Posted on August 24, 2014
TLDR: I had big plans for the year, but after an important package (full of high level Kickstarter rewards) got stuck in US Customs, my plans have gone off track. I’m in a deep depression, broke, and stuck in a creative rut. Realizing there’s nothing I can do to personally move the package along, I’ve given myself a creative series of “next steps” to get myself unstuck from this creative pit I’m in.
I kicked 2014 off with my Analog/Glitch art show at Photobooth in SF. This show combined my love of analog and experimental glitch photography and was by far my most successful art show yet. Shortly after, I launched a Kickstarter project for my new album, Destroy All Presets, which ended up doubling its goal.
Destroy All Presets was an album made on a Game Boy Advance using a special music cart called Nanoloop. I’m a huge fan of the software and teamed up with its creator to offer a special edition Nanoloop cart that came preloaded with my songs on it. I was mostly breaking even on the carts themselves, but was able to leverage the carts to help me find some good press for the project.
I was thrilled with how the project went and was stoked at how it helped me reach a whole new audience. We got the album out on time and started working on the carts, which traveled from China to Germany to the US. The carts made it to the International Sorting Center in NYC on May 26th and, according to the tracking info, haven’t moved since.
I started calling and emailing USPS a couple of weeks in. They said it was common for Customs to hold packages for up to 45 business days with no notifications to anyone else involved. After 50 days I was finally able to get a response from Customs who claimed they don’t know who has the package now, but it definitely wasn’t them. “USPS probably didn’t scan it properly when they picked it up” they said.
Tracking the package became a part time job for me. I’d call every weekday and spend hours on the phone trying to get any answers. I spent most of this time on hold, in fact I’ve spent 16 hours on the phone with USPS IN THE LAST MONTH. Several of these calls end up with me randomly getting disconnected after hours of holding and/or chatting with reps. Then having to call back and starting all over. One number I was told to call for Consumer Advocates would ask if you were an “employee” or “consumer”, then immediately hang up on you after you selected the latter. Every. fucking. time.
There’s nothing more demoralizing than dealing with a lost package. Customs claimed they don’t keep any sort of records and aren’t obligated to share any information even after 45 days… but they also said that my package was never examined by them and came in and out with all the other packages on that pallet. DHL claims it made it to US Customs, who are notorious for holding packages for a really long time when there are any trade/shipping conflicts between the two countries (Germany and the US).
USPS has said everything but “we’ll try to find it”. One rep said my package appeared to have actually left US Customs and made it all the way to a major USPS hub in California, where she thinks it still might be. Another said they could see by the tracking info that the package never even made it to US Customs and was clearly sitting just outside of DHL’s warehouse, just waiting to make it through the door. “We couldn’t touch it there, that’s not technically on US soil.”
Half of my project’s funds were just sitting in a sorting facility somewhere in NYC and nobody was willing to take responsibility for getting them shipped.
It wasn’t just this one package that was being held up though… Once this project was completed, I had planned on launching Can We Kick It, a year long series of crowd-funding projects that I was dying to work on. Why a series? As a multi-disciplinary artist I’ve found it hard to build up my entire audience… folks who like black and white street photography might not like a chiptune album, etc… so instead of building up a name in one medium, I’d try building a brand around all my crowd-funding projects and make all of the things that I was passionate about. Of course for this to work, I’d need to ship all my rewards first. [note: some awesome friends helped with the CWKI site, you can see the video below]
The year is almost over, Can We Kick It is no longer happening and everything I had planned is on hold. The profits from my last project, which were going to re-invested in my next project, have instead been spent just keeping me afloat while I look for more part time work. Every-time I see an email with “Kickstarter” in the title I get a little panic attack that it’s someone writing to call me a rip off artist. My confidence has been crushed and these last few months have been spent in a deep depression.
Just to be clear, my backers have been super supportive. In fact just yesterday I got an awesome email from a backer asking when I’ll be releasing more music. “After having this album in my car,” he said “and listening to it for a few months straight. I can say this is one of the best albums I have.” Awesome. Seriously, that was an awesome thing to say. With the support of my backers, I made a kick-ass album.
It’s hard to work out of a rut, but I’m giving myself permission to not worry about the carts for a few weeks and start doing what makes me happy again… making things. SF ZineFest is this weekend and I’m going to spend the next week busting my ass to make new things to show there, including:
- Create a third issue of my American Analog zine (a project that started off as my first crowd-funding experiment)
- Print a small run of a previously unreleased comic book called “The Penis Story”
- Make 10-20 of my denim wallets (which have always been good sellers for me, though I haven’t sewn any in years)
- Teach more workshops (I’ve already started working on these)
I’m setting small attainable goals for myself in hopes of building my confidence back up. If all goes well, I hope to even launch a new crowd-funding project in the next few weeks… something small and fun and maybe only digital (shipping things sucks). What do you think? Music? Comics? Maybe a sewing project?
We are hoping the “lost package” claim we filed with DHL will help get this package found. If it isn’t, we’ll begin taking the next steps torwards getting our replacement carts ordered and this package wrapped up. I still have a looming fear about starting a new project when I still have rewards left to be sent from my previous one. I just need to say I’ve lost enough time on this trouble already, it’s time to wipe the dirt off my shoulder and start making art again.
It’s hard not to wonder what would have happened if I just went ahead and launched my next project in May instead of waiting for these rewards to get in.