Another day, another party …
Posted by Dave Bull at 7:22 PM, November 16, 2014 [Permalink]
Which is worse, a blog post with no pictures, or no blog post …
We had a chance for the perfect photo to illustrate this post today, but we simply didn't have a chance to snap it. When I say 'we', I mean staffer Shiba-san and I, who were running the ship today, and we certainly didn't have time to mess around with cameras!
It was a beautifully clear blue sky Sunday, and Roku-dori (as our street is officially known) was jammed from late morning until long after we shut the door around six or so. That's nothing unusual for this street, but - as I have mentioned before here on this blog and in the A Story A Week - traffic on the street hasn't translated directly into traffic up our stairs.
But we've been playing around with the entranceway a bit, and are now on (I think) our 4th iteration of the poster on the front door, and we've also put a pamphlet rack down there, and have put a series of signs on the stair risers: … Come up … and browse … our prints ...
It's been helping, bit by bit, and today things kind of clicked, because it was a madhouse here for much of the afternoon. At one point, we had people coming up the stairs, trying to poke their nose in, and heading back down; there was simply no room for them.
The first Print Party started around one in the afternoon (reserved online) with five people, and the next group of three was waiting for me as they finished, and the next group was waiting after them. And in-between, other people - who couldn't wait long enough - ended up leaving with no chance to try it …
The photo I wanted to show you was the scene I caught a glimpse of just near the end of one Party, with the Party room full, the next three people getting their aprons on, more people on stools waiting in line, and in the 'distance' people spilling into the hallway from the shop area.
We actually didn't sell a ton of stuff today, and just made our 'base target' (the daily level we need to keep things going), but a major factor in that was the fact that it was just too difficult for people to quietly look at prints.
I have no idea how to start to get this chaos organized. I think the Print Parties will settle down; once they become more widely known, we'll simply ask everybody to reserve in advance, and won't do the 'drop in, let's do this anytime' that we are currently offering. That should stabilize the Party side, but as for the shop, there isn't much I can do at this point. We have a very tight space, and there is simply no way that we can expand it.
And of course it isn't going to be like this every day. Tomorrow and the next day will be very quiet probably, perhaps nobody at all will come in, and we'll be able to get some printing work done, as well as some of the waiting paperwork.
Our roller-coaster ride continues ...
The money goes round ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 12:23 AM, November 11, 2014 [Permalink]
A bit of a different update tonight ... I recently posted stories about our opening days to my A Story A Week series [1 2], so anybody interested in reading about 'how we are doing' so far can check those for an update. Here on the Conversations blog, I'd like to update you with some info on a more hidden side of our business.
Everybody knows that we ran a Kickstarter campaign a couple of months back. It gathered quite a lot of support from our old fans and friends (and of course a bunch of new ones), and the money people spent there was intended to help us build our new shop. As I wrote in the campaign page, we thought we had basically enough money to cover everything, but ran the campaign anyway, because we felt that things were just too 'close'.
That was one of the smartest things I have ever done. As Lee-san, Ioan and I got deeper into the renovation, we came across many aspects of the work that caused problems and delays (completely normal for a renovation of an old structure of course.) The work that I had originally thought could be done in 'around a month or so' took us the best part of two months. My labour costs thus doubled, and we also lost the (anticipated) revenue from what would have been our first month open, but which was instead an extended renovation period.
In addition to this delay, my absence from the Ome workshop led that work to fall further and further behind. My crew kept up (barely) with the subscription prints, but a lot of other things got ignored, and over the past few weeks, things became pretty shaky, with all manner of jobs waiting for 'Dave to do something' before they could proceed properly.
Money became a real problem. My accounts were scraped to the bottom, my credit card was maxed out, and it was only the prospect of Kickstarter money arriving that kept us moving forward. But where was the Kickstarter money? The campaign ended at the end of September; surely we had the money by now, didn't we?
Well, no. At the end of the campaign, Kickstarter waited the advertised two-week period for peoples' payments to clear, and then sent the money to Ioan's account in Canada. But as he was still in Japan working on the construction, he was unable to initiate the international transfer, something that had to be done in person at his Vancouver bank.
After he returned to Vancouver in mid October, he immediately started that process, but it didn't go smoothly. The first two transfer attempts were returned to his bank (after about a week of delay each time) and it wasn't until just about a week ago - right on the last day of October - that his bank told him that it had gone through.
