Enter The Grotto: A Glimpse Into The Fascinating World of Thr33som3s

The appeal of Thr33som3s’ work, personality, and the community behind them is undeniable.

Originally published at Tezos Commons News

By Stu Elmes


1,200 words, 6 minute read

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Viewed from almost any angle, painter and NFT artist Thr33som3s is a bona fide enigma. He is one of the most successful artists in the history of Tezos — currently the record holder for the most transactions of any artist to operate in the Tezos space to date — and yet remains a relative outsider in the booming Tezos digital art scene.

Whether this “outsider” status is a deliberate sovereignty/brand-building move on Thr33som3s’ part or random happenstance remains open for debate, but the truth of the matter (like so many things in life) likely lies somewhere in the middle.

Whatever the case, the appeal of Thr33som3s’ work, personality, and the community behind them is undeniable. His NFT drops regularly (and quickly) sell out, with many NFTs selling for significant profits on secondary marketplaces. There’s much more to the appeal of Thr33som3s and his work than just short-term gains, however. Don’t take it from me, here’s what Thr33som3s had to say about his work:

Every Thr33som3s has future utility, which means there will come a time for everything to have its place. Card A could be used for mechanic A, and then it could be used for mechanic L, then it could be used for mechanic Z-14. Once it’s used, it still has use. Every piece matters. It can be traded for something else, it can be burned for something else, it can be combined with something else, it can be credited as a holder piece in another drawing. Whatever it is, the commitment to the project that everything matters changes the way they get collected. In a nutshell, every collector should wake up every day to their paintings of mine and be tasked with 3 decisions: is today the day that they sell it because the price has gone up to the point that they can’t avoid taking their profit, or do they burn it for the called-in utility because what’s being offered at that moment is worth more than holding it or selling it, or do they hold it for the future? That should be an agonizing choice, if it’s done right.

Thr33som3s’ commitment to “doing it right” is the cornerstone of the larger Thr33som3s vision, and the key to his appeal. Thr33som3s views the NFT as a means to an end, rather than the end in and of itself. In his world, the NFT exists as an experiential and community-building tool. The complex interplays between artist and collector, between collector and NFT, and between collector and collector are central to the larger Thr33som3s philosophy, and it shows. When asked about this, here’s what he had to say:

I have certain pieces that are extremely inexpensive and are made purely for their utility. It’s a utility token in the sense that it’ll help guide them through these decision and these choices. Other pieces are more robust and they’re typically held and will grant holder utility, but all of these things should do a couple of things: they should eventually find a home in somebody’s collection that loves them for what they are and doesn’t want to get rid of them because it’s the only chance they’ll have at getting it — it’s become so scarce and in demand that it should be held. Or, it’ll have great use. As such, we’re driving everybody into collecting, but also understanding the interaction necessary to utilize them, and it becomes a lot of fun. That’s the fun that everybody has in the project is navigating those waters every day.

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This “fun” Thr33som3s describes can be seen not only in the activities of the thriving community of collectors interacting with his work, but in the work itself. Thr33som3s works exclusively in the medium of vintage baseball cards, utilizing his personal childhood collection as the canvas for his vision. The journey to this canvas becoming the backdrop for one of the world’s most iconic NFT collections began with what Thr33som3s refers to as “defacing” or “grafiti’ing on them”, but it didn’t end there.

I started just painting on baseball cards and seeing how far I could go and how good I could get at it and working through some narratives. As I got more comfortable with a paintbrush in my hand, I coupled that with this idea that I’d had as a kid, which is, what if the teams that were playing were their mascots? What if the Tigers played the Giants, meaning cats attacking gigantic men? Now, as a 40 year-old with a sense of humour, I was painting these teams as though they were real-life representations of their mascots. I’ve got 35 plus years of imagining this world and how that plays in, and that’s the broader narrative of this project.

While the road from childhood fantasy to enormously successful NFT art project was most certainly a long and winding one (Thr33som3s says he’d never really even experimented with art until the age of 40), for those who collect and follow Thr33som3s and his work, it all just seems to make sense. The fervent participants of the Thr33som3s community — which he’s dubbed “The Grotto” — are very much invested, both emotionally and financially in the Thr33som3s vision. And, if you spend a bit of time talking with Thr33som3s about his vision and journey into the world of NFT art (as I did recently), it’s easy to understand why.

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The beauty of existing in this Web 3.0 space is, even though I have structure laid out and certain elements that I’m gonna dive into, I’m not minting a narrative piece every day. There are things that present themselves that merit — even beg for — critique or commentary, especially in this space. So a lot of my work, especially the drop mechanics themselves, are speaking to what’s going on in the NFT and Web 3.0 space. There are things that come about which then coax me into making a statement which isn’t necessarily narrative-based. This is not something that I conceived of as a 9 year-old when I was imagining a parralell baseball universe. The broader project, I know exactly where it’s going and I know how to get us where we’re going and how to reveal these 24 teams and their correlations, but there are other things that come up throughout my existence that I work into my practice.

Thr33som3s is an engaging and interesting character. His project is pushing the boundaries of the NFT as a tool for digital and real-world utility in strange and fascinating new directions. His work is funny and unique. The community he’s helped to build is one of the most engaged and passionate in the digital art space.

And, best of all, his journey to realizing his ambitious vision for Thr33som3s as a collection, as an experiment into the possibilities of this powerful new digital medium, and as a storytelling narrative — all right here in the Tezos ecosystem — has only just begun.