The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Reedies Find Runaway Kickstarter Success

Reed success stories are plentiful, but when there’s a trend in the way Reedies pursue that success, it’s even more noteworthy. To date, at least ten Reedies have realized their creative projects through Kickstarter, an online funding platform.

The concept of Kickstarter is simple: Explain your project, offer rewards to backers in exchange for pledged money, and receive the funds for your project if (and only if) you reach your funding goal by a deadline.

With help from the Reed Switchboard, which has pledged to promote and provide at least one financial backer for every Reed Kickstarter project, each of these eight projects has been more than fully funded. Below are profiles of six of them.

Small Wonder Toys (David Lansdowne ‘13, Dano Wall ’09, Hannah Moshontz ’10), The Humble Velocipede

Raised: $57,670/$10,000 goal

Small Wonder Toys created The Humble Velocipede, a desktop, bamboo version of the walking DxOxTxUx Strandbeest.

Small Wonder Toy’s Humble Velocipede.


How time at Reed inspired the project (David Lansdowne):  For about 3 years I was the signator of DxOxTxUx, which meant it was primarily my responsibility to concoct and organize the oversized objects for the SU. During that time, we came up with the couch seesaw and the giant hamster wheel. Both projects were very meticulous and took many months of planning. My last project was the life-sized Strandbeest, which provided us the mechanical foundation for what is now the Humble Velocipede.

The second half of the story is Dano Wall’s employment at Grove, a local company that makes bamboo iPhone and iPad cases. A few years ago Dano was hired as the head machinist at Grove, and has since been honing his fine woodworking abilities, using sophisticated computer-controlled milling machines to fabricate intricate pieces. I spent a few months working there myself, and as a result we both learned a whole lot about production lines and product development.

At some point about a year ago, these two threads merged, and this project was born. A few months in, Hannah Moshontz joined the team and has since been helping us with logistics, marketing (she figured out how to do Kickstarter right), and pretty much everything else.

How the Reed community supported the project: Throughout, the entire Reed community has been nothing if not supportive, and I expect that means our post-graduation entrepreneurial endeavors will continue to be quite a bit easier thanks to this assistance.

Eliza Walker ’12, “24/7: A dialogue in photography and writing”

Raised: $7,600/$6,000 goal

Eliza Walker, English ’12, and her partner on the project, Midge Wattles, Kickstarted an “art book of portraits set in 24 hour establishments across the United States.”

How time at Reed inspired the project: I’m not sure if I have as straightforward an answer, but I would say, briefly, that Reed instilled in me a enthusiasm for and dedication to writing, as well as an eagerness to at long last take these enthusiasms to the world outside of the library.

How the Reed community supported the project: Our project, which later we came with to Kickstarter, was initially supported by an Eddings Opportunity Grant from the Reed English Department. Receiving the grant made Midge and I feel like all of the ideas which until then were just scrambled thoughts in emails were now a real Project, which someone other than just ourselves believed in. The Eddings grant gave us the confidence to go to Kickstarter in search of further funding for the project, something which, otherwise, we might not have done, because neither of us are naturally all that trusting of the Internet…. The Reed Switchboard was hugely helpful during the Kickstarter campaign, and publicized the link on their Facebook and blog page. Big thanks to Mara Zepeda at the Switchboard with whom I corresponded about this.

Theressa Silver ’93, “Hat Couture: Millinery Style Hats to Knit”

Raised: $1,025/$1,000 goal

Theressa Silver, Biology ’93, created “A book of hat knitting patterns with interesting shapes and lavish embellishments.”

How time at Reed inspired the project:  I was a bio major at Reed, so the fact that I ended up as a knitting pattern designer isn’t an obvious result of my academic training. However, the time spent at Reed interacting with wildly creative, intelligent, free spirited people, definitely nurtured that side of me. Pattern design is both a creative and a technical pursuit. My science background certainly helps with the math part of designing while the logical, methodical ways of looking at the world that I learned at Reed are the foundation from which I create well-designed items and clearly written pattern instructions. When I decided to write this book, I knew I could figure out what I needed to do to make it work in spite of having never done a project like this before. I’m sure my Reed background has a lot to do with my independent streak and self confidence.

How the Reed community supported the project: This isn’t a project that is closely related to Reed, so I didn’t seek out or expect to get community support per se. However, the Reed Switchboard was great about helping get the word out about the Kickstarter by tweeting the link and posting it on Facebook. When the book is published I certainly plan to send the info to the alumni magazine and hope that other Reedies will be interested in what I’ve done.

Wick (Joseph Perry) ’13, RUBICON

Raised: $5,216/$2000 goal

Joseph Perry, Biology ’13, created a hand-drawn video game called RUBICON, “inspired by the physics and gameplay of Asteroids plus the tinkering and strategy of Mechwarrior.”