My payroll was due at the beginning of November, and I had nowhere near enough money to cover it, not to mention a ton of other bills due, but there was no sign of the money from Canada. As we moved into November, I asked many of the staff to 'please hang on a bit longer', and I got the credit card company to extend more credit to allow me to pay the people who had rent or mortgages due, and who were thus unable to wait.
And still nothing came through.
Late Friday night, I found out what the problem was. I had returned to Ome after nearly a week down at the shop, and found a stack of mail and newspapers in the entranceway. The Ome staff had not touched any of this, but as I went through it I found a letter from the Post Office Bank. It told me that money had arrived for me from overseas, but that they were unable to deposit it into my account until I answered a few questions. I'll scan it here for you ...
Yes. For nearly a week, the Post Office had been waiting for me to confirm that I am not a terrorist, and that I am not buying weapons of mass destruction.
At the bottom of the letter was contact information (a phone number) with the note: "Office hours Monday to Friday, 9 to 5"
I called the number Monday morning (this morning) at 9:00:01 and spoke with a young lady, trying as well as I could to avoid screaming abuse at her. She had a script to follow, and insisted on reading the full text of each of those questions, one by one. I answered properly, mightily resisting the impulse to shout out something about the delay in my most recent missile shipment ... She then replied that the money would be in my account the next morning.
At that point, I did lose it. I put on the coldest hardest harshest voice I could, and demanded that the remittance be deposited into my account by noon. Noon, at the latest.
I spent the next hour or so busy at this keyboard distributing it to other accounts, from which I made transfers to cover all the overdue bills, and of course all the staff salaries. There is even a bit left. Not much, but something.
All the expenses of building this new place are now paid and behind us. I am debt free, my credit card cleaned off. We don't quite have enough in the bank to cover next month's salaries, but there are three weeks left this month, during which we will of course have more income. We still have to fulfill all the Kickstarter rewards, but that's something we can handle in the normal course of business over the next couple of months (most of the two 'in stock' reward prints have already been shipped, and work on the Great Wave print will now get underway ...)
We're up and running!
Today at the shop was the second day of our Open House, and a number of business friends dropped by near the end of the day, including carver Asaka-san, the man who did the negotiations of the lease agreement on this place so many months back. I left the stack of stuff on my desk to stew by itself, and asked them to join me for dinner, taking them to a nice little place I have discovered just around the corner from our shop. We hoisted a few beers, and I happily accepted their congratulations on the opening.
After they left, I cleaned up a bit in the shop, put out the shop garbage bags for the morning, and then headed for the station to begin the long journey back to Ome, where I have to spend tomorrow with the staff here catching up on all the waiting backlog.
I'm now at my desk in Ome, posting this just after midnight Tokyo time. I've had a bit too much beer this evening, and am kind of tired, but hey, it's now my birthday!
It's been a pretty good few years, these past few ... since taking the decision to 'open up' the workshop and bring in other people. I could not have imagined any of these recent experiences, and I guess that's the way it's going to be for the next little while ... I honestly have no idea where this thing is headed. We're on a kind of rocket, and we all know what that means: either a steady flight to a stable orbit, or .... ka-boom, and nothing left but dust. There is no inbetween.
But what a ride!
Grand Tour ... (Part II ...)
Posted by Dave Bull at 6:52 AM, November 4, 2014 [Permalink]
Moving along with the tour ... let's insert here one of those photos from the previous post a few months back:
And here we are now:
At this point, I can mention that the owner of the building - a very elegant 'little old lady' type - visited us today, seeing her building for the first time since she leased it to us. She has had no idea at all what we were actually up to, and when she got to this point, her face just lit up. (And well it should - we've basically made her a 'present' of around $35,000 ...)
Anyway, moving right along!
The panel on the right hand side of the wall - directly where people who are in the shop area will see it - is the HangaClub display:
And if we look to the left, through the new opened up wall, we can see into the shop itself:
My cheap little camera can't handle the contrasts in lighting here, but you get the idea - these are the browsing bins for the prints, of course.
As promised all the way along, there is a small 'light stand' next to the bins, where people can place the prints to see then under 'proper' (horizontal) illumination. It's not actually as bright as it looks in this bad photo ...
The prints look just great!
