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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Remembering Kat2Kit


By Bixyl Shuftan

On Thursday May 21, it was announced over Facebook that Mathew Shapoff, known there as Matt Cyanotype Shapoff and in Second Life as Kat2 Kit, had passed away. This took me by surprise as I'd only talked to him a few weeks ago, and he seemed happy, talking about future plans. His last Facebook post was only one day before, with no hints of trouble, so whatever happened must have been sudden. Kat was 42, and survived by his real-life wife.

To begin with, I'd known Kat for some time. He was part of Pooky Amsterdam's "The 1st Question" game show staff as one of the tinies in the opening act to entertain the audience before the cameras rolled for the game show. In real life, he was an artist who specialized in a kind of blue art called cyanotype. Besides selling it in real life, he also sold pictures of in Second Life. In late December 2009, I stopped by his store, and a few days later in early January 2010, an article about it appeared in Second Life Newspaper, "Kat2 Kit’’s Cyanotype Artwork for Sale in Second Life."

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Residents in Second Life whom have been to Pooky Amsterdam’s “The 1st Question” game show, or seen the episodes online (http://www.the1stquestion.com/) have seen a tiny panda doing the opening acts. He’s also among the tinies in Pooky’s Second Life Machinima “I’m Too Busy to Date Your Avatar” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-MVwwl2jjw ). Kat2 Kit is his name here in the Metaverse.

As it turns out, Kat is also a talented artist in real life, Matt Shapoff of New York City. He works on a kind of artwork called “cyanotype,” and makes some money selling the pictures. A notecard described his work as, “combining 19th Century printmaking techniques with 21st Century digital photography and design.” Besides in real life and on the Internet, digital pictures of his art can be purchased at the LlSound New York sim.

Kat has been doing artwork, “Officially after dropping out of collage for aerospace. ... I got into NYU photo undergrad after discovering this,  on a portfolio I made in high school under my stairs. (I) took one class in "non-silver" where i learned several processes,  but cyanotype was my favorite. In the early 1990's I was doing this. The process is a contact process so I need a negative the size of the print. Usually people do this with BIG cameras. I used a laserwriter and overhead slides. The department chair will now admit I √†was the first to do digital in the department.” Kat says they didn’t act impressed at first, but, “Now the department is Photo and *Imaging*!”

The idea of selling artwork never really came until about fifteen years later. “A dozen or so,” pictures were sold on his first try, Kat described, “It was a jewelry sale for my wife, and we put a few out to see.” What surprised Kat the most was, “I offhandedly set a price, and they paid it! Well, it was what I guess I would part with them at. Pretty high I thought, $75 for an unformed one of a kind 6" wide by 30" long print of local botanicals.” Kat used the plants themselves in the pictures, saying they worked, “but they somewhat expensive in commercial terms. My cards are created in much larger, more repeatable, volume via offset or inkjet.  I have cyanotype cards, but they are a bit pricer.”

Kat first began advertising his commercial art online in 2005, “First with etsy ( http://supermarkethq.com/designer/8511/products ) and then with supermarket ( http://www.etsy.com/shop/handmadeonpeconicbay ). He got the idea of selling them in Second Life, “pretty quickly, as I started making film again, but this time using SL as the camera.” Kat had been a part of Pooky Amsterdam’s “The 1st Question” from the beginning, “I was doing my bike tricks at ‘Brooklyn is Watching’ and she asked me if I would be the opening act for her show.” He also did the filming, “If SL years are like dog or cat’s years, it feels like 10 years.”

Kat went on to say, “We will be on real-life public access on the 31st 3 PM, in New York City. I made the tape. (For) over year I have trying to get the files. I have worked in broadcast media both at S howtime networks, and BBDO. Finally we got enough short together for 1 hour special. Pooky submitted it, and we feel honored to have been chosen for December 31st. We will stream it in-world, and have a part in-sync with real-life. We are considering a weekly show for the Dating Casino ... a real-life slot on MNN TV ... public access.”

Kat’s personal blog is at - http://handmadeonpeconicbay.com. He pointed out a short webfilm on cyanotypes at (http://blip.tv/file/341745?filename=Mattlabs-DigitalCyanotype664.flv). Kat is sometimes seen in Second Life operating a printing press with the tiny panda. He pointed out another short webfilm “Using the Pearl” at - (http://mattlabs.blip.tv/file/1884211/)

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Just a few months later, Kat2 Kit would ask me to write about something else he was involved with. This wasn't about commercial art, but instead a charity. So I wrote "The Great Panda Heist" for Second Life Newspaper, which went up March 25 2010.

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Among the shopping hunts out there in Second Life, there’s one in particular for nature lovers, and those whom simply like fuzzy critters, “The Great Panda Heist.”

