As I write this, we are a scant ten hours from finishing our 30-day crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. It has been a wild ride:
- The project idea came to Eira in December 2020, when she noticed that natural snowflakes and certain round rune-staves shared near-identical symmetry… and that a snowflake could be designed to contain every rune, not just from the Elder Futhark but also the Younger Futhark and Anglo-Saxon Futhorc. What if a group of home-schooling lessons were created that explored a wide range of academic subjects (like, say, the chemical structure of water and how it dictates the crystallography of its frozen form) through the lens of the runes? What if, in exploring those subjects, the lessons also debunked the misinformation spread by extremists who have co-opted Norse mythology and symbolism as a way of grooming and indoctrinating teens and young adults? What if we were able to stop kids from falling down the wrong internet rabbithole, or help them climb back out, at the same time as using one of their interests as a hook to help them engage with their schoolwork? Well, we’d need to provide a resource like that for free. But how would we make sure artists and writers involved in the project were paid for their work? Well, maybe we could subsidize those costs by creating a series of products with the snowflake on it, and we could start with rune cards that could be used both alongside the lessons, and on their own as an oracle deck.
- Eira chatted with a few friends, refined the design and named it Urd’s Snowflake (after Urd’s Well, the location of the Norse myth in which the god Odin discovers the runes during a shamanic ritual), and began the textile artwork that would be the foundation of the first set of rune cards. Lee, an experienced runecaster who has already published several rune cheat-sheets, came on-board as a collaborator.
- We launched in mid-January as a #Make100 project, after only two weeks of lead time to construct our campaign and tap KS-savvy friends for advice. Make100 is a category that Kickstarter highlights every January, created specifically so first-time crowdfunders and fine craftspeople can fund-raise for a small, low-stakes, or experimental project. That style of campaign seemed like a perfect fit for the Urd’s Snowflake pilot project. A limited first edition of the rune cards, and a small selection of other backer rewards, would let us get a sense of whether people are interested and start developing a group of handmade items that might support the development and ongoing updates of the syllabus. If the interest continues, we hope eventually to create a bigger, better second edition of the cards with art by another artist and a companion book for wider release.
- We were chosen as a #ProjectWeLove by Kickstarter staff at the stage when they evaluated the draft project to ensure we were following all the rules. This turned out to be extremely helpful, because almost all our backers came to us through Kickstarter. (Next time we’ll have a much longer lead time and strong social media channels in place to help us be less reliant on KS’ algorithms showing our project to potential backers.)
- Eira quickly realized that her original plan, to make textile art for the back and front of every card, was too time consuming to allow work to proceed on other aspects of the project that needed immediate attention – like research to fact-check the cards’ text content, and work to write the syllabus. Fortunately, she had live-in helpers willing to give her a crash course in graphic design software, and a finished textile artwork that lent itself to that approach. We’re pretty pleased with the result.
- We found a wonderful playing-card printer whose work we’ve admired for other artists’ tarot and oracle decks: Make Playing Cards. Our first prototype deck has been printed and is currently en route.
- We had Ravishing Raven Handmade come aboard as collaborators, creating resin rune dice sets and runic-patterned resin coasters for us! RRH are late-teen LGBTQIA2S+ artists making resin, air-dry clay, hand-illustrated, and textile art for fellow witches, pagans, and gamers. One of their founders is Eira’s son, so even though their collective is almost as new as M&W, we’re confident that the quality of their work will meet our standards and they’ll have no trouble with our production deadlines with a little assistance from Eira. The first UV-resin prototypes from them are stunning, and they’re now using their pre-made molds to make polymer clay master dice that they’ll use to create silicone sprue molds for bubble-free production without any muss or fuss.
- We’re currently navigating the fun of setting up an Etsy shop and a WordPress site. So much to learn!
- We’re also still writing the first draft of the syllabus and lesson plans, while building a small team of home-schoolers and professional educators to test it out once it’s ready, and make suggestions for improvement. (If you’re interested, contact us!)
- We’ve had a lot of questions about our shipping costs, our ability to track shipments, and whether we can set up our rewards as add-ons. For this project, all physical objects are coming to Eira to be packed and shipped to our backers, which means we’re paying Canada Post’s rates for everything. Add-Ons are currently unavailable through Kickstarter itself, after its beta-testing period, and those campaigns offering add-ons seem to be doing so through services that work in tandem with KS’ platform. Using a fulfillment service like BackerKit that streamlines all that and does drop-shipping for us seemed like an unnecessarily large expense for a small pilot project, but will be worth looking into for the second edition.
The last two months have been a huge learning curve, and no doubt we’ll continue to figure things out as we go. We are so very grateful to our Kickstarter backers and project followers, and everyone in our communities who has encouraged us on our path so far. Together, we’re going to create a cool little rune deck (with linen cards and a custom tuck box!) and a kickass free teaching resource that inoculates students against recruitment by racists and fascists. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.