Great Wave video … part fourteen
Posted by Dave Bull at 12:08 AM, November 14, 2015 [Permalink]
Posted by Dave Bull at 8:04 PM, November 4, 2015 [Permalink]
There isn't really time tonight to do a 'proper' blog post - at least not what needs to be done - but the calendar is demanding that I put something on record this week, so the carving bench will have to wait a few minutes …
It was another crazy day in the shop today, with Print Parties, a visit from a TV producer setting up a shoot next week, a travel agent visiting to confirm plans for a 20-person Print Party next Monday (we'll use an outside rented room for that …), fun visits from supporters/customers (who did more shopping than we have any right to expect!), a Skype consultation with Jed to confirm details of the February print in next year's subscription set (yes, already under 'construction') ... all accompanied by a steady stream of emails/orders/confirmations/questions about the Great Wave project, which is now within a couple of days of wrapping up at last!
But I said that the calendar is demanding a blog post, so let me try to get a few things down here … The Mokuhankan staff and I had a little dinner get-together the other day, on November 1st. As I mentioned the other day in a Facebook item, this was our 1st anniversary - we opened the doors of the Asakusa shop on Oct 31st last year (one day earlier than planned, to fit a request from a backer). The dinner actually didn't go quite as planned; the first hour or so was OK, but a group of asinine young students then came into the room next to us, and made so much noise that we couldn't continue - we quite literally couldn't hear each other speak. I really got upset with the manager, who refused to make any attempt to quieten them down, and I ended up refusing to pay our full bill … Next time, we'll do a bit more research to ensure a nice environment for our meeting …
It was probably just as well though, because all the other members around the table had had a chance to say their words about the occasion, and it was just as it came to my turn that the noise began. (The staff all had a good laugh about that of course, suggesting that the students had been 'sent' by some outside agency …)
I hadn't intended to make a long speech, just give the staff an outline of a few things that they (for the most part) didn't know.
They mostly know Mokuhankan as it exists at present, our little shop in Asakusa, and the workroom in my home back in Ome. They think it's a few years old. They are wrong.
It began in 1998~1999, just as I was finishing up the long ten-year Hyakunin Isshu poets series. The word 'Mokuhankan' hadn't come to mind yet; I didn't have a name for the project I was cooking up. The concept was quite vague at first. I had been doing well with making/selling reproductions of traditional prints via private subscription, but felt that I wanted to 'modernize' things a little. It didn't seem to be so useful to simply keep making reproductions.
Rather than try to explain more here, let me link to an archive copy of a web page that I put up at that time. This was before Facebook, before YouTube, before Google … and I don't remember how I imagined that I would actually reach many people, but there it was.
Please go take a look at the page.
So how did the experiment turn out? Did I get a flood of response from eager and willing designers?
Well, no. I ended up having conversations with two people, both friends from the (then flourishing) Baren Forum I had started a few years earlier, John Amoss and Gary Luedke. Without a strong showing from interested designers, I hesitated to push the project forward, and ended up letting it slide. I did work with both those two friends, incorporating their designs into two of my Surimono Albums. The wider vision of a 'publishing house' was set aside.
We move ahead to 2005. My project that year had been the - very successful - Hanga Treasure Chest, a set of 24 prints that I had issued every two weeks during the course of the year. There were a lot of subscribers, and the bank account was looking quite nice. The 'publisher' idea reared its head again, but this time with a different cast. Instead of trying to set up a subscription series based on contemporary designs, I would take a different approach - I would simply begin to issue prints one at a time as my resources permitted, putting them into an online shop, using both traditional designs, and - if I could find designers - modern work as well. (The internet was now much more advanced, and shopping online was clearly a 'thing' at this point.)
I needed a 'brand', and after some thought, came up with the word Mokuhankan, which can be translated as 'The place for woodblock prints!' I am able to tell the very day when I came up with that, because the domain registration - which I must have done straight away - is a matter of public record: November 5th, 2005.
So that is why I am making this post today. Early November is clearly the most important time in the calendar for us - our Asakusa shop was one year old this week, and I myself will be 64 next week, but Mokuhankan got its start exactly ten years ago tonight.
The first item - catalogue #1 - was a print made from blocks I had carved some years earlier, to make a Gift Print for the collectors of the Hyakunin Isshu poets series. We've come a very long way in that ten years, of course not entirely in a direction I had intended, but that's irrelevant; we are now well and truly established, I think!
