Sosa, who usually confines his work to political figures, is complying with the request. “It looks like dictators and world leaders like Putin and Kim Jong Un or Chris Christie are much easier to deal with,” he said.
Real question here: What does this mean for Halloween 2015?! Also — why is Katy Perry so darn mean? Original story follows.
Internet fame decays exponentially, like radioactive waste with a really short half-life. Three days and half a million tweets after the Super Bowl, the Left Shark’s 15 minutes are already winding down. By the time I finish writing this sentence, a dozen people who tweeted gleefully about Left Shark this morning will cease to care about it anymore. By the time I finish this post, he will have probably joined the overcrowded urban graveyard of long-forgotten Internet memes. (It’s enough to make you wonder if I should even bother writing.)
“People are strange, especially [with] phenomenons such as Left Shark,” said Brian Bann, the co-proprietor of Francesca4Me, a “geeky 3D printing and crochet” shop on Etsy. (He’s the one with the cookie cutters.) “I could sell as few as a couple to as many as a couple hundred … I really don’t know.”
This is, after all, only Bann’s first foray into meme merchandise — an industry as fragile, and fleeting, as it is fun. Search any of the user-powered e-commerce sites out there, and you’ll find a million artistic paeans to its existence. There are hundreds of crop-tops, wall decals and cross-stitch samplers dedicated to doge, alone.
But when it comes to something as topical as Left Shark, the window for sales opens and shuts in only a couple of days. Which makes the flourishing of Left Shark merchandise, on sites like Zazzle and CafePress and artist-favorite Etsy, particularly fascinating.
Jessica Bellamy has already sold five cheerful pop-art portraits of the shark, including one that was commissioned for the shark, himself. Lindsay Fisher, who just started her line of baby clothes last week, is peddling a shark onesie that says “MVP.” Jolene Ung is selling adorable hand-painted Valentine’s of the shark, even though she didn’t watch the game. And at $27 each, Fernando Sosa is making a pretty okay profit off his “drunk shark” figurines — he’s moved a dozen since posting them yesterday.
This is all kind of silly and delightful, of course. (“I couldn’t stop laughing when I was designing the cookie cutter,” Bann said.) Still, there’s something more substantial going on here too: It’s a great example of the power of the Internet — not only to elevate stupid memes to even stupider heights but also to empower individual people with good ideas.
All of the artists I spoke to used 3D printing and on-demand production technology to create their products once they had actually made a sale, meaning there was no overhead or production costs up-front. Few of them had employees. Many of them believed the shark, a meme in its own right, would save them the pain or cost of marketing.
“By posting trend-based images ASAP … my Facebook advertisements can be more targeted,” Fisher said. (Her demographic: women ages 20 to 45 who follow Etsy and like Katy Perry, the Super Bowl or babies.)
When you think about it, the fact that one 25-year-old could design, create, market and ship a product in such a momentary time frame is nothing short of amazing. It’s also, in some ways, the perfect implementation of the much-hyped “Etsy economy,” the “Internet-powered counter-industrial revolution” that economists, artisans and civic leaders — to say nothing of Etsy’s leadership — have been touting for years. Artisanship. Agility. Tech-powered, self-motivated entrepreneurship.
“Etsy is a great place for small businesses to get ahead of the big guys because our initial investment can be so small,” Fisher explained. “The image you see is actually a graphic I drew by hand in 10 minutes, scanned and Photoshopped onto a picture of a onesie.”
Fisher, who worked as an analyst for Target until the company shuttered its Canadian stores last month, estimates it would take a brick-and-mortar store three weeks to manufacture the same design. At which point, of course, Left Shark isn’t just dead: He’s practically fossilized.
Admittedly, it remains to be seen if the meme-makers were quick enough, themselves. Neither Fisher nor Avina nor Bann has sold any of the Left Shark merchandise yet.
But there will be other memes, they say, other tiny windows of opportunity. And when the next one strikes, they will definitely be ready.