can even replicate the tulip style patterns, if you so wish…

red 2

As soon as the pens are in made and shipped to us, we’ll start getting the ordered boxes out.  The card boxes will also have special edition art on them, so they won’t just be a normal box of the Yellow Artefact cards.

But first I need to tell you what else is inside…

ii) I completely hid the most important part of the box

Now, I had also promised there would be other things in the box:

- There will be a present from Plumpton Green
- There will be something to help people
- In one in ten of the boxes, a special extra thing (selected at random)

Which was deliberately oblique, and stupidly so, in hindsight.

What’s the solution?

Well, to tell you what’s in the box, of course.

I’d like you to cast your mind back to October 2011.

The Good for Nothing guys, in collaboration with Made By Many, put together the 50/50 Good project, to raise money for UNICEF’s East Africa Famine appeal.

I said I’d do something for it with Plumpton Mornings; to create a raft of different small artworks, and then sell them in a twitter auction.  Plumpton Mornings, if you don’t know, is a long, slow photographic project (read more on it here).

Whilst the twitter auction didn’t happen though, the artworks did.

I ran one test auction, for one of the Tiny Plumpton Mornings Art books and a tiny coffee table to stand it on.  Thomas Skavhellen over in Oslo won that one, with a bid of £36, as I recall.

tiny book 1 tiny book 2 tiny book 3

There are only another two of these, one of which has just returned from being loaned to the Royal Mail’s Real NetworkProject.  Two of the Tulipmania recipients, selected at random, will win those.

Then there are three sets of three Tiny Photo Cubes, in vinyl & acrylic, featuring various different Plumpton Mornings scenes.  Another three Tulipmania recipients will win those.

tiny cubes 2

Then in every box, there will be a one off postcard print, numbered and signed.  Although they all feature the same six Plumpton Mornings pictures, each one is absolutely unique, through creating an algorithm to determine the patterns of all possible variations, and asking people on twitter to then pick a number between 1 and 720.

There are only sixty of them, thirty with white backgrounds and 30 with black so that each one has a ‘pair’ somewhere in the world.  They are called The Herrmann Iterations, after the Austrian national economist Emanuel Herrmann, who invented the postcard.

Herman iterations 2

The main point of all this was to raise money for 50/50 Good, and that still remains the case – the first £10 of the £30 cost of each box goes straight to Unicef.

For what it’s worth, in a nod to the tulips I consider that the postcards, photo cubes and tiny art books have been acting as bulbs, hidden away in the dark, and now finally ready to raise the money they were created for.

iii) I disrupted the visibility of the boxes in use

The final problem is a simple one; for all of the seasonal editions so far, when the first people buy them, they tend to get very excited about them when they arrive, share pictures and tell friends.  Then friends buy them, and do the same.

But of course, I stipulated in the original product post that, because of the set-up, I wouldn’t send any boxes until they’ve all been sold.

Which means that the boxes haven’t sold out, and we haven’t sent any out as yet at all.

So I’d like to apologise to all the people who’ve bought a box so far – the wait has been far too long already, so we will be working doubly hard to get the pens ready and sent out to you.

Thanks for believing in the box, and the project, to buy it ‘sight unseen’.  I can only hope that seeing what’s actually in the box makes the wait a little more bearable.

If you haven’t bought a box yet, and now fancy one of the remaining ones, then click here to see the product page.



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Posted in Artefact, Artefact Cards, blank cards, brainstorms, cards, visu, vizthinking, wireframing, workshops


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