I can't leave a blog post this lengthy without putting some kind of image in, so here's a photo given to me by an amateur photographer who snapped me outside a few days ago, while I was preparing to take some video for the next upcoming YouTube episode.
Happy Anniversaries, Dave! :-)
Thanks for all the years of support!
quote - IT'S HERE! - unquote
Posted by Dave Bull at 8:16 PM, October 7, 2015 [Permalink]
Yes, that's what I'm seeing in my email Inbox any number of times each day now … We've been shipping Great Wave prints bit by bit over the past couple of weeks, and they are now arriving at homes around the world.
We're of course shipping in the same order that the backers joined the campaign. Our printer Mr. Kenichi Kubota is currently on his 3rd batch, bringing them round to our shop around once every ten days or so. At the rate he's going, we'll be finished the Kickstarter fulfillment (219 copies in all) within this calendar month.
Our two shipping ladies are of course ready and waiting for each batch, with all the packing prepared in advance, so each print heads out to the Post Office soon after we receive it (after being checked and numbered).
We're not sending the prints 'bare', but are mounting each one on archival support, packed just as if they were to be put into our shop. We've also written a small pamphlet to accompany the prints:
It's of course available for anybody to read, and you can use this link to download the pamphlet in .pdf format (about 5Mb).
We're so happy to finally be shipping this one; it's been quite the project, far more complex than I initially expected …
Many of you have been asking about the next video, and that's now in preparation. I have the outline worked out, and will be getting it into the can later tonight and tomorrow. Once it's edited - and the (very interesting) 'outside' episode attached - I'll be getting it up to YouTube.
Thank you to everybody once more for your patience with this project!
【 STORE STORY 】
Posted by Dave Bull at 9:44 AM, September 11, 2015 [Permalink]
We are very big fans - very - of Square, the payment processing company. Our Asakusa shop caters to many tourists every day, and it is essential that we have smooth and safe credit card processing available for these people. Traditional credit card services here in Japan are stunningly expensive for the merchants, which is why so few shops here take credit cards. So why post about this here? Well, Square likes us too! They have just featured our shop on their 【 STORE STORY 】blog.
(It's all in Japanese, but you can enjoy the pretty pictures!)
All the Print News that Fits ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 9:49 PM, August 6, 2015 [Permalink]
Because our shop in Asakusa is somewhat off the beaten path - at least when it comes to woodblock print shops, which are for the most part clustered in the Jimbocho district - most of the people who visit us did not seek us out because we are a print shop; they either came to see the Ukiyoe Heroes prints, they came for a Print Party, or they just dropped in randomly.
We have thus learned over the past months since we opened, that very few of our visitors actually know much about woodblock prints. Is this a problem? Of course not at all; it's a wonderful opportunity!
But it does mean that quite a lot of the conversations we have with people here sometimes tend to veer into 'teaching' mode - we end up explaining not only such things as how the prints were made, but a great deal of background information on them as well.
The other day I came up with a way to help our staff deal with this situation. I am going to create - bit by bit over the coming months and years - a number of small pamphlets that we will pass out to visitors that will help them learn about the things that they see in the shop. Of course we will continue to explain as much as necessary, but I think having such material also on hand will help a great deal.
There is no reason that such material should be confined to the Asakusa shop, so we'll also post them online so that other people can 'read along' too. The first one - a small (4-page) pamphlet talking about one of the prints in our inventory, the well known 'Shinjuku' print by Toshi Yoshida, is now ready. This is an image of the first page ...
… or you can use this link to download the pamphlet in .pdf format.
Any feedback (or suggestions for future content) would be appreciated ...
Another very big day ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 9:45 AM, August 3, 2015 [Permalink]
We're in a very important guidebook!
Here is a very rare scene … this is not something you see me holding every day of the week, for sure ...
The occasion? This small snippet clipped from a page of a book just published yesterday …
The book in question is the new Lonely Planet guide to Tokyo, the 2015 edition. It seems that they have been renewing this series every two years, and the 2013 edition has just been replaced.
We frequently see tourists strolling down our street with a Lonely Planet guide in hand … and most of them pass straight by, with their nose buried in it. Well, hopefully starting soon they'll be looking up when they get to our place!
(And now, our fingers are crossed yet once again. This is the 'Tokyo' guide, but I believe that the Lonely Planet 'Japan' guide is much more important, as many people plan to travel down the length of the country (Kyoto, Hiroshima, etc.), and thus purchase that volume instead. Will we be in the Tokyo section of that one too? We'll find out in a few weeks, when the new version hits the shelves …)
Asakusa shop data ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 10:43 AM, July 12, 2015 [Permalink]
Sales data from the Asakusa shop ...
