By Jeanine Ibrahim
Rainworks are pieces of street art that remain invisible until activated by water. If you live in Seattle, perhaps you've seen them around. It's where the inventor of the technique, Peregrine Church, has been honing the craft -- and transforming it into a business.
A self-proclaimed master of novelty who's performed magic tricks for years while busking on the streets of Seattle, Church is now brightening people’s gloomy days by turning rain into art as the creator of Rainworks (www.Rain.works).
He invented the technique after watching viral videos of red wine and chocolate syrup repel off people’s white clothing due to a hydrophobic spray that keeps whatever surface it coats from getting wet. Church figured that he could design a stencil, lay it on a sidewalk and coat it with the hydrophobic spray. Since concrete gets darker when it’s wet, the design would appear when it rains.
He made his first Rainwork more than a year ago. It was a simple design that read, “Stay dry out there.”
After posting more works around Seattle, a city in which rain is synonymous, the local media picked up the story. But it was a video posted online earlier this year about Rainworks that went viral that’s made the street art a huge hit. The video's garnered more than 13.5 million views, with celebs like Nicki Minaj and Ashton Kutcher liking the novel artwork on social media.
People from around the world have since contacted Church. He’s received requests to create custom pieces for payment, so he created a commission form on his website, www.Rain.works. What started as a fun project is now a business he's building with his friend Xack Fischer.
The 22-year-olds spoke with Name.Kitchen about going viral, creating a business on the fly and why they decided on a domain name as innovative as their business.
Rainworks has become a business, sort of by accident. At the core, why is the concept important to you?
Peregrine Church: I liked the idea of taking something gloomy, and using it to make people smile. And I wanted to give people reasons to talk to each other even if they’re strangers, to connect.
How do you decide where to place a 'Rainwork'?
Xack Fischer: We like to put Rainworks in bus stops and places with a lot of foot traffic, so that when people go out on a rainy day they'll see an uplifting message or something aesthetically pleasing. The hope is to make their day a little better. That's the idea behind the whole thing.
How long do they take to create?
Church:To put a simple sentence on the ground, and if it’s on the sidewalk outside my office, I could do that in less than an hour. But the most extensive piece I’ve done was part of a nine-part series commissioned by the LOTT Clean Water Alliance in Olympia, WA. One piece had 70 individual pieces of paper, 50 of which were four-feet long. They all had to be perfectly aligned. It took two days of work for us to cut the stencils, and eight hours for me and Xack to do the install.
Is the meaning behind the name, 'Rainworks,' as obvious as it sounds?
Fischer:We didn’t actually start calling the pieces 'Rainworks' until after a few months of making them. We had gotten some media coverage and the press kept calling it “rain-activated art.”
Church: We needed a good way to describe what we did. So, yeah, we combined rain and artwork to get 'Rainworks.'
Why was a website necessary to what you were creating?
Church:We wanted people to go explore on a rainy day, to find where the actual Rainworks existed, so we created a map. That’s why we initially had the website -- to show people where the Rainworks were located.
The domain name is pretty creative. How did you decide on a 'dot-works' [.works] domain?
Fischer:We first had a really long URL as the site. It just linked to a map made through Google, so it was like a 'map.google,' whatever, slash whatever, bunch of numbers, bunch of letters ... the site didn't go very far because of that. Then we started building a better website around that map.We discussed domain names and right away, we liked the idea of something clean and short, without a 'dot-com' [.com] or a 'dot-net' [.net]. We tried all different extensions, like '.ks,' -- 'rain.wor.ks.' The first time we looked, we didn't find anything we loved, so we put it off.
Fischer: Months later, Peregrine went back to register Rainworks. com, or something like that, and the URL page said "New domains available!" One of them was 'dot-works' [.works]. He messaged me and was like, "Rain.works is available? Should we get it?" I was like, "Of course, we should get it!"
Church: It was pretty exciting to see that [domain name] just mesh so well with the concept name.
What's been the reaction domain?
Fischer:We love it. It's really easy to say: 'rain.works.' Sometimes people are a little confused. They're like \, Rain.works. com?" We're like, "No, 'dot-works.'" Then they're like, "Oh, that's cool. That's really easy to remember."
Fischer:[Since then], the site has really helped us organize the avalanche of information that's come at us since going viral.
What's it like to find that you suddenly have a business on your hands?
Church: We've had news coverage from all over the world. It’s been a lot of crazy exposure all at once.
Fischer:We'd always wanted people to like the idea, but it’s been overwhelming just how fast it happened, how big it happened. We had a video made earlier this year by Waka Waka studios and uploaded it on Facebook. From the end of March through mid April things were crazy, crazy. Between Facebook and YouTube, the video has more than 13 million views. Our Facebook page has gone from 50 likes to nearly 18,000 likes. Nicki Minaj and Ashton Kutcher shared a post about us. Rainworks was on the Weather Channel. We're going to be in Oprah Magazine later this year.
What is the future for Rainworks?
Fischer:That's what we've been figuring out lately, how to turn this thing that started for fun into a business, so we can fund our other ideas. We're making our income right now with the commissioned Rainworks. People are reaching us through the website. We have a page with a commission form and pricing information.
Church: We plan to create a store page on the site too. We're working with Nanex, the Belgium company that makes Always Dry, the product that we use. It’s totally environmentally friendly, non-toxic, temporary, and completely invisible. The company is creating a special formula specifically for Rainworks that will last longer and is even more invisible. We plan to start distributing the spray in the USA, because right now it’s ordered from Belgium.
So you want to encourage others to create their own rain-activated art, as well?
Fischer:People are making their own Rainworks and posting pictures online. It was inevitable. But they're buying these super-hydrophobic coatings that are not environmentally friendly. We want to get people using the right materials.
Church:We plan to make a tutorial video to show exactly how to create a Rainwork. We’ll ask people everywhere to send us photos of what they make, and update the map to show where the Rainworks are located. We can’t cover the world with them, but if other people join us we can make rainy days everywhere -- great!
To learn more about this business, visit the website www.Rain.works.