Turning around, we see the other end of the shop, and I have to apologize that this corner is not yet ready. We're actually using it as our own space (register, etc.) at the moment, but over the next week, we will build the 'Living with Woodblock Prints' browsing section - subscription series, albums, etc. etc.)
Behind it - at the end of the hallway, is where the staff - and shop manager - will have their own space (also still under construction):
This next one you've seen before, but now it's all cleaned up and polished, and ready for action. See the panel above the paper rolls? Instructions! (Shop manager Ishikawa-san thinks I've gone overboard with those, but all I did was explain quite tersely, the functions of the first group of buttons. I ignored all the rest ...) (I'll post the text in the comments section below ...)
And as for the 'back room' - the printer's workshop - we're not even close. All the 'furniture' is there, but it's now waiting for myself and Lee-san to put it together. Maybe next week we'll have a better picture for you!
Actually, by next week we'll have to have a better picture. Next Sunday/Monday will be the 'Open House' days (invitations are going out tomorrow), so we have no choice but to get it done by then ...
Sleep? Never touch the stuff!
After I took these photos, it was time to head home, so I went to the front door, and switched the sign to the 'closed' position (sticking it to more velcro tape on the inside of the glass:
And then left the street to the night hawks and the jeweler ...
Thanks for watching ...
Grand Tour ... (Part I ...)
Posted by Dave Bull at 11:02 PM, November 3, 2014 [Permalink]
Well, we've been open for three days now, and whether I have 'time' for it or not, I clearly need to bring an update for all the fans and backers ... Here's a set of photos I snapped this evening, after everybody else had left and I finished the 'chores' (shutting down the register, getting all the garbage sorted and put outside, and cleaning up the Print Party zone ...)
Way back in a previous life - around five months ago - I put a set of photos on this blog that I took on our first entry into this building. Let's do something similar this evening, walking around the same route ...
Here's our building from the street; even though we are now ready to close (just after 5:30) the jeweler downstairs still has all his lights on, and they will still be 'till well after ten. (We're not that desperate!).
We've got a weather-proof poster on the front door, held to the glass with velcro tape (more about that later). This is Mark III of the poster; we've been reprinting it as we get feedback from visitors, etc. Our current feeling - as you can see - is that we want to emphasize the Print Party part of our business ...
We've been stealthily watching people as they walk along the street, and more than a few of them glance at the poster, peek up the stairs, and then - seeing nothing recognizable - move on. So we put a copy of a print image on the wall just inside the door, to help let them know what they will see if they do venture upstairs ...
Do you remember the photo of the staircase in that previous blog entry? Well it has changed quite a bit! We kept the wooden planters, but pretty much everything else has been renewed. New concrete steps replace the broken ones, new wall panels cover the old broken walls, new paint, new non-skid treads, a new light half-way up ... And definitely a new view up at the top!
We've received a few flowers from supporters ... including one from my family over in Vancouver ... thanks gang!
There's a little alcove at the top of the stairs, and just above the umbrella stand we've mounted a little panel:
Here's a closeup:
And here's the text from the panel below it:
The Construction Team
Renovation work for construction of this shop was done during September/October 2014 by the three guys you see in this actual photo (!) From left to right, they are:
Lee-san has worked for Mokuhankan before, making batches of paulownia wood storage cases for Dave’s prints, and we were very happy that he was available for this job. Lee-san built the central shop area, including all the cabinetry, and then had a hand in pretty much everything else you see around you.
Dave (the owner of Mokuhankan) worked out the initial design and concept for the shop. His part in the actual construction was mostly the electrical work, preparing the Print Party bench space, and then assisting the other two guys: “Hold this while I drill ...” or “We need more supplies...” etc. etc.
Ioan is Dave’s son-in-law, and came over from Canada for seven weeks to help out with this job. He built the new bathroom, ripping out the old squatter in its tiny space and replacing it with the modern and pleasant room we now enjoy, doing all the framing, plumbing and finishing. He also re-built the entrance staircase, where a previous renovation had left ragged and broken concrete steps halfway up the flight, and was the main painter and wallpaper hanger.
The three of us had a blast working on this project. We hit a bunch of thumbs, we downed a fair amount of Asahi Beer (evenings only, of course!), we introduced Ioan to the pleasures of a hot public bath at the end of a day’s work, and all-in-all had a pretty good time. We hope you enjoy the results of our work!
