- Itzel Yard creates art that merges the digital world with human emotions.
- Her first attempt to upload her work as NFTs failed, but she kept growing her presence in the space.
- Today, her work is sold at art galleries, including Sotheby’s Metaverse.
Itzel Yard, who also goes by the name IX Shells, creates single-edition artwork. At 31, she’s already sold more than $3 million worth of nonfungible tokens.
She merges very different worlds — the digital and human ones — to create abstract and unique art. On one end, she’s inspired by architectural patterns and computer glitches, and on the other, she’s influenced by her emotions.
One audio-visual piece, for example, uses her voice to create movement as she recites a poem. She does some of her work through TouchDesigner, an open-source visual programming language.
The emotions put into the pieces have varied, stemming from relationships and breakups, difficult life experiences, and her sociopolitical views around a noninclusive world, she said.
In 2014, she moved from Panama to Toronto, where she lived for five years. Yard had to start from zero, doing jobs such as cleaning studios, being a caregiver, and even dangling from high-rise buildings washing windows.
“I was surviving,” Yard said. “I was trying to be someone in a country that is really expensive.”
It was during this time that she began creating art, and she continued until she moved back to Panama in 2019. Shortly after, the pandemic hit. This brought on another layer of emotions, including the fear she felt for her mother, who worked as an administrator at a hospital.
“Everyone was just shocked and scared,” Yard said. “I think I shared most of my art during that time because I was trying to avoid that feeling that my mom had to wake up at 4 a.m. to work at a hospital and be in danger.”
During this time, she was struggling with depression and broke, she said.
Her journey to selling $500,000 NFTs
As she expressed herself by experimenting with digital art, she began to post her work on Instagram. Some were still images; others were MP4 videos.
A contact who noticed Yard’s work invited her to join SuperRare, a digital-art market on ethereum’s blockchain. It required a video introduction. Yard said she didn’t get accepted into the platform at first.
She continued building her community by co-organizing events, including one in New York that displayed digital art from a projector.
Eventually, Yard realized that there were other nonfungible-token platforms she could upload her work to that weren’t as difficult to join. These included Zora, where she sold her first piece, and Foundation.
This move was a huge risk for Yard because she didn’t have the funds to pay for gas (or transaction) fees and had never sold her art. But there were communities and other artists within the space who helped beginners take their first steps.
Yard borrowed 0.5 ETH, which was equivalent to $500 at the time, from an acquaintance who was also an artist. It was just enough for her to mint her first piece. Once it was uploaded, another friend purchased that NFT for 1 ETH.
“I was looking to start at a price that everyone else was selling,” Yard said. “I consider my work good enough. And I was minting pieces that meant a lot to me.”
She was also advised to stick to that amount as the minimum because that was a good starting point.
“I never shill. I hated that,” Yard said. “I just waited for someone to be interested and message me. But yeah, it’s a lot of pressure but, at the same time, fun.”
Yard told Insider she received a lot of help from the community, including other artists, promoters, and art curators.
But the tipping point that perhaps increased the value of her art substantially happened after her pieces were displayed at Vellum LA, a digital-art gallery. A collector purchased one of her pieces for 23 ETH, and this prompted other collectors to want one.
From there, her pieces were eventually displayed in Sotheby’s Metaverse, where one sold for over $500,000.
“Then, I was invited to an ethereum conference in Lisbon, Portugal,” Yard said. “I talked about my life there, and I was like on the main stage. ‘How am I here?’ I was still in shock.
“Like, ‘Why am I here? A year ago, I didn’t have a dollar in my pocket. And now I’m in one of the most beautiful cities talking to the crowd that created this platform.'”
As of Friday, she had sold over $3 million worth of her NFTs, according to the sum of sale prices displayed on her Masterpiece profile. “Dreaming at Dusk,” a piece that the Tor Project auctioned for 500 ETH, or about $2 million in May, made her the highest-selling NFT artist at the time, according to the marketplace Foundation.
Overall, NFT artists sold $24.9 billion worth of collectibles in 2021, up sharply from $94.9 million in 2020, according to DappRadar. While interest in the metaverse could keep NFT sales booming, some experts have said that prices are unsustainable.
Yard is working on a new collection to showcase this year. As for her advice to other aspiring NFT artists, she says to focus on growth, as though whatever it is you’re working on is a garden.
“Even before NFTs, I was growing social-media accounts. It’s taking care of a plant,” Yard said.
She added, “And make sure you’re not just doing this because of the money. The money can go. Then, you don’t have something that you feel proud of.
“For example, I’ve been offered to be part of big brands I’m not going to mention, but big, big brands, and I was like, ‘Why would I do this? I don’t resonate with this.'”