Explore the possibility of connecting handcrafts to metaverse
Metaverse, where the capitalists burn money with the low pixels avatars, high volatile currencies, disturbed aesthetics; where makes our three dimensional universe seems so unvalued. NFT (Non-fungible token) dominated by digital art, is expected to reach as much as $35 billion in net sales volume in 2022.  Over the past few years, a few art auctions drew public attention for its exorbitant price, no matter their aesthetic. In 2021, the NFT art <Everydays: the First 5000 Days> created by Beeple was sold at $69.3 million at Christie’s.  On the physical art side, in 2018, Street artist Banksy’s <Girl with Balloon> was sold at Sotheby’s artist-record price of $1.37 million. The painting was shredded the moment of the gavel drop. In 2021, the partially shredded work that has been re-titled as <Love Is in the Bin>, sold at a new record of $25.4 million. 
Why do the NFT digital arts all of sudden become such valuable collections? Why does the price skyrock when the physical art was destroyed? Where is the appreciation of the traditional artists’ life-time skill set? While these events bring controversy, it’s worth being optimistic to remember the fundamentals of blockchain such as authenticity and traceability, would encourage the users to explore the use cases with endless possibilities.
In this article, I discuss the potential of connecting the digital and physical products on NFT, and how to take advantage of blockchain features to protect the legal rights for artisans. After all, I’d explore the metaverse as a new stage to preserve crafts and traditional culture.
Existing projects that link digital and physical products
- Art with signature — “Hybrid” projects on OpenSea
There are a few projects on Opensea that have tested the waters of selling NFT at the same time ship the physical products. As the NFT is automatically certified by blockchain hash, the way how the physical arts are certified, and the reliable contact information for coordinating the physical pieces delivery, are crucial for this model. These two cases both mark reasonable information in their description:
- The physical products are certified by: signature of artist / serial number / signed COA;
- The information for receiving the physical products are in the Unlockable content that can be only viewed by the owners.
However, Unlike e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Etsy, Opensea doesn’t the take the responsibility of the physical items transaction, as it stated on FAQ section: It is the seller’s responsibility to both: a) ensure the legality of that transfer, b) coordinate with the buyer in order to ensure those items are delivered as expected. 
- Case 1: Works of an Italian artist. The works are signed by the artist and with a serial number (ex:001). The works are not listed for sale however. In the account’s description: The owner of the NFT has to redeem the physical product within 12 month from the first buying date. So if you resell the NFT, you have to send the physical product (if you got it) or the Redeem code to the new customer. 
- Case 2: Oil and acrylic painting in both digital and physical forms. This is its description: Original signed oil and acrylic painting on 20 x 16 inch canvas board/panel. Comes with a signed COA. All of the NFTs in this collection will include unlockable content with the email address/twitter account to send your delivery address details to receive the physical artwork. 
2. NFT whiskey
These projects were both launched in late 2021. Nonetheless, whiskey is a long term alternative investment. We may either call it an asset class, or personal collection as a hobby. Such projects could face unexpected uncertainties when it comes to practice.
- Metacask: Such project reshapes the alcohol industry by tokenizing physical assets. A NFT on blockchain provides a verifiable and transparent proof of ownership.  The NFT owner will be able to sell your cask NFTs freely, or request a delivery order and burn the NFT. 
- UniCask: A Japanese whiskey project features each cask with 100 units issued. The owner of the NFT can receive part of the bottling result (bottled whisky) when the cask is bottled. For example, The Hanyu 2022 cask will be bottled in 2032. 
3. A British artist project — The Currency
“At the core of the project is a social experiment, and a provocative question: do we preserve the traditional art world, or do we burn it down, in favor of the digital?” 
In 2021, British artist Damien Hirst minted “The Currency” on the Palm chain, a blockchain that specialised in promoting digital artworks. The physical form consists of 10,000 hand-painted A4 sheets covered with colored dots. The back of each artwork features the artist’s signature and a watermark. The second part of the artwork is a corresponding digital NFT for each of the physical pieces.  As it is described on Opensea: “Ultimately, you have to decide between the digital NFT or the physical artwork, both of which are artworks in their own right. Whichever you pick, the other gets burned.”  According to HENI website, the average price of these works traded at 11,151 dollars in March 2022. 
You choose one of them — the condition seems quite reasonable, but the prerequisites of this project gave the digital version a privilege over the physical version. First of all, it requires the buyers decide before July, 27 2022. That is to say, after this date, we will loose the right to acquire cash? Also, Currency holders that wish to exchange their NFT for the physical version can collect their artwork in person in London, UK, or request by delivery. In both cases, the NFTs are burned first on the HENI website.  So the person who choose the physical art would have to take the risk of delivery. In the real currency world, the scenario is fairer. For example, when we withdraw the cash from ATM, the number in our bank account disappears, then at the same time we receive the cash. Unless there is a technical fault of the machine, we take no risk for receiving the physical cash.
Another problem is, how does it conquer the counterfeiting problem? As the 10000 pieces are not identical (There would be serial numbers on each real paper currency). While it’s relatively easy to “burn” an NFT, whom and how to make sure the physical ones will be “burned” when the digital version is claimed? If these questions can’t be answered, does it project this universe’s inflation?
Perhaps it’s my unreasonable suspicion, this project has a tendency to push people to keep the NFT version. The buyers should take the risk of the potential value of their choice, but it should be based on the equal condition for both digital and physical versions.
