Pioneering Artist Gossamer Rozen On Identity and the Only Way to NFT Success
To quote a meme, we live in a society. But the multidisciplinary artist Gossamer Rozen gets this better than most. A seeming jack-of-all-trades, the path to notoriety for the transgender, nonbinary, femme, Filipino/Black fine-art creator has been very complicated. But, despite nearly a decade of not making money from their art, Rozen continued creating, not in the hopes of acquiring greatness, but to achieve a different kind of success, through being true to who they are.
“Growing up with a lot of different mental health issues and having come out as transgender when I was 24, art really helped me understand and relate to people, and to myself,” Rozen said in an interview with nft now. “The process of creating art, for me, is very healing and very meditative. It really is something that I have to do as a person.”
Rozen says art is something they would do regardless of reception, and this attitude helped their work grow from Web2 to Web3. Leveraging their skills as a tattoo artist, illustrator, crypto-artist, project founder, has brought them undeniable influence in the NFT space.
Rozen’s popular Tigerbob collection blazed a trail through the PFP NFT market, solidifying their name on the short list of influential NFT innovators. And now more than ever, their long road to prosperity, compounded by their desire to create change through NFTs, has illuminated the need for a humanistic and individualized approach to creating and consuming content in the Web3 space.
Charting a path through the creative industry
For Rozen, arriving in the NFT space came after years of professional development. As an individual, they’ve long centered their identity on art, initially acquiring a love for creative expression via manga, anime, and sequential art that, in turn, led them to become a self-taught illustrator.
Throughout grade school, Rozen developed their skills but later changed directions to expand their horizons by venturing into sculpting in college, receiving a degree in the field while still retaining their skills with pen and paper. This artistic flexibility would inevitably become a feature of their identity that grew out of a desire to translate ideas across various mediums.
“The purpose [of sculpting] was to expand the different mediums of work that I could create in. From abstract sculptures to illustrative pieces while trying to find other ways to create,” said Rozen. “So when I brought that work into Web3, I could look back at a long history of iteration on both abstract works, based very heavily on textiles and pattern, and illustrative, more traditional storybook comic book-type art.”
Throughout their continuously growing catalog of NFT drops and collections, Rozen’s “history of iteration” and creation across mediums is on full display. But even before cutting their teeth in the NFT space, this knack for intertwining discipline and identity drove them to become a tattoo artist, where their first big break in the creative industry happened.
They grew up in a home where East Asian art abounds, so it was easy for Rozen to channel their heritage into their visual works. Their unique style of stick-and-poke, which is heavily inspired by both their African and Filipino roots, in addition to the history of tattooing itself, would eventually grab the attention of Dr. Martens, Squarespace, Inked Magazine, and more — further solidifying their status as an industry professional.
Only a few years after Rozen had become a full-time artist, their efforts led them into an uncommon career trajectory. But their journey into self-expression would only continue to evolve, as the adventure entered the weird wide world of NFTs.
Setting sail in the NFT space
After becoming interested/involved in NFTs around early 2021, it took Rozen roughly a year to break into the upper echelon of NFT founders. Yet their understanding of preparing and presenting their works across both physical and digital stages surely gave them a leg up from the start.
While many have ventured into the NFT space on a whim, Rozen gave serious thought to the idea of entering the ecosystem. “One of the first things I had to spend time analyzing was, what kind of work is marketable in this space, and how can I work with that formula to also create work that is very genuine to myself,” they said.
Rozen tested the waters with a small-batch collection called SQUISHIN KITTIES, which laid the groundwork for their tiger-centric NFT empire. From tattoo-themed projects on the Tezos blockchain to thoughtful, hand-drawn interpretations of West African currencies, every release acted as a brick in the full-scale renovation of Rozen’s identity as a Web3 creator.
In conjunction with solo releases, Rozen also became a collaborator on numerous innovative and fan-favorite NFT projects like Deadfellaz and A.N.I.M.O. But when they were tapped to be the lead artist and art director of Woodies NFT, their identity would shift yet again as they were brought into the spotlight of NFT philanthropy.
Through Woodies, Rozen helped raise more than $200,000 for reforestation efforts. This enabled Woodies to plant one million trees — a major milestone for an industry that’s often unjustifiably criticized as bad for the environment.
When it came time for Rozen to take pause and reinvest in their personal endeavors to launch their own large-scale project, Tigerbob, the spirit of collaboration and philanthropy seemingly helped dictate every decision they made.
“I think I’ve always wanted to be able to give back to the world in some way. In the same way that the world has been very kind to me as I’ve gone through so many different kinds of struggles when it comes to mental health and being a marginalized person in multiple different ways,” Rozen told nft now. “Being able to finally make funds that I can not only give back to myself but also to others — I think it’s really important to pay it forward.”
Within the first few months of Tigerbob’s existence, Rozen had already donated funds to both the Trevor Project and the National Network of Abortion Funds. While this further solidified their name as a leader in the NFT philanthropy space, it also reflected their prosperity and pride as a trans person with a uterus — something that showcased both the diversity and individuality that can be achieved in the NFT space.
An individualistic approach to NFT success
Generally speaking, some of the milestones within Rozen’s Web3 career feel ambiguous when taken at face value. As an independent artist who paved their own way through the NFT market, they undoubtedly have a kinship with others that have done the same. But despite sharing boot-strapping origins, their story is a reminder that individualism remains a salient theme, even within the NFT space.
It goes without saying that there is no secret formula for NFT success. While a select few artists and projects have helped define what accomplishment can look like, those aiming to follow in the exact footsteps of their predecessors are likely to find the market uninterested in repeat endeavors.
Rozen did not find success as a fluke, but as a result of months of trial and error. Through numerous projects, they learned and grew, gaining trust in the marketplace and a grasp of their strengths. And while some projects lack lasting success because of hype, Rozen’s Tigerbob was a calculated execution. One that was inspired by, but not a derivative of, someone else’s project.
“The project is only 1,000 pieces, each one I hand-made myself so they were not generative by any means. It was a very time-consuming project,” Rozen recalled about the early stages of creating Tigerbob. “I feel like the work is so well received because it’s so unique in the fact that it’s not like other projects that are generative, it’s closer to a fine art project.”
Yet, for any singular NFT success, there surely exists a dozen monumental failures. Whether that be missing opportunities to cash out, losing money on an investment, or failing to get traction after a project launch, the NFT space can be disheartening. In short, not everyone who creates, sells, or trades NFTs is going to get rich.
The fact of the matter is that success stories often serve to create unrealistic expectations. And for Rozen, these unrealistic expectations are one of the major pitfalls of the NFT space. While NFT fame and riches are incredibly enticing to both creators and consumers, in most cases, these indicators of achievement are unattainable.
This is why Rozen’s story is so inspiring. Not because it draws on the rags-to-riches themes that constantly abound the NFT space, but because it shows how tuning out the noise and taking an individualistic approach to your own endeavors may be the one true path to Web3 success.
Deep down, many of us knew this from the start. After all, the Beeple’s and XCOPY’s of the world didn’t gain a foothold by following someone else’s routine. Top NFT sales, even those on Rozen’s roster, are just a reminder of tremendous potential, not a field guide to success.
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