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BY LILLY O’DONNELL | For 25 years, Jim Power a.k.a. “The Mosaic Man” has been working on a “Mosaic Trail” through the East Village. Now that trail has led him into the digital age, with Mosaic Man merch for sale on Etsy.com and, more recently, Café Press.com .
Power’s mosaic light poles are emblematic of the artists colony that the East Village once was, and provide markers for historic locations and events. And his mosaic storefront signs lend businesses like Crif Dogs and The Bean an air of authenticity.
Until recently, funding for the Mosaic Trail came from those store signs, at about $1,500 a pop, and occasional donations of money and materials.
“I was never starving,” he said. “But every day I was struggling just to get by and feed my dog.”
Power got nonprofit status through Bowery Arts and Science so that donations would be tax deductible, hoping that would encourage more. But last year, he said, he got less than $500 in donations, which is not even enough to pay for one light pole on the trail when materials and labor hours are included.
The Mosaic Man Etsy store opened on Feb. 26, selling belt buckles featuring Power’s signature mosaic work at $100 to 200 each. In the first 48 hours, the store brought in $1,500, according to Matt Rosen, who has been managing Power’s online presence. After the initial boom, spending slowed, with just slightly more than $2,500 sold in the last six weeks, but, Rosen feels the sales potential is there.
Then, on March 28, they launched the Mosaic Man collection on Café Press, bringing in $336 so far. Power and Rosen are hopeful the Café Press items — T-shirts, mugs, even thongs — will take off, because unlike the belt buckles, which take hours to make and ship, once images are uploaded to Café Press, the site takes care of the rest, leaving Power free to continue his work on the Mosaic Trail and Rosen free to live his life.
Rosen has worked before to help propel the older generation of East Village fixtures into the digital age. He runs the Twitter account for Ray’s Candy Store, a beloved institution. The online presence has helped Ray’s business immensely. Rosen saw an opportunity to do the same for Power.
“I couldn’t do it without him,” said Power. “I’m illiterate in many ways.”
“People knew Jim,” Rosen said. “But there was no way to find him other than to run into him on the street.”
Now that Power is on Twitter, Rosen said, it will be easier to mobilize his audience and supporters. And, now that he’s on Etsy and Café Press, they’ll be able to get something tangible in return for their contributions.
The Café Press collection has only two images available now, but more are planned.
“I wanna see this s— on everything,” Power said. “Every iPad, every tire, every fridge, every diaper. If it’s printable, I want it on it.”