Bring handcrafts into metaverse?
The digitalisation in every perspective of our life during COVID pandemic has changed the world population in terms of our behaviour, mentality, relationship, etc. Artisans have been pushed even narrower as the tourist industry has been dramatically affected. Notably the traditional artisans are always the ones who are not used to relying on the internet. Ironically, the most precious quality of artisans are their precision and concentration, which are believed to be developed by not being distracted by technology devices. Furthermore, some crafts such as Moroccan “wood turner’’, our first project, in fact are rarely applied into daily life or art works.
How does technology influence traditional culture? Should some of the crafts have to be eventually faded anyway? For responding to these questions, Ranadu team designed the costume and took the photo shooting collection. The two “pyramids” were inspired by the logo of Ethereum, also possibly the structure of the world. Crafts heritage is struggling surviving at the bottom of the pyramid. However, crafts with their uniqueness and spontaneity of each piece that is contrary to the industrialized products, they could also reach to the top of the pyramid. Secondly, we symbolize technology by the apple, the “forbidden fruit” that the serpent tempted Adam and Eva to eat. The origin of the sin from the apple, as if the evolving technology nowadays. It gives us great convenience, at the same time, we are seduced, until the crafts become wasted skills and we replace the creative mind by algorithms.
We express our thoughts by these NFT photos, and hopefully be able to provoke people’s awareness of what we might give up by entering metaverse.
SFT, stands for “semi-fungible token”, starts as a fungible token and then transforms into a non-fungible token , could be able to authenticate multiple copies of the physical products. Classical use cases of SFT such as real world concert tickets or gaming tools have been tested. For example, imagine owning a token that represented a concert ticket (ex, 1000 seats) to see The Beatles’ last-ever performance. Once the concert ended, the token representing the ticket would then become collectible memorabilia and have an entirely new value.  The main difference between an SFT and NFT is that once a token has been redeemed, it becomes non-fungible. 
To the date of this research, there’s no convincing use case for connecting SFT to the physical world yet, however, theoretically it would be practical for modest value crafts. First of all, the handcrafts normally can’t be mass produced. The owners could set limited copies on SFT listings for a certain collection. Secondly, Each one has its uniqueness but unlike the luxury items, they are not worth the pain for being tracked for each transaction. Thirdly, For certification of the physical products, they are practical to be associated with COA, signatures, special marks of the collection, etc. Finally, on the technical side, SFTs can be minted on Ethereum blockchain of ERC-1155 standardization or Polygon chain (a second layer blockchain of Ethereum).
Ranadu as a pioneer of testing this possibility, has created the Moroccan woodturner “Ring Collection” on Opensea.  It contains 100 jewelry boxes with serial numbers on the bottom of each handmade box (ex. 12/100, means the 12th of the total 100 pieces). After the buyer receives the physical box, the SFT will become a digital memory of participating in helping Moroccan artisans.
Protects IP for artisans on blockchain?
One reason that causes the distinction of handcrafts and traditional culture is that the artisans’ intellectual property rights are not properly protected. Monica Boța-Moisin, the promoter of a legislative initiative in Romania protecting the traditional cultural expressions, expressed her concern of the use of ethnic designs in the fashion industry raises issues of plagiarism and cultural misappropriation. 
The smart contracts could be a solution. NFTs as its essence, are deeds (ex. Legal documents, deeds of a car, etc.) . Blockchain technology’s real benefit to the world of Intellectual Property would be in the form of authentication of ownership, done through a process called hashing. Hashing describes the process of transcribing a document into a unique line of code. In theory, a Patent specification could be recorded as a hash and added to a Blockchain of patent specifications, which would provide an easily verifiable piece of evidence that the patent had been filed on a specific date.  For the Romanian textile pattern case that Monica has mentioned in her TED talk, to mint the patterns as NFTs would enable each pattern traceable.
Moreover, royalties could possibly be the solution in terms of the beneficiary schemes.
Some NFTs will automatically pay out royalties to their creators when they’re sold. The existing example such as EulerBeats, the music NFT project, pays 8% for the original owners.  As it states on their website: All EulerBeats Original holders will receive 8% of the print price on each print sold of the original token they own. The royalties are paid automatically as they are programmed into the smart contract and cannot be changed. In addition to the royalties, holders of Originals have full commercial rights. 
Of course, this is still a developing concept. How these functions are properly implemented and eventually bring economic benefit to the craftsman should be further examined.
- NFT and physical world are parallel universes. It’s possible to benefit both of them, but there’s no legal framework or any mechanism that ensures the transactions of the physical part.
- NFT marketplace is a newly emerged platform that allows us to express the notion of saving humanity, and hopefully bring awareness for the metaverse fans.
- Crafts intellectual property on blockchain needs to be further investigated, record traditional artisans’ history and bring real benefit to the craftsmen community should be the ultimate goal.
Technology is neutral. The participants’ conscious intention decides the direction of metaverse, just the same as this universe we are living in. When we disconnect ourselves to our third dimension world, when we admire the Cryptopunk NFT icon owners as “metaverse elites”, when we view the shattered as beautifulness, let’s re-think what we can really bring into this metaverse, and how we should build a high quality version of human “collective mind” in this space. Even if we are on our way to becoming cyborgs, let’s still remember, as human species, we use to have the capability of creating beautiful crafts with mindfulness concentration.