As you stand on that landing, you can see through the new window into the shop area:
And then going through the door, you have two choices - left or right. To the right is the Print Party zone, with the apron rack and the bench for getting your shoes off (the actual shoe box isn't ready yet ...)
Looking into the Print Party room, it's the big bench that dominates the room. Note the new two-level platform that Lee-san built so that kids will be able to reach the bench and make prints ...
We've already begun making prints here, and this bench isn't going to stay so clean and neat for much longer!
The coffee machine has also had a pretty good workout over the past few days, and it seems as though it might have been a good choice. There is a reasonable selection of drinks for everybody, they are dispensed quickly, and it's not so expensive. The only unknown factor is just how it will hold up over time ... we'll see.
But I think we'll have to leave it here for tonight. It's been a very long day, and tomorrow will be much longer. I'll try to bring you Part 2 - the other end of the building - as soon as I can ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 7:06 PM, October 28, 2014 [Permalink]
Our large 'baren' sign is finally raised!
Another big milestone last night ... (quite late last night!) ... the large sign went up!
Let's see how it happened! The steel frame was made for me by a neighbour in Ome. He fixes up motorbikes as a pastime, and has a little workshop with welding capabilities. After I described what I wanted, he laid out a pattern on the floor, cut some metal to fit, and started building ...
It took a while to get done actually, but once it was finished, I had the parts trucked to the new shop, and staffer Lee-san and I began the difficult installation job. Here we are bolting the bottom half into position:
We stationed people below to keep pedestrians away - dropping a wrench on somebody's head would put a quick finish to our entire business! With the first section tightly in place, we hoisted up the top half ...
Being bolted to the balcony (which is iron, not aluminum) is certainly not enough support, so we anchored the top directly to the concrete wall.
Here's Lee-san driving in an anchor bolt ...
After it was all secure, we wrapped the bare metal with stiff foam tubes (the kind used to insulate water pipes):
We then brought out the rolled-up sign, draped it over the frame, and began 'sewing'. It wasn't easy, and we made a couple of false starts, getting it slightly crooked, not much, but bad enough to be visible from the street.
After we got it basically in position, and straight, Lee-san then put on a safety belt and headed 'out' to do the final tying of the lower portion ... By this time it was getting dark, but the streetlights here are very bright, and we could continue working.
Now that it's up, it seems to look a lot smaller than we had expected, but as this was the largest size that the fabric printing companies we investigated could make (at least in our price range), it'll have to do for now ...
And we have no more excuses, and no more reasons to delay. We're not ready to open yet, but we'll never be 'ready'. So next weekend it is ... November 1st. Ready or not, here we come!
Posted by Dave Bull at 10:28 AM, October 24, 2014 [Permalink]
We're approaching opening day ...
I just posted a major update message to the Kickstarter campaign page. You can see it here.
But for the record, let's put some of the photos on this blog as well. The Print Party bench!
The small shelf above the main bench is where the moistened paper will rest between colour blocks. For the first print we are preparing, there will be four blocks, resulting in a seven (perhaps eight) colour finished print.
The new lighting has transformed the room!
Here's a shot of the other end of the room (it came in too late for the Kickstarter update) - this shows the two benches where the participants can sit after they take turns printing, along with the coffee corner (still not completely finished). Brand new tatami mats ... $1400 worth! (sob!)
Over in the shop area, the new browser bins are almost ready, with a print 'viewing' platform to the side:
The large corkboard will be jammed with a selection of prints from our HangaClub series:
And this is the 'Living with Woodblock Prints' corner, where the albums and subscription series will be available for perusal, in a comfortable environment ...
But there is so much still to do! More later ... thanks for your patience!
Posted by Dave Bull at 2:23 AM, October 5, 2014 [Permalink]
Another construction update ...
Working through into the evening every day doesn't leave much time for blogging, but I've gathered together a few snaps of our current progress on the shop construction.
This first photo wasn't taken down in Asakusa, but in my home in Ome ... I just took delivery of three benches for the Print Party room, and here are a couple of them!
We'll hold them here in Ome until the tatami mats are delivered down at the shop, and then truck them over.
And finally - finally! - I'm done with the electrical preparation. I've added six new circuits to the building, running cable back to this location - where the new breaker panel will sit.
