Women and Weapons Founder Sara Baumann On Promoting Accessibility in the NFT Space
Even though the NFT art space is largely welcoming to creators from various backgrounds, the market remains primarily male-dominated. According to a recent report conducted by ArtTactic, women artists accounted for only 16 percent of Nifty Gateway’s NFT sales over 21 months. Moreover, the NFT pie contains up to 15 percent of women artists. Thus, proving women are leaving trillions of dollars on the table. Serving as a beacon of hope is an Iranian American artist and founder of Women and Weapons, Sara Baumann, who’s on a mission to show the world that the NFT space can afford to be accessible.
Baumann launched W&W in October 2021 with a collection of 10,000 multicultural women NFTs. The 200+ attributes that make up these assets were all hand-drawn by Baumann herself. The inspiration behind the collection champions women and the courageous actions they take daily to combat adversity, regaining control with a Rosie the Riveter-inspired style. Baumann sold the 10,000 NFT pieces for approximately $2 million, and they were on secondary markets for an additional $7.5 million.
Further motivated to accomplish even more good, W&W pledges five percent of profits to the Malala Fund and, to date, has donated over $100k. Regarding the ongoing efforts of W&W into the balance of the year and beyond, Baumann states, “A large and primary focus is going to be to continue to do good for the world as much as we possibly can do good for women, empower women, encourage women to get out there, take risks, and be bold and brave.” EDITION sat down with Baumann to discuss the inspiration behind the company’s name and how she encourages the Web 3.0 community to embrace diversity through action.
First off, please tell me about how you came up with the name Women and Weapons.
I was very much inspired by an artist's exhibit that I went to. Her name is Shirin Neshat. A lot of her artwork speaks to the dialectic nature of what's happening to women across the globe, but also in Iran – what happens to women there versus what happens to men there and how we're able to use our voices differently. So, it really inspired me to create something that would cause people to have a conversation around equity for women and female empowerment.
Part of the reason I chose Women and Weapons was that I recognized that if I chose a name that was not as sharp, I probably would lose people regarding opening a conversation. Some of my Genesis pieces did have guns. Still, the main purpose was to speak to the dialectic nature between a weapon's power versus a woman's power and the femininity of a woman versus the “masculinity” of a weapon and create a conversation. If this image makes you uncomfortable, why does it make you uncomfortable? But James Bond holding the weapon doesn't? The weapons symbolize the weapons that women carry in their day-to-day. That's my artistic point behind it. But I've had a lot of people tell me, “This is how I perceived it,” and they have had intriguing conversations because of their perception of the collection. So, that's part of why I chose a name that might rub some people the wrong way and might get other people excited.
What was your introduction to Web3 and the NFT life?
I am traditionally an occupational therapist. I have my master's degree in occupational therapy. I've been working in the hospital system for five years. My husband has been in crypto since 2018. He found NFTs in early 2021. He was trying to introduce me to them, but of course, being in our patient rooms all day, you don't have your phone on you. So, I didn't get an opportunity to do a lot of research to really learn a ton about it; I was pushing it off. He would reintroduce it to me like, “You really need to look into NFTs and read about them and get to know them.” And I started reading about it, but it was complex and overwhelming.
Finally, I ended up joining Twitter and jumping into the space a little bit further, getting to know the community and learning from others about what NFTs were and more about crypto and learning about the decentralized opportunities that were presenting themselves in this space and how incredible the community and the culture were. That was my final ‘You really need to get into this.’ I would say that I started delving in heavily around August of last year. Thanks to my husband's perseverance and seeing how this could potentially fulfill my dream of being a full-time artist. I finally decided to jump into it.
So, what was your primary medium before NFTs?
I've been involved in about every medium of art that I can possibly get my hands on. I've done photography, ceramics, sculpture, and painting, but my favorite mediums are acrylics, oils, and gouache paints. I dabbled a lot in photography, but I like how much customization I have with creating my own painting. That was probably the primary medium I've used, at least most recently.
You are now heavily involved with your artistry in the metaverse. So, in what ways, as a double minority, are you trying to encourage other women of color to be in that space?
Here's something that I have recently been saying is that it's a risk to take risks – but it's also a risk not to take a risk because you don't know what doors could open for you. You don't know what opportunities you might have. So, I think, especially women of color and those of us who are minorities, we need to get in there, get our faces seen, have our voices heard, and be early to a space traditionally dominated by men. So, we need to be early adopters of this and start paving the way and trailblazing being women of color and being a double minority.
I'm mentioning to women, women of color, non-binary individuals, and LGBTQIA folks to have the courage to learn, do your research, be safe, and take the risk of jumping into something you may not understand 100 percent. But that risk that you're taking could open a lot of opportunities for you, and not only for you. Based on whatever it opens to you, you could open those doors for others and continue to bring people in. That's what I'm trying to do myself by supporting additional artists around the world, especially those in underserved countries, and you're trying to elevate them and provide them with a platform. I think there are a lot of ways to pay it forward that we can do as each of us women, women of color, LGBTQIA, and non-binary come into the spaces now that there's one of us here that cemented here. Let's open the door for more of us to come in.
That's beautiful. I must commend you because you're not gatekeeping, where some people may be like, “I have success, so I don't need to give anyone else the tools.” My mom always says there's enough sun for everyone.
Well, and not only that, but I’m also not in it for becoming a billionaire. My biggest reason for being a part of this is to make a positive impact in the world in whatever way I can – which is part of why I went into occupational therapy to begin with was because I wanted to do good for people and do good for the world. So, if I can continue that mission that I started within occupational therapy and carry it over to Web3, I'm going to do it.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.