In the Asakusa shop, we don't have a traditional cash register; I think those things are expensive and outdated. We use an iPad outfitted with 'register' software and a credit card reader, and this handles most of what we need. Most customers of course pay by cash or card, but we also have some who wish to pay via Paypal or Bitcoin, and for those we have a computer standing by with the appropriate software running to handle such transactions.
All the sales information flows through the iPad into a database, so it's easy for us to get readouts of interesting data.
Here's an image showing the accumulated sales since we opened last fall (officially on November 1st, but with one Print Party happening the afternoon before …)
You can see that we had an initial burst, which turned out not to be sustainable. This was presumably 'pent up' demand waiting for us to open, but for the next few months the winter 'tourist slump' shows clearly.
You can then see the spring 'Sakura Bubble' when the streets were flooded with visitors from overseas. This lasted a few weeks, and things then settled down again.
We have yet to see a full year pattern, but I guess that through July and August we are going to see pretty steady growth. Autumn is also a busy season in this district, and we will perhaps then become quiet again through the winter. Our 'plan' (such as we have one) will be to study the yearly pattern, and then try to encourage local demand during the times when foreign visitor numbers are low.
The bottom left graph is of course the weekly pattern. We're (usually) closed on Tuesdays as you can see, but the interesting thing is that the Tuesday business is simply shifted to Wednesdays! So we're not really losing anything by having a closing day, I think. Visitors to Tokyo are simply scheduling their visits around our pattern. (Maybe we should close six days a week, and concentrate all our efforts on one spectacularly busy day each week!
Great Wave video … part thirteen
Posted by Dave Bull at 5:01 PM, July 5, 2015 [Permalink]
Nearly done with our Great Wave series!
My new job ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 11:50 PM, June 28, 2015 [Permalink]
Dave gets a moment of global fame ...
I haven't been very successful at keeping this blog up to date recently, as just about everything else that I do here has a higher 'priority', but I came across something today that was just too rich to miss!
One day shortly after moving into the shop in Asakusa, I checked the Google Street View of our street (known as Roku Dori) and found - as expected - that our shop sign was not visible. The view I saw must have been taken perhaps a couple of years earlier, as a nearby large building was still just a hole in the ground. I suspected that it would be quite a while before the Google car made another pass down our street, although I of course don't know their schedule for refreshing these views …
Well, I checked again this evening just in case there had been an update, and found that - yay! - they've been by recently, and our shop - and its sign - are now visible! Here's the Google view as you enter the street, with our shop just barely visible over at the left ...
When you move closer, and 'turn your head' to the left, you see our sign clearly.
The front door is open, and one of our flags is outside. The neighbouring shoe shop is not open yet, so it must be around nine in the morning, I guess. But look at this! Move slightly to the left, and what do we see?? Dave is out there doing the morning street cleaning!
The Google car must have passed by right in front of me, and I never noticed. Too busy doing 'my part' to keep our neighbourhood clean … :-)
If you would like to view this yourself, just punch our address [Tokyo, Taito-ku, Asakusa 1-41-8] into a Google search box, and once the street map is visible, drop the little orange mannikin onto the street in front of our shop to bring up Street View. I have no idea how long I will be 'frozen in time' sweeping, before being replaced by a newer snapshot ...
Great Wave video - part twelve ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 12:29 AM, May 22, 2015 [Permalink]
New print display panel ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 11:09 AM, May 20, 2015 [Permalink]
A new display panel in the Asakusa shop ..
We're still building out the shop, bit by bit as we get time (or as I manage to overcome another bout of procrastination and decision making …), and this weekend we finally put up the display board for some of our current offerings of subscription prints.
The left side of the panel shows the entire set of Chibi Heroes that we produced back in 2013, and which are still re-printing to keep up with demand:
And the other side has the full set of Ukiyoe Heroes Portraits from 2014. These prints also are also doing very well, and keeping not only our own printers, but also an outside freelance printer, constantly busy.
We've still got lots of unused wall space here, and hundreds of woodblocks in the storeroom … stay tuned!
Great Wave video - part eleven ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 2:43 AM, May 9, 2015 [Permalink]
The epic journey to make the Great Wave design continues ...
For more entries, please make a selection from the 'Table of Contents' section of the SideBar on the right ...