Exploring how an NFT can Celebrate Craftsmanship

We explored how a physical product, in this case, a luxury hand-made knife, could be tied with an NFT to provide proof of ownership and enhance its value even further.

— Client
Billet to Blade
— Focus
NFT & Blockchain
— Challenge

Explore how an art object can transcend the physical world and embrace NFT's unique capabilities while supporting craftsmanship.

— Outcome

GoArchitect created a one-of-a-kind physical NFT that is directly tied to the ownership of a custom Damascus Santoku by renowned bladesmith, Ben Abbott.

— Impact

The NFT, "Fire & Ice Santoku" was minted in April 2022 and stands as a beacon of the first known blade to be transformed into a physical NFT. A second NFT, "Water & Sky Santoku" was minted in April 2022 and serves as a trading card representation of the blade.

NFTs have gained both fame and notoriety in the last few years. At GoArchitect, we believe there is a future for NFTs and potentially the strongest of these futures is the ability to tie a physical object with an NFT. This merging of the two worlds creates what is called a physical NFT.

"Physical NFTs by Flipkick are NFTs linked to physical works of art. They can be resold like any other NFT or redeemed for delivery of the physical work." - Flipkick

We believe this two-world approach embraces the digital realm while maintaining a strong connection to craftsmanship. Because the Physical NFT acts as an ownership certificate, it is protected from duplication and fraud by the nature of the blockchain itself. The blockchain provides a public record of the meta date with information like the creation date, initial creator, and current owner. This information is nonfungible, meaning it cannot be swapped out or stolen.

In April 2022 we set out to explore how a Physical NFT could be used in conjunction with an educational and artistic client. We found the perfect match by collaborating with Billet to Blade, an online platform that creates cinematic online classes that help people learn how to forge amazing knives from scratch. The forging classes are taught by world-renowned bladesmith, Ben Abbott. During the creation of one of the first classes, Ben Abbott forged a stunning Damascus Santoku. This knife is truly unique and was the perfect piece of art to utilize in our research & development of NFTs.

Dual Strategy

We approached this project by exploring two strategies, first the creation of a Physical NFT tied directly to ownership and second, the creation of a traditional NFT that acts as more of a trading card. Both images were created by the GoArchitect team using slow-shutter photography.

One for Ownership

The first NFT,  "Fire & Ice Santoku", is a physical NFT, tied directly to the ownership of the custom Santoku. This NFT carries an agreement that upon sale, the knife will be shipped to the new owner. This NFT is therefore limited to only one edition. GoArchitect does not plan to auction or sell this NFT. OpenSea link.

What now?

If we did plan to auction it, since this NFT acts as an ownership certificate, it can in many ways "stand in" for the art during a sales event. We can imagine a scenario where an artist creates a Physical NFT of a new piece of art and auctions it through OpenSea, Rarible, or any of the other NFT platforms instead of going to an auction house like Christies or Sotheby's. Even if the artist is not well known enough to be considered by the premium auction houses, they can still simulate that auction environment through an NFT platform.

This auction environment could be an alternative to creating their own website and selling their art individually. We estimate that be pursuing the auction path, instead of the one-off sales path, the artist could increase the average sale amount considerably. We are currently exploring how to test this hypothesis more fully.

So NFTs could replace an artist's website?

Yes. By creating an NFT tied to the physical ownership of a piece of art, artists could, in theory, simulate the auction environment to achieve higher pricing per piece. Using social media and NFT platforms like OpenSea, an artist could conceivably sell physical art through a completely digital approach.

While selling artwork online isn't new, the introduction of NFTs add a potential new layer of value. As an art collector, no longer is the artwork only viewable in your home or gallery, your collection is viewable online for all to see. This "social collecting" may introduce new dynamics for small and large collectors. In our case, the world can now see that we own an original Ben Abbot knife.

One for Trading

Part two of our experiment was to create a second NFT,  "Water & Sky Santoku", that is not tied to the ownership of the custom Santoku. This NFT is essentially a trading card that can be auction or sold independently and therefore is not limited in volume. We still choose to limit it to one edition to provide a sense of scarcity but we could have chosen any amount. OpenSea link.

What's the value if it's not tied to something physical?

This question is what largely plagues the general NFT discussion. What value is their in digital art or representations of art? In our estimation, NFTs attempt to capture value by being a contemporary of the trading card. In our case, this dual strategy enables us capture value for both the collector and the fan. The fan may be someone who cannot afford the physical NFT but still wants to "be part of the conversation."

In our case, we have no intention of selling "Fire & Ice Santoku" so the ownership of the original piece will forever be locked. Through the trading card NFT, we can still engage the community around an original photograph of a beautiful piece of art, and give them the opportunity to show their appreciation for Ben Abbott's work.

Where do we go from here?

The answer to this question is wide open at this point. Both NFTs have been created and we will be sharing them with the bladesmithing and NFT community. We are still in the information gathering phase and would love to connect with more people and groups who are exploring the physical NFT space. If you'd like to share some wisdom, here is a feedback form to get in touch.

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