I'm of course not going to do that part of the work myself; we've arranged for a professional electrician to take it from here. He'll install a new 12-breaker panel, connect up my new lines, then arrange with the supply company to kill the source while he moves the old three circuits over. And we'll get an upgrade of the supply to 60 amps from the current 20.
While I was busy with that work, Ioan has moved on from his bathroom construction and has attacked the front stairs. A previous reform left these in terrible shape - they jackhammered the lower third of the flight to reduce the width of the staircase in order to give more room to the 1st floor shop.
We can't change that back, but we can clean up the ragged mess they left behind. Ioan is pouring new concrete to rebuild the steps ...
... building a form for each one in turn ...
While he waits for the concrete on each one to dry, he puts on a different hat and gets busy with something else. Here he is painting one of the walls of the Print Party room.
Look at that ceiling - left behind from the time that this was an upscale Japanese restaurant in times gone by. We have no intention at all to tear that down, but it took quite some time to find a long and thin lighting unit that would fit there.
Lee-san has been busy back in the shop area; the past couple of days he has been building a kind of hanging 'box' with spotlights to shine down on the counter area:
We're thinking that this will add a lot to the ambiance of the place ...
For the last three images in this set today, it might be worthwhile reading the 'A Story A Week' that is also being published today ... because this is the location of that action!
Here's the new vanity ... Unfortunately there won't be much room left under it for storage, as the water heater eats up most of the space ...
And as we mentioned in that story, "We have water, plenty of water!"
This final photo was taken after the story was written, and the toilet all wired up. It works perfectly! (We've tested it ... no photo available ... )
We just have to fix the control panel to the wall, and this little room will be 'open for business'.
Do you think we should prepare an English translation of the controls, or let people figure it out for themselves? :-)
Blue Storm progress ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 11:37 AM, September 28, 2014 [Permalink]
An update on the most recent Ukiyoe Heroes print
As part of the intense juggling act that is going on here recently, one 'ball' that has repeatedly been dropped on the floor is the carving work on the next Ukiyoe Heroes print - the Blue Storm image.
I think we have quite a number of people who are - to put it mildly - not so happy with me about this. It's no good telling them "We kept to our Kickstarter promises very well over the past couple of years, and got those Heroes prints out right on schedule!", because they don't care about that ... they just want to receive this new print that they paid for (some of them months ago!)
They also don't care much about my 'excuses' - the staggering workload that has come to us because of the huge success of this year Portraits subscription series, and of course all the work involved with opening up the new shop in Asakusa. These are both things that were unknown to me back when I promised the delivery date on the Blue Storm design ...
Anyway, I can now report some progress. I left Ioan and Lee-san to work on the shop construction over the past couple of days, and spent as much time as I could at the carving bench working on the final block in the set - the one with a zillion thin lines to print rain over the face of the print.
It took more than a few hours to get 'comfortable' again at the bench - it's been so long since I was able to sit here like this doing my carving!
That rain block isn't yet done, but it's close ... Here are the blocks so far (one side):
And with most of them flipped over to show the other sides ...
But I now have to put this aside, in order to do the test printing on #11 in the Portraits series, because the printing crew will be ready to start work on that one on Monday morning, and they need a good model in place before they can start. If I delay that, 400 people are going to be screaming at me!
And I have to prepare and send the line drawing for the initial Print Party design down to our carver in Kobe - Noriko Kawasaki-san - who is standing by waiting for it. No carving ... no block ... no Print Parties!
And Monday I have to put the final electrical circuits in place in the new shop, because the pro electrician is now standing by to install the main breaker panel, and he (justifiably) refuses to start while (unlicensed) Dave is fooling around with wiring at the other end of the building. Only once my prep work is done, will he step in and do his job (installing the new breaker panel, installing the air conditioning in the Print Party room, and arranging the upgrade of the main power supply from 20A to 60A). And with new power in place, finally we'll be able to start using the bathroom, instead of running to a nearby park many times a day (both the water heater and toilet need electricity to function ...).
I'll be back here in Ome on Wednesday, to do the month-end bookkeeping - which is going to kick us well into the red this time. (We won't be receiving any Kickstarter revenue for weeks yet ... but once it arrives, it should carry us through to the end of the year, maybe.) As soon as that paperwork is done, I'll get back to this carving work - which will sit here quietly waiting for my return.
Once I kill this final block, it will then be time for test printing, and with that final barrier removed, the edition printing will follow quickly.
