Great Wave video - part 8 ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 9:12 AM, March 20, 2015 [Permalink]
YouTube milestone ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 12:35 PM, March 3, 2015 [Permalink]
We reached a small milestone last night, after uploading the most recent video in the series documenting the production of the Great Wave print - the cumulative views on the channel passed a half million ...
Now I know that in the wider world of YouTube that's no big deal; there are people who do that with every video they upload. But for us, I think it's pretty cool. We were talking about this in the shop yesterday - a day when not a single person came up the stairs. The staff member who was there with me was kind of going, "Dave, what are we going to do?", and I simply had to remind her that this was still 'early days', and that we have plenty of arrows in our quiver. That same day that 'nobody' came in - over 3,000 people watched one of our videos …
(And I'm very glad that they watched from a distance, and didn't all try to climb the stairs!)
Great Wave video - part seven
Posted by Dave Bull at 3:47 AM, March 1, 2015 [Permalink]
Great Wave video - part five
Posted by Dave Bull at 7:55 PM, February 6, 2015 [Permalink]
Great Wave video - part four
Posted by Dave Bull at 4:24 PM, January 31, 2015 [Permalink]
Posted by Dave Bull at 11:14 PM, January 30, 2015 [Permalink]
Update on publicity efforts ...
Off and on for the past couple of months, we have been making bursts of activity on promoting our new shop. We don't have anybody working full-time on such things of course, but we grab time whenever we can to move things forward.
We now have nice pamphlets for our Print Parties in both English and Japanese, and have got these into many hotels around town - something that is already bringing in people - and we are now preparing a major 'media push' to let the general mass media here in Japan know about what we are doing.
A couple of months back - right after we opened - I myself sat down at the computer and spent a long couple of days searching for possible 'targets' in the travel information business. This included all the major guidebook publishers, travel related magazines and websites, and any number of freelance journalists who seemed to specialize in the field. I sent our information to many of these, trying to 'spread the word' as well as I could.
I also have an alert registered with search engines, to let me know whenever Mokuhankan is mentioned on another web site, and that popped up something very interesting the other day.
It seems there is a little company called 'Lonely Planet' :-) and guess what - they have updated their online database to include our Asakusa shop. I understand the next print edition of their guidebooks for Japan and Tokyo (two separate volumes) are due to be issued this fall. I wonder how much of their online database will make it into the physical books!?!
Cross your fingers everybody!
Great Wave video … part three
Posted by Dave Bull at 8:48 PM, January 20, 2015 [Permalink]
The next 'Great Wave' video ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 11:23 PM, January 14, 2015 [Permalink]
Work begins on 'The Great Wave'
Posted by Dave Bull at 12:16 AM, January 6, 2015 [Permalink]
Work on the Great Wave print has begun ...
Which way will it go?
Posted by Dave Bull at 11:08 PM, December 31, 2014 [Permalink]
Wrapping up the year-end bookkeeping ...
It's December 31st here in Tokyo. The shop closed a couple of hours ago, after a very busy day of Print Parties (two pre-arranged, and one drop-in) and general visitors. As all of our staffers have headed off to be with their families for the New Year, I've been handling things here myself for the past few days, and will be doing so until the 5th, when a couple of them return.
The guests at Asakusa today were all pretty relaxed about this though, and for a while there I had two of the Print Party attendees working away by themselves on prints while I talked to a couple of other people back in the shop. When I got back to the Party room, they were proud to show me the prints that they had made 'by themselves'. (The two of them and I had of course already been through the process for nearly a half-hour before the other people showed up ... so it's not like I had simply 'abandoned' them ...)
These Print Parties are turning out to be so much fun! I'm kicking myself for not setting this up years ago. We've got it set up so that people print the colour patterns first, and then print the black outline block last. (This is the reverse of our normal method of printing, but there are various technical reasons why it's better to do it this way during the Parties). I also don't have a sample of the finished print on display in the room, so the combination of these two things means that when the first person in line does finally lift the paper off the last block, it astonishes everybody just how good it looks. "Oh my God! Look what I made!" is a not uncommon thing for us to hear at that point ...
