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People powered: Valley creative types turn to crowd funding for ambitious projects | Photo gallery
The clock is ticking for Jerry Mader.
He’s got an ambitious goal, less than a month left to meet it. And he’s depending on friends and strangers to invest in his latest book, that helps and documents people they’ll probably never meet.
Crowd funding is a new thing for this Carnation author, photographer and musician, working on his fourth book, “A Gathering of Stories.”
He’s self-published histories of Carnation and local farms, but is now one of several Valley creative types to turn to Internet investors to bankroll a project. He’s using a company called Indiegogo to connect with would-be investors interested in seeing artistic projects come to life.
As an artist, “you’re always trying to find funding sources,” says Mader, who was tuned into crowd funding through his visual artist wife, Steph, and their artistic friends.
With the gradual erosion of funding for various arts agencies, and the explosion of the Internet, it’s getting harder for artists and writers like Mader to break through the static.
“The publishing world is crazy,” says Mader, who self-publishes. “You can get it out there. Will anybody pay attention?”
Above, adventure creators Todd Gamble and Jonathan Nelson.
People are paying attention to the Kickstarter project of locals Jonathan Nelson and Todd Gamble. In its first 24 hours, the duo’s big role-playing-game project, “Rise of the Drow,” met its $4,000 goal. Today, with about four days to go, it’s sitting at $24,000.
Kickstarter is a three-year-old company that connects people with projects, ranging from independent films to music and games. Project creators set a minimum goal, and if the goal isn’t raised, no funds are collected. Kickstarter keeps 5 percent of the total take. The company makes no guarantees that projects will actually be completed.
Indiegogo is similar to Kickstarter. Both programs offer perks to donors, rising with the level of donation. Indiegogo offers flexible funding, keeps 4 percent of projects that meet the goal, but offers project creators the option of keeping funds that don’t meet the minimum goal, minus a 9 percent take.
In Nelson and Gamble’s creation, elves and dwarves mix with Tsarist Russia, Native Americans and Vikings in the fantasy setting with notes of the Snoqualmie Valley.
Nelson and Gamble partnered two years ago to start “Adventure a Week,” making role-playing games, in the same vein as “Dungeons and Dragons,” that they publish online.
Their weekly adventures can keep a group of role-players busy for several hours, but their “Rise of the Drow” project was special, very popular, and now, Nelson and company are turning it into a hardcover book. It’ll weigh in at 700 pages or more, and take the average gamer group a year to complete, says Nelson. To make it, Nelson teamed up with some partners across the globe. Gamble, a local artist, did the maps.
The Kickstarter response has Nelson, who works a day job with Snoqualmie Valley Transportation, thrilled.
He, Gamble and their other partners are working to make the final product the best they can, and will take though March 2014 to meet all the stretch goals their Kickstarter spawned.
“This is going to be a massive tome. The final book will be incredible.”
Above, covers of "Rise of the Drow" adventures. Below, cover art.
Above, “Nativity,” by Miska.
Fall City artist Miska Salemann also found success on Kickstarter. She met her goal, raising more than $5,000 for her latest, nearly-life-size Advent painting, “Nativity,” in January, boosting her online presence in the process.
Investors got a chance to share in her envisioning process. She also had pledge rewards. A buck netted a holiday card. Four people gave at the $750 level, and got a 36-by-36-inch original painting of the new icon.
In an e-mail to the Record, Miska explained why she turned to crowd funding. “I knew that I needed to embrace social media but kept putting it off.” said Miska. She used her website Miska.com, e-mail and facebook for some time, but noticed artists in her local cooperative, ArtEast, having success on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Pete Ryan, a parent of one of her students, was working on a crowd funding project, and they decided to team up.
“I’m really happy with the video that we developed,” Miska said. “It is not in my nature to focus on myself but rather to highlight my art. The video captured the goal of the project and highlighted who I am as an artist... Kickstarter enabled me to reach my core fans in a new way and expand to a broader audience online,” says Miska. “My Kickstarter project included creating one of a kind reproductions on canvas beginning with the Nativity. This was my way of embracing digital technology and marketing with social media.”