At this point all I can do is ask the waiting collectors for their cooperation and patience while I dig through this work. (I can promise that I will attempt to make up a bit for these delays by including a 'little something' extra in the package when it arrives, if that helps ...) Thank you all for your support!
Construction update ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 9:03 AM, September 25, 2014 [Permalink]
Construction slowly moves along ...
After building the bathroom, Ioan has moved on to the main shop area; here he is with his white 'taxi' gloves on, working on the ceiling;
He made short work of it ... at least until we ran out of tiles!
Lee-san is still working on the main shop counter - he's using an abrasive wheel to texture the boards that will face the hallway ...
Given our budget - and the astonishing costs of lumber in Japan - we're trying to stretch our resources a bit by using some inexpensive wood here, but I think that once he's finished with this, you would never know that ...
A new face! This is Fernando Saiki, a student from Brazil here on a scholarship program to study woodblock print traditions. He's not learning much about that while plastering cracks in our walls, but his day will come!
This is the corner of the Print Party room where the coffee machine will reside (if we ever manage to identify a suiltable one - any advice?). The cupboard below will hold cups, etc., and the section on the right will be a charging station for our customer's phones, etc., so that they can get their device powered up properly while having a print party ...
And the emergency exit sign is already in place; we're not ready for people to come in yet, but we're ready to make sure they can get out!
Many people have been asking us when we will be ready to open. We have been saying 'early October' but that's clearly not going to happen. There are only three of us doing the main work here, and we're all amateurs at this game. It's going pretty slowly.
Here's a bit of a reality check - jobs still waiting to be done ...
- Print Party room
- locate, purchase, and install the main work table (over three meters long!)
- install the smaller shelf over the main table, where the moistened paper will reside
- finish the shelves inside the coffee corner table
- find a coffee machine
- finish the charging station
- install the air conditioner (an outside guy will be doing this for us)
- finish panelling the north wall
- paint all the other walls
- put new paper on the cupboard doors
- install the bench seats (already built and waiting, but we haven't yet found the circular 'igusa' cushions we need ...)
- lay down the new tatami (already ordered)
- Hallway area
- Shoe box for Print Party customers (no shoes in the print party room)
- apron rack / coat rack
- build the large display for the new HangaClub print series along the wall
- finish refacing the outside of the shop wall
- varnish the hallway floor
- re-paint all the walls
- Shop area
- install track lights (wiring is ready and waiting)
- purchase and hang new wallpaper (already chosen)
- re-build shoji screen and install
- build the 'box' to enclose the downspots over the counter, including installation of seven spotlights (wiring is ready and waiting)
- build the shelf above the main counter
- frame and install a window at the top of the stairs
- lay down the new carpet flooring
- build the browser bins for holding the prints
- design, build, and install the 'video corner'
- install the water heater under the sink
- connect all the water lines and finally get running water!
- install the toilet itself (all plumbed and ready to go ...)
- build the final wall segment, and hang the door
- finish off all the mouldings
- Printer's room
- install two workbenches (coming from the Ome workshop)
- figure out how to build lights for them, because we can't hang some from the ceiling
- paint all the walls
- build a storage unit/shelves for the printer's tools
- purchase and install the fridge and freezer (for pigments, paper, food, etc.)
- remove old and loose treads
- patch all the chipped concrete steps
- rebuild (with concrete or mortar) a heavily damaged step
- paint all the steps
- install 'no skid' treads
- add one more light to cover the bottom third of the flight
- re-paint the walls and ceiling of the entire stairway area
- install the new main electrical panel (wiring all prepared; pro electrician will do this job)
- with the new panel in place, call the electricity company to upgrade us from 20A to 60A
- rebuild the wall directly inside the entrance (old ragged plaster is still visible)
- design and install print displays in the alcoves ...
- remove the old entranceway slab floor that cracked in last week's earthquake, and replace it with wood flooring laid over a new concrete base layer
- install the large metal frame for the sign (being built for us)
- tie the sign on
- figure out, build, and install the sign lighting
- do something with the front door ...
And on top of this we still don't have internet, because NTT hasn't figured out how to get the fibre into the building ...
'Ready by the end of the month!' Well ...
Signing in ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 9:25 PM, September 20, 2014 [Permalink]
Preparing our large canvas sign ...