Here's a snapshot from the very first Print Party we held here, back on the day before we opened on November 1st, a family from Virginia (subscribers to our Portraits series, as it happens ...):
Smiles all around ... There is nobody who doesn't have fun doing this!
As I said though, it is now late in the evening of December 31st, and that means that my work for the next few hours is cut out for me. The year-end bookkeeping is turning out to be a massive job this year, as should be expected, what with all the new activities we've gotten tangled up with over the past 12 months.
I've been keeping up with it fairly well during the year - I'm not sitting here looking at a massive shoebox full of receipts that need to be sorted out - but the situation is so complicated (remember, there are now 14 people working for me!) that when I sat down this evening to make the final data inputs and to begin totalling up all the expenses, I myself was still not able to answer the 'big question' ... How did we do this year?
As I write, I've now basically finished one half of the final spreadsheet, the expense ledger. I can't close it off completely, because there will likely be a few more payments coming in over the next few hours before midnight, and that will mean some 'commissions' due to payment processing companies that will need to be included, but anyway, the basic total of how much we spent is now there on the table for me.
During the previous year (2013) we had a total of 13,597,568 yen of general expenses: labour, facilities, materials, publicity, you name it ...
The total for 2014? 24,118,017 yen ... up 77% over last year.
It seems that I personally - because this is a proprietorship - have spent more than 24 million yen over the past 12 months. And I was nervous last year when it climbed well past 10 million!
Now the expense figure by itself means nothing, of course. It has to be paired with another important number - our income. Working that out is going to take me another couple of hours, and as it's now approaching midnight, I think I'm going to take a break and go for a walk.
The large temple just around the corner from here - Sensoji - is one of Tokyo's major places for Hatsu Mode, the first temple/shrine visit of a new year, and all evening long I have seen from my window a stream of people heading in that direction. I doubt that I'll be able to get very close, but I think a stroll over there might be interesting ...
(I'll be back in the morning)
That was quite a 'stroll' last night! It's going to be interesting to look in the newspaper tomorrow and see what the estimate of the crowd was. It must have been in six figures, easily …
I found myself a vantage point at one side of the stairs leading up into the temple, and watched as the police let go of the ropes and allowed the waiting crowd to surge forward up the stairs.
The stream then flowed continuously, with the police letting the river up into the temple in batches of a thousand people at a time, holding the rest back with their ropes. When I tried to get back home, I found my way back to Roku-Dori blocked by that river of people waiting, but the police had set up various 'crossings', where they held it back for a minute or so while people could get across …
Anyway, back to work on the books this morning, finishing up by downloading the year-long transaction reports from Paypal and Square, our two credit card processors. What did I say last night? 'Some' commissions will need to be included … Hah! It turns out that I have paid a total of 882,088 in credit card commissions during the year. Adding them in pushes the overall total of our expenses to 25,000,105 … not 77% up over the previous year, but 83%!
(I wrote about this high commission situation in a previous post here on the Conversations. I think the situation will be changing rapidly during this coming year, with the entry of Apple into the payments field. I don't know if the amounts I pay in commissions will be decreasing or not, but I suspect they will no longer all be going to Paypal …)
So … with the final transactions now all into the various accounts, it's time to look at the other side of the ledger - the income! I've got that broken down into various sources:
Dave's personal printmaking: 1,716,378 This is now a shadow of what it used to be. My personal collectors have probably all now pretty much given up on waiting for my next print, although I myself certainly haven't. The 'Arts of Japan' will indeed get completed, although it is clear to all of us that it will take 'a while'.
Mokuhankan online sales (single prints): 1,936,507 This is revenue from our online catalogue of prints, mostly blocks that I carved for my Surimono Albums sets, and which our young printers are re-issuing one by one.
Ukiyoe Heroes (single prints through Jed): 4,711,990 The main Ukiyoe Heroes series is actually published by Jed Henry himself. He 'orders' them from us - the manufacturer - in batches during the course of the year, at a wholesale price, and sells them from his own website.