A screenshot from Joseph Perry’s ’13 RUBICON.

How time at Reed inspired the project:  Rubicon was very much my fallback-project-if-biology-internships-don’t-pan-out for the summer. Whenever I tell a Reedie that I’m making a video game, most of the time their eyes light up and we’re able to have an awesome conversation about either the game itself or the process of running the Kickstarter campaign. Also, a lot of the beta testing for Rubicon has come from people I randomly run into while working on the game around campus.

I haven’t taken any classes that even really tangentially relate to the process of game development. But being able to be excited about a project while working like a fiend were two skills that I’ve honed here and are DIRECTLY responsible for this thing getting funded and out the door, respectively. The game’s going to be released for free and is nearing its initial public release really soon, and I’ll be posting to SB info with a link hopefully by next week.

Elly Blue ’06, “Taking the Lane”

Raised: $1,421/$1,000 goal

“Taking the Lane: Volume Eight” is Elly Blue’s ’06 tenth Kickstarter project. “Taking the Lane” is a quarterly feminist bike zine.

Past volumes of Taking the Lane. Featured is Taking the Lane 6: Lines on the Map.

How time at Reed inspired the project:  While Reed didn’t teach me much in terms of business skills or project management, it did give me a good background for figuring out how to dig into a well-worn topic–like bicycling–in a new and interesting way. One of my goals with my publishing business is to set a new, feminist tone for discourse about bicycling, and that level of critical thinking is definitely something I first had to do in anthropology theory classes at Reed.

How the Reed community supported the project: It’s fun to see what the folks at the Reed Switchboard have been doing, and they were really great about promoting my last couple of projects. Also, my anthropology classmate Adonia Lugo is also involved in the national bicycling movement as an academic and an activist; she’s been an awesome ally in general, and has a short piece in the forthcoming issue.

Lucy Bellwood ’12, “True Believer”

Raised: $11,659/$1,500 goal

“True Believer” is Lucy Bellwood’s ’12 “36-page comic about having the courage to do what you love.”

How time at Reed inspired the project:  True Believer, the comic I needed to publish through Kickstarter, was actually my thesis project at Reed, so there’s a lot of crossover!

The mere fact that I decided to launch a campaign during the last three weeks of my thesis process (madness in retrospect) speaks volumes about the kind of attitude creating the thesis — and being at Reed in general — instilled in me. Kickstarter campaigns require a HUGE amount of time and dedication so they may not be the best thing to do when you’re down to the wire at the end of your college career, but y’know…

I’d almost say the greater influence from Reed was not what it offered, but what it didn’t offer. Since there was no magical Comics Department hidden in the Art Building, I largely had to create my thesis from scratch. And after spending a year watching the boggle-eyed reactions when I told people I was drawing a comic for my thesis, I was very much in a state of thinking “Why the hell not?” “Why not draw comics every day for three months?” “Why not bring commercial, narrative art into a predominantly Fine Arts-based department?” “Why not launch a giant fundraiser while I’m cramming to finish my 100-page written thesis and publish my comic?”

The beautiful thing about the Art Department was that, even though there was no existing framework for a comics thesis, the attitude was very much “If you can do it, then make it happen!” Yes, there’s an element of being a self-starter there – nobody’s going to be able to hold your hand if your project is different from most that have come before – but the fact that people are up for stuff is fantastic. Reed is an environment that really seems to reward having the passion and dedication to make something your own. We’re a school that thrives on curiosity. And if you’re spending a year of your life dedicated to pursuing a particular topic all the way from the aesthetic publication to the tiniest theoretical minutia, you’d better be pretty flipping curious about it

How the Reed community supported the project: The community was AWESOME when they found out about it. Not only did students, alumni, faculty, AND staff give to the campaign, they also spread the word. Having someone stop me on my way past the Library to say “Hey, congrats on raising all that money!” made my day. Receiving a cheque from a professor with an encouraging note put me over the moon. It was certainly exciting to me to watch the numbers climbing day after day, but it was even cooler to know that other people we’re equally excited about the campaign’s success.

This is what I meant earlier about being a community that rewards passion. One of the best Reedie qualities is our ability to respond to enthusiasm rather than subject matter. I love hearing my Bio major friends geeking out about their thesis projects because of HOW FREAKING EXCITED THEY ARE ABOUT SCIENCE – not because of how personally feel about Science, which is about as positive as a smack in the face with a dead trout (Intro Bio did not come easily to me.)

On a practical level, Reed continues to support me. Students buy new comics and attend drawing nights hosted at my house in southeast, professors have approached me to speak about comics and education to their classes, and the college itself has employed me to do illustrations and comics for The Quest, Student Activities, Reed Magazine, and, most recently, Reedfayre 2013. I feel really, really lucky to have run the project in such a fantastic environment.

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