Just a quick note this evening ... a couple of photos taken back in the Ome place ...
Here's Sadako-san busy with her sewing machine, on perhaps the largest hemming job she has ever done!
Next step will be punching a whole ring of grommets around the edge, ready for hoisting it up ...
Or maybe I should keep it here as a carpet!
Construction continues ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 10:20 PM, September 19, 2014 [Permalink]
Another construction update ...
Bit by bit we're getting this place together. Ioan has finished the drywalling on all the walls in the shop area, and Lee-san's counter is now 'topped' and waiting for the shelf section. This will be the 'Living with woodblock prints' corner, where people can sit and browse our print sets and desk stands, and get a feel for how the prints will look in their own home ...
Do you see the darker space to the left of Ioan in this next photo? It's actually a hole in the concrete side of the building where there used to be a window. That must have been many many years ago, because the building next door - which is built right flat against ours - is easily fifty years old. It must have been a sad day ... the people who used this room would have seen the new concrete wall come up and obscure their view ...
How would you suggest we use that 'empty' window space? We think we have a good plan for it ...
This next photo shows something we expected to come across on the first day we began tearing walls down, but didn't see until just yesterday, when I lifted these floorboards to run some new electrical wiring - a sizeable mouse nest!
The inhabitants have scattered (presumably to upstairs I think). We're not anticipating a major problem with vermin; in all our time here so far, we have seen absolutely no traces of mouse droppings, or roaches, or anything else in that department. They are certainly in the building, because the guy upstairs does have trouble with them, but I think that if we keep our place clean - and aired and active - we should be OK.
The smallest room in the shop is also coming along nicely - although we are perhaps running a bit ahead of ourselves by putting the vanity in place before we get that column re-painted ...
Meanwhile, out on the neighbourhood streets ...
The other afternoon we heard the sound of somebody playing an accordion drifting in the front window, and when I peeked out, I saw this lady strolling along ...
And Lee-san captured this shot of a procession of rickshaw carts taking a wedding party from a local shrine back to their hotel ...
Rickshaw carts ... Hmm ... does that give anybody any ideas about how we might promote some of our Ukiyoe Heroes prints? :-)
Construction progress ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 9:04 AM, September 13, 2014 [Permalink]
A report on the construction progress ...
It's been over a week since the previous update, and I thought by this time we would have a lot more to report ... But a lot of the work we are doing isn't particularly visible - trying to figure out how to run all the new wiring through, under, and over the walls ...
We got fairly lucky at the beginning, in that all the demolition garbage fit into a single truck load. This saved us a ton of money, as removing this sort of waste here in (very strict) Tokyo is a very expensive proposition, and we needed to file quite a stack of paperwork to get this stuff removed. I have no complaint about that at all - many of the small mountain roads near my home used to be lined with construction waste dumped illegally, and the current system of trying to track it from source is something that I will happily comply with.
One part of the building does show progress clearly - the new bathroom:
Ioan is right at home on this part of the job, having done this sort of thing before ...
The previous walls were covered with horse-hair plaster; we're sticking with standard drywall. And considering that this toilet abuts the shop space, we've stuffed the inside of the walls with sound-absorbing insulation, even around the switch boxes and other gaps.
The building itself is steel-reinforced concrete, and as we have no way to run conduit inside the concrete for our new wiring, we're having to go around various pillars with visible trunking.
And given that I am labelling all the wiring carefully, whoever does the next reform job in this building will have a much easier time of it!
Here is an overview before we knocked off last night: Ioan is re-build the bathroom floor, putting in new joists on closer centers than before, and Lee-san is putting in the base section of the first shop cabinets ...
Oh, and one more thing ... on Wednesday afternoon, we were witness to the 'Great Flood of 2014' ... at least that's how our neighbours are already describing it ...
This is late summer, and sudden rainstorms are not uncommon, but this ...
... is probably not what the owners of the new hotel across the street from us bargained for when they put up their building. Their architect has a lot to answer for - just why he decided to put the first floor at a level around a meter below street level ...
Back on our side of the street, the water came up just to the edge of the sill - that's the owner of the jewelry shop downstairs standing in his entranceway:
It began to subside a few minutes later, and - with the exception of the hotel people - we all got back to our work ...
And just one more thing!
The big sign isn't ready yet, but until it arrives, this will have to do! See you here soon, I hope!
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