Ukiyoe Heroes (subscription prints): 14,036,585 The Chibi Heroes and Portraits prints are our single largest revenue item. This is 'backwards' from the main Heroes series; I am the publisher of these, handling all manufacture, sales and shipping, and pay Jed a royalty on sales.
Kickstarter sales (the September campaign): 3,811,870 This is the gross amount subscribed to the campaign; from this I will have to deduct the part that will be retained by my son-in-law as payment for his two months of construction work, and the amounts that will go to Canadian taxes, accounting, Kickstarter fees, and credit card processing fees.
Asakusa shop sales: 844,298 The shop burst out of the gate in the first couple of weeks, but things settled down after that into a quieter mood. It's of course still running in the red, but we're not in the slightest bit worried about that. It's only been open two months, and will not see any major growth until we get covered in guidebooks and online reviews, both of which are looking very probable …
Adding it all up puts our gross income at 27,057,628 … or 77% up from the previous year, and leaving us with a nominal profit of 2,057,523 for 2014.
I say 'nominal' because there are a couple of rather major things not accounted for in the totals I just gave you. I booked the income from the Kickstarter, but have yet to deliver the 200+ copies of the Great Wave print. I have yet to make them! If the expenses for that were included, the 'profit' would be slimmer indeed …
And of course there still remains the fact that although my expense breakdown shows something on the order of 13 million yen going out for labour - to the 14 people I pay on the 1st of every month, there is actually a 15th person here, who doesn't get one of those pay slips.
My reward comes via email, blog posts, and even YouTube comments: "Mr. Bull, I'm in love with your process and the soothing manner with which you work. You are a legendary hero, at least to me. You are living the dream life as an artist and historian."
It's been an absolutely incredible year, and if you had told me a year ago that I would be sitting here on January 1st in my own Asakusa shop writing this I would have called the men in white coats to come and take you away.
I went back over to Sensoji in the afternoon of the 1st … they were still at it … the same groups of policemen letting people up the stairs in large batches. The Nakamise was still 'one way', and all the surrounding access was blocked off, to allow the river of people to stream from the subway station up into the temple uninterrupted …
Hundreds of thousands of people … all visiting Asakusa to pray for good fortune in the coming year … What do you think? Do I need to join them?
Sad News ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 8:50 AM, December 14, 2014 [Permalink]
Good-bye to a long-time friend and supporter ...
I have some unhappy news to report today. Long-time collector/friend Anita Cage from New Orleans has passed away, at 80.
I mention this here, because she has been a frequent commenter on these Conversations over the years, and some of the regular visitors may remember her name from reading some of these.
I'm not sure how much she would want me to write about this, but I certainly see no problem in mentioning a few things about my experience with her. It kind of goes without saying that she was a steady supporter of my work when it came to ordering prints; she not only basically took everything I made for the past decade or so, she made multiple purchases to give prints away to her friends and acquaintances.
But it was her open friendship, and willingness to contribute her thoughts and suggestions about my work that made it a pleasure to see her name in my email Inbox any given morning. She not only posted thoughtful commentary here on the blog, but she gave me plenty privately too, especially if she was concerned that her comments might possibly have been considered as 'criticism'.
I didn't know much about her personal life, but after reading some of the material that has been posted about her on the internet this week, it seems that I was very lucky that such a friendly and supportive person came to develop an interest in supporting my activities. Have a look a this online obituary … and this thread from the MetaFilter group, where the members learned of her passing. She was clearly a very special lady.
I am of course very saddened to hear that she is gone, but am very happy to have known her. I wish she would have given us a better chance to say 'good-bye' properly, but I understand why she did not feel able to do that ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 4:02 PM, December 11, 2014 [Permalink]
I wrote a piece about online reviews in the A Story A Week series a couple of weeks back … and it has begun! We're scored the first online review of our Print Parties …
Trip Advisor has a system where they supply code to put onto your page that allows viewers to see your current 'rating' and to click through to see reviews, so I'll copy that code right here:
For more entries, please make a selection from the 'Table of Contents' section of the SideBar on the right ...