Seattle has a reputation for getting rain for nine months out of the year, thus becoming a grey and depressing place. But the city also has a vibrant public art scene, and the concept of Rainworks was essentially born as a combination of these two things, as a way to bring joy to people who might otherwise find the prospect of (another) rainy day quite gloomy. Rainworks are public art pieces on concrete surfaces which are completely invisible when the surface is dry, but become visible when wet. Founder Peregrine Church had initially thought of the idea when he was introduced to the concept of super-hydrophobic coatings, realizing that concrete becomes much darker when wet, and therefore that one could create an image using the contrast between wet and dry concrete.
Rainworks was initially a project that Peregrine and co-founder Xack Fischer would do for fun in their free time, sometime around February of 2014. They later received a grant from the Awesome Foundation and thus an opportunity to make their concept more widely known. Since then, they’ve been busy decorating the streets of Seattle and inspiring creativity, demonstrating their passion to make people smile, creating a more interesting world. The pieces themselves are created using an environmentally friendly, super-hydrophobic coating and stencils, and have received an overwhelmingly positive public response. According to Xack, one of the most difficult transitions for the Rainworks team (they have recently added a third employee, Forest Tresidder) has been the transition from a sort of fun guerrilla street-art project into a functioning business. Indeed, considering this experience of doing something enjoyable and then receiving a grant to promote their work as a business, Rainworks’s story seems to be the inverse of many successful startup stories. This is not to say that it would not be a successful business, but rather that the opportunity had fallen directly into the lap of the founders, perhaps surprising no one more than themselves. The Rainworks team has recently acquired a new office space, and given the interest in their work and the number of people interested in doing their own projects, the team intends to spread knowledge about their projects, rather than seek out interest – after all, Rainworks is an entity which basically promotes itself as an idea, no need for any formal marketing strategy.
From the beginning, the Rainworks team has wanted to inspire other people to go out into the world and do fun and creative things themselves, and they think it’s incredible to see that happening, but it is also a lesson in surrender. The other artists don’t necessarily follow the same rules or guidelines that Rainworks has established for their own work, and a major concern is that other artists will use the wrong super-hydrophobic coatings. The Rainworks team did a lot of testing to find a product that was environmentally friendly and completely invisible when dry, and other products simply don’t work as well. Right now, they are working on a tutorial video, to help teach other people how to make their own Rainworks. The team is also working with the manufacturer of their super-hydrophobic coating to create a special formula specifically for making Rainworks. Also, they’d like to create a worldwide map of user-submitted Rainworks, in order to keep track of global expansion.