Safwat Saleem on Expletives, Kickstarter, and Making 900 Screen Prints in Three Months

Safwat Saleem's not afraid to use a couple expletives. The local designer used plenty of colorful language in A Bunch of Crock, a project born out of sayings, conversations, and stereotypes he gathered following 9/11. 

His latest project, Oh Expletive!, is a little bit different. Saleem says his latest series began with a poster he created for  Jessica Marquis' "Raising Unicorns" book launch art show last year titled Oh Shit: Unicorns!.  

"We know that unicorns are happy and magical and make our wildest dreams come true. But what we don't always see is that sometimes unicorns can be real assholes," he says. "They can get together in groups and beat the crap out of other unicorns just like some asshole humans. And that's the print I made -- a whole bunch of unicorns about to kick the shit out of a fellow unicorn. And once you've made a ridiculous print like that, the possibilities are endless -- zombies, sharks, dinosaurs -- you name it."

Saleem launched Oh Expletive! on the crowd-sourced fundraising site, Kickstarter, a few months ago. It has since raised more than 1,000 percent of the original goal. 

While he's currently buried under the number of posters and T-shirts he now gets to create and hand-pull, with the help of local screen printer Crystal Phelps and The Lab 137, he took (a very short break) to answer five questions ... 

Why do you think Kickstarter was a successful platform for your project?
I had used Kickstarter for my last project, A Bunch of Crock, and enjoyed the experience. I can try taking pre-orders on my own website but my mom is probably the only person who ever visits my website. But Kickstarter has a large audience that enjoys being part of the entire creative process as opposed to simply purchasing something when it's done. It just made sense to use the lessons I learned from A Bunch of Crock and try to do a more ambitious Kickstarter project. 

Below: Saleem's Kickstarter video starring himself (as a bear) and his dog, James.

How the (expletive) did you raise 1,000 percent of your project goal?
I am not sure. Probably by aiming very low. When I was setting up the project on Kickstarer, I was scared that I would not be able to make my $3,000 goal. I did have a plan in place but I didn't have any faith in those plans because most of my plans are pretty stupid and not very well thought out. 

I had already spent over a month writing, re-writing, filming, re-filming, editing and then re-editing my Kickstarter pitch video. I had also spent even more time collecting a massive list of art, design and print blog links that I was planning to write to and beg them to post about my work. And I did it -- I wrote to every single one of those 90 or so blogs. Most of them never responded and probably thought my work was a total waste of their time but some blogs picked up the story and that really helped. It also helped that Kickstarter featured the project in their newsletter.

How many prints, T-shirts, and personalized videos are you estimating you're going to have to make ... and what's your time frame?
It looks like we will be making about 900 screen prints, 600 T-shirts and only 8 personalized videos. I think the hardest part will be the videos because I used all my best jokes in the pitch video. And by best jokes, I mean the fart joke. Fart jokes are all I got.

How does James feel about all of this? 

James is mostly pleased but he still not convinced that the on-camera fart was needed. He is all about getting into character and doing whatever it takes to deliver the right performance but an actor's got to draw a line somewhere. And I think his line is at gratuitous farts.

You've said before that your were giving up on your own creative projects. Do you still feel the same way?
I feel that way while working on almost every project. At some point, the process becomes so frustrating that I realize that my life would be much easier and enjoyable if I just stopped doing this crap. As a project gets more frustrating, I increasingly imagine myself in a life where I come home from my (fictitious) high-paying corporate job and don't have any projects to do in the evening. A life where I can sit on the couch and catch up on all my favorite TV shows. But then quickly after that I think of another project to do and on we go.

Oh Expletive! will continue to raise money/take orders until February 10. Saleem says he's still making new work regularly and is giving away  that work away (for free!) on his Facebook page. He's also working on a story telling project "that will probably take forever to do" and another short film project with local filmmaker Robert Kilman. You can follow his progress on his website

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