Spooky Mistwallow is the organizer of the hunt. In real life, she is a finance analyst, whom writes novels as a hobby. In Second Life, she is a part of Pandas International. In setting up the hunt, she has had the help of Kat2 Kit, whom has been making a name for himself in his tiny panda avatar for his work with Pooky Amsterdam’s “The 1st Question” and other media.

“(The hunt) was Spooky’s idea,” Kat told SL Newspaper at his panda center in Silver Bog, “I was looking for a traveling fundraiser, and this is both fun and traveling.” He brought to attention the Wolong Panda Center, which was severely damaged during the earthquake in China in May 2008. A number of workers and pandas at the center died. Among them, one named Mao Mao, whom was memorialized outside the Pandas International hut in a sculpted statue.

Of how Kat got interested, “I originally had a miniature panda av. ... As I started to talk around, Ling Ling passed. So Cheen Pitney made me a sculpture. The one out here. Little did Cheen know I would wear him. I did a series of photos around the grid. And people started tipping me. Then after the earthquake, Elnora Newel made me a sculpty Ma Mao and baby, this one here. And now for this hunt, Bald made the greater panda up front.” “Baldtraveller,” Spooky corrected, mentioning Baldtraveller Shan.

“I have worked with Kat many times doing fundraisers for Pandas International in the past,” Spooky told, “and I have organized gridwide hunts in my store, so I thought why not combine the two. In this hunt, while every store hides a small panda with a gift inside. Most also have a donation box in the store as well. Even if donations aren’t received from every hunter, they are definitely made aware that pandas are in need, and the existence of this organization.”

Asked about what kinds of stores are in the hunt and what kinds of goods can people expect to find, “Well, I know most of the stores have panda-themed gifts made special for the hunt. Others, include bamboo or are Asian in nature. The items will range from furniture, jewelry, clothing, and anything else you can think of. The stores we hand-picked and are almost all good merchants with whom we have worked with in the past. Again, from every level of merchandise.”

“For example, we are giving out this lovely panda-framed image to visitors here,” Kat spoke as he pointed to a picture.” Spooky continued, “Kastle Rock Couture, my store, for example, is giving out a special color of my fundraiser panda gown, a panda necklace, and an Asian-themed table. I have seen some panda art, a bamboo leaf dress, and a set of ginger jars. There are a few sample pictures on the official hunt blog as well.”

“(There) was an unspoken theme,” Kat informed, “everything had to be cute to ‘ holy s*** that’s cute!’ “ He then rezzed a panda bot, a small cub holding a balloon that began floating around, making grunting cries those around found adorable, Spooky commenting, “that has to be the cutest thing I’ve seen besides Kat. (laughter). .... It’s cute like a baby.”

Spooky has been involved in other charity hunts, “My store participated as a vendor in the AIDS hunt and also provided donation items for Breast Cancer. I also sell year-round three special gowns and give the pandas fifty percent.” Spooky herself was sporting a panda necklace and a panda tattoo, “the tattoo I’m wearing is a hunt gift one of the vendors sent to me. It’s from Suzy Martinek of Love Tattoos. It’s so cute."

Spooky talked about doing a “Party for Pandas” event in the future, “what we do is schedule time at one club after another, an hour usually. We rezz donation boxes that give information about pandas and why they need support. Last time how much did we raise, Kat?”

“Over 20,000 L," Kat answered, "We were verrrry happy. I take the Lindens, cash them out to Paypal, and then make the donation to Pandas International.”

The website for the Panda Heist is at http://greatpandahunt.blogspot.com . A video Kat thought was important was Pennies for Pandas . For a takeoff on the “Roaming Gnome," here is "Ling Ling around the Grid."

Pandas International accepts donations at P.O. Box 620335 Littleton, CO, 80123. It’s website is located at http://pandasinternational.org . They also have a Facebook page.

"The Great Panda Heist” lasts from March 21 to April 30th.

“I am very excited and thankful for all this support. I an starting to find one of the keys to social media, is volunteerism.”

*  *  *  *  *

Kat2 Kit was also a regular at the broadcasting of "Science Friday" in Second Life. He would keep on being part of "The 1st Question" crew for a while. Eventually, he would come on Second Life less frequently, concentrating more on his real-life activities such as his artwork. But we did chat with one another once in a while.

The last time we would meet was March 29, 2015. He teleported me to where he was building a new art shop on a skybox, describing some future plans for selling his work online.

But of course, he would be unable to carry out these plans, at least on his own. One day after his last Facebook post, it was announced he has passed away

A small memorial has been set of for Kat2 Kit at his store in Montauk New York (128/157/24). On Facebook, many have left comments on his page. While in Second Life he might have been small in stature, he had a big following of friends.

Bixyl Shuftan

*Addition* The Jan 2010 article I did was also reprinted in skullenblog (link).

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