Carol Red Cherries, Jerry Mader photo
Full circle: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-gathering-of-stories?action_object_map=%7B%22125077934340312%22%3A490640537640203%7D&action_ref_map=%7B%22125077934340312%22%3A%222201069%22%7D&action_type_map=%7B%22125077934340312%22%3A%22og.likes%22%7D&fb_action_ids=125077934340312&fb_action_types=og.likes
Mader’s “Gathering of Stories” seeks $35,000 to publish a fine-art photo-documentary book about 28 Northern Cheyenne elders in Eastern Montana.
He’s asking for fixed funding on Indiegogo, meaning he won’t collect anything unless the full amount is raised.
His relationship with the Northern Cheyenne goes back 40 years.
Part of the reason his tally is high is because Mader plans to give each of the 28 elders in the book a $500 advance as part of publishing.
“Native peoples, and the Cheyenne in particular, get ripped off constantly,” he says. “People come in, do their stories, and the Cheyenne still don’t get anything.”
Why do this book? “We’re rapidly, with globalization, diminishing our cultural diversity,” Mader explains.
Growing up in Great Falls, Montana, he’s never forgotten the experience he had in first grade, in the 1950s, meeting Métis children in a newly integrated elementary school, and wondering why his fellow student was at school that winter without a warm coat or boots.
“I could not get that in my head,” he said. “It stuck.”
Mader got the chance to come face to face with the Northern Cheyenne in the early 1970s, when, as a photographer in his late 20s, he accompanied an anthropologist neighbor on the 450-mile trek to eastern Montana. He photographed elders of the second generation to live on a reservation, including one old man who had been born before Little Bighorn.
“They were impressive people,” Mader said. “I got beautiful photos of elders, but really didn’t get to collect oral histories. Then a lot of stuff happened. I moved to Seattle, pursued a musical career, and finally wrote the book about them.”
Ten years ago, Mader published a memoir of his journeys in the reservation, “The Road to Lame Deer,” available as a pledge reward on his Indiegogo campaign.
That book helped him reconnect with Dr. Richard Littlebear, who traveled with Mader on his original journey, then followed his own path, winding up as president of the junior college on the reservation. Their conversations spurred Mader’s plans to do a new book on the current group of elders, born in the mid-1930s and 40s.
He stayed a month with the Northern Cheyenne, meeting as many elders as possible. His only criteria was that they had to be 65 or older to be in the book.
Mader wants to help the Northern Cheyennes preserve their history and culture.
“With the Cheyennes, I’ve been connected to them, body and spirit,” says Mader. “I’d love to be able to close this thing off.”
He’s raised $570 of his goal, with 30 days left. If Mader fails to meet his goal, “I’m not done. I get to think it over. I can try it again.” The clock is ticking, but the crowd approach also means more people discover Mader’s work every day.
“I just got another one today,” Mader said. “My campaign is 2 percent funded today,” he says excitedly.
Nelson advises other creative types to do their research and pledge for other people’s Kickstarters before embarking in their own project.
“Look at what you’re making,” he said. “Is it unique. Does it fill a niche? Get some real feedback.” Before he started this project, he supported others Kickstarters, with money as well as social networking on Facebook and Twitter.
“Check out other Kickstarters and support them,” he said. “I supported 16 before I launched my own.”
“You’ve got to support what you love,” Nelson says.
Making a video is an important way to connect with people, Miska said. “You can do it with whatever you have available. We shot the video with a regular camera and edited it all on an iPad.”
Doing a Kickstarter takes time. “Looking back we probably agonized over some details more than necessary. I think the next one will be much easier now that I know what works for my fans,” Miska says.
She encourages others to try it. Besides the free set-up, you get instant feedback, which she used to improve her site over the 30-day kickstarter.
“Don’t expect Kickstarter to market for you,” she said. “That said, they have a huge population of active members who are really engaged and looking to connect with creative people. It was also a good kick in the pants to take action.”
• Miska hosts an open house, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at her studio, 31822 Issaquah-Fall City Rd.