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An artist is making blankets out of blockchain data and they’re gorgeous

Phillip David Stearns turns raw data from Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash, and Monero blockchains into things of beauty

Bitcoin Core closeup

Closeup of “Bitcoin Core” blanket made by Phillip David Stearns, who rendered its data into colors (via Phillip David Stearns)

Moon Lambos are out of the reach of most crypto HODLers, but there’s a more interesting and less gauche way of showing ones love of all things blockchain. An artist based in—where else?—Bushwick, Brooklyn, has created a series of beautiful blankets designed from blockchain data.

Bitcoin Core blanket

Phillip David Stearns’ Bitcoin Core blanket (via Phillip David Stearns).

Phillip David Stearns has been turning his glitch art into textiles for several years, and has done similar projects for Fast Retailing, Uniqlo’s parent company. He recently started experimenting with blockchain data to produce new designs and began selling blankets with blockchain-based patterns on his website just this past week. They currently sell for $200 each.

Phillip David Stearns

Phillip David Stearns

“With the blockchain blankets, the patterns are produced by rendering the raw binary data from a file source into a pixel mosaic,” Stearns said to Modern Consensus. That data is nearly a megabyte taken from the blockchain or the core apps themselves.

Ethereum Core blanket

Phillip David Stearns’ Ethereum Core blanket (via Phillip David Stearns).

The process of converting numbers into colored threads for blankets isn’t as simple as it first sounds. As Stearns explained:

“If you look at a raw block of data, you can look at it in a couple of different ways. On your computer, if you open it up as a text file, you’re basically saying, ‘Each chunk of 0s and 1s in this file, I’m going to chop up into 8-bit chunks and translate that into a character.’ Similarly, you can look at the raw 0s and 1s as hexadecimal in a hex format. Basically, all that’s doing is just packing the 0s and 1s into different groups and representing them differently. That’s how the image gets rendered.”

Then there are a few more steps:

“If you think about how [a .jpg] image is constructed, typically there are three channels—red, green and blue—and each one has a range—0 to 255. That’s 24 bits essentially and that produces a full palette of colors.”

However, it isn’t feasible to get every shade of color that may come from Stearns’ initial rendering woven into a 6-foot long blanket. Some shades are grouped together before the pattern is sent to by Stearns to North Carolina-based Pure Country Weavers.

Bitcoin Blockchain blanket

Closeup of Phillip David Stearns’ Bitcoin Blockchain blanket (via Phillip David Stearns).

Stearns was first inspired to use blockchain data in his art after his friend, journalist Nick Breeze, and artist and programmer Brannon Dorsey began looking into for images and texts encoded into blockchains. Even Bitcoin’s “Genesis block” contains a full headline from the day it was created, “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”.

Ethereum Blockchain blanket

Closeup of Phillip David Stearns’ Ethereum Blockchain blanket (via Phillip David Stearns).

Yet getting the raw hex data for Genesis blocks besides Bitcoin’s turned out not to be so easy. For Ethereum, Stearns tried using Etherscan.

“They weren’t able to give me the raw hex for the Genesis block or any of the blocks for that matter,” he said. “The interface was limited to like returning JSON or XML or whatever. It was kind of like a formatting of the data or as transactions or a list of transactions rather than the bulk raw data from which those things are parsed.”

Monero Blockchain blanket

Closeup of Phillip David Stearns’ Monero Blockchain blanket (via Phillip David Stearns).

So while Bitcoin’s blockchain blanket contains its Genesis block, others like Ethereum’s and Monero’s, do not. And in the case with Dash, Stearns wasn’t sure how his rendering program came up with the way it represented transactions.

Dash Blockchain blanket

Phillip David Stearns’ Dash Blockchain blanket (via Phillip David Stearns).

“You see it has a lot of breaks,” he said. “It’s basically like big pixel glitches esthetics right out of the box. It’s a matter of selecting a composition at that point because maybe at the head, it’s just kind of like a big thick diagonal line running across it. So I’m taking some artistic license with the data that I select and how it looks.”

Lawrence Lewitinn, CFA is editor in chief of Modern Consensus. Disclosure: Lewitinn owns no cryptocurrencies in his portfolio.