Woodblock printmaker David Bull, well known on Kickstarter from the Ukiyo-e Heroes project he did together with designer Jed Henry a couple of years ago, is opening a shop this fall in the Asakusa district of Tokyo. He is financing this with proceeds from woodblock print sales, but it is going to be very tight, with little room for error, and he is approaching the Kickstarter community for support to put things on a more stable basis.
The New Shop
We're using the word 'shop' for convenience, but Dave's plan for the new place involves far more than just a place to buy woodblock prints. Only 1/3 of the space in the new building will be the store, with another third being a workroom for his printers, where visitors will of course be welcome to watch the work. It is the remainder of the space that will be the most important part of the project - the Print Party room. Backers of the previous Ukiyoe Heroes Kickstarter project may remember that one of the reward levels was: "PRINT PARTY! – Visit David Bull's studio and get a lesson in printmaking!" It was an instant hit, reaching the sold out level in a matter of minutes, and the parties themselves, held at Dave's workroom over the following months, were very successful.
That experience has led Dave to realize that an important part of his 'mission' to spread the word about the beauties of Japanese traditional woodblock prints should involve actual 'hands on' activities. The people who made their own prints during those Print Parties will never forget the experience, and will treasure the prints they made forever. So the new Mokuhankan shop is actually going to be more of an 'event space' than a simple store. Come to Mokuhankan, join a Print Party, and make your own woodblock print!
The lease is all signed, the staffing is being organised, and the first section of the new website for the shop is ready, where you will find more information about the place, the Print Parties, and the all-important access information. Our sign hasn't been hung in place yet, but this Photoshop paste-up shows roughly what it should look like ...
And here's the architect's drawing of one of our proposed layouts for the 2nd floor of the new building; we'll be making our final design decisions once construction actually gets under way (we begin swinging hammers on September 1st):
The latest version of our budget for this project estimates $35,000 being paid out for lease and construction costs over the August/September period in the runup to the planned opening day in early October. Our cash reserve currently stands just slightly shy of that amount, and we'll of course have our normal income and expenses continuing through this period on top of all the new costs. It's too close. For the long-term, we are looking very good, as we have negotiated a very reasonable lease on the building, so our ongoing monthly expenses are going to be quite manageable (we're not getting in over our heads here, we believe). It's the start-up period that is going to be very, very tight.
[Update: just before we got this Kickstarter up and running, we received news from the local power company that the electrical panel in the building is not capable of being upgraded to modern requirements, and will have to be replaced, giving a major jolt to our budget. There will be more such episodes, we are sure ...]
'Join a Print Party'
This must of course be the first reward level - get over here and join one of the Print Parties! All backers of this project get a ticket to join in - at a 50% discount from the normal rate it will be once we are open.
'A Wave of Support'
This is the main reward level. As all his collectors and fans know, Dave himself is not an artist; his skills lie on the other side of the printmaking equation - carving and printing. This matches perfectly with the Japanese tradition, where there was a total separation between the design and the making. So it seems perfectly appropriate to announce that for this Kickstarter project too, Dave will be working hand-in-hand together with one of the planet's most famous and talented visual designers - Katsushika Hokusai!
Yes, it's the 'Great Wave off Kanagawa', one of the most iconic images ever created. Dave has received countless requests over the years to produce a high-quality print of this design, and there has never been a better time than now. Using image data from one of the most carefully preserved copies of the original work, Dave will carve the design onto a set of fresh cherry blocks, will pull proof copies himself, and then work together with the most experienced printers on his staff to create this new edition over the course of the next few months.
The print will be in the traditional O-ban size (38.5cm x 26cm) - exactly the same dimensions as the original - and will be printed on the fine mulberry paper known as Echizen hosho-shi, made for us specifically for this edition by Living National Treasure Mr. Ichibei Iwano, in Fukui Prefecture.
Editioning: traditional Japanese prints were never made in 'limited editions' and this time will be no exception. Once carved, the blocks will be very carefully preserved, and used to pull prints for as long as they are capable. But we also understand that backers of a project like this want to have a print that serves as a physical confirmation of the support they have given. So each print will be embossed/printed in the lower right margin with the following information:
- Designer: Katsushika Hokusai / Carver: David Bull / Printer: (printer's name)
- Mokuhankan Kickstarter Campaign - Autumn 2014 - Print # XX
'XX' will be a number assigned in the order that backers join the project, beginning with #2 (#1 will stay in our archives). Once the Kickstarter campaign closes, that'll be it for those numbers, and any future prints that we make from the blocks will omit the Kickstarter Campaign line, leaving just the maker's information. We'll also include documentation with the print giving full information on the project, and this will incorporate a full list of backer names (omitting those who wish to remain anonymous).
While we were preparing this campaign we heard from supporters who already own a copy of the Hokusai design - 'what about us?' - so we have added two more prints to the reward list. These two designs were previously included in the 'Beauties of Four Seasons' set that Dave created in 2004, and which is no longer available. Unlike the Hokusai print - which is being carved and printed specifically for this campaign, and which will thus take a few months to prepare, these are coming from Dave's stock drawers, and can ship immediately.
[Please note: these two prints will not have embossing related to this campaign as described above. They are already made - carved and printed personally by Dave himself - and carry his signature and his personal 'baren' embossment.]
Alternate #1 - 'Court Lady Writing Poetry'
For background on the print, and more detailed close-ups, please visit the original website.
Alternate #2 - 'The Scent of Chrysanthemums'
For background on the print, and more detailed close-ups, please visit the original website.
And no matter which of the three prints you choose, we’ll throw in a Print Party ticket too, of course!
#1) New Tatami Mats for the Print Party room! (details here)
#2) Stunningly fast open WiFi for our customers (details here)
#3) Hi-tech comfort room for staff and customers (details here)
#4) Automatic Souvenir Photos (details here)
Dave's Personal Message
"My previous Kickstarter - the Ukiyo-e Heroes project with Jed Henry - was a spectacular success, mostly due of course to his wonderfully interesting designs. If that Kickstarter had never happened, I would not be here now with this project for the shop in Asakusa; I would still be working as a solo craftsman, on a very small and local scale. The money that the backers put into that project 'bought' so much more than just the prints that they received! Over the past two years it has multiplied far beyond what any of us imagined was possible. At the beginning of each month now, I make payments to 11 people directly working for us: the five 'in-house' printers we have trained (doing our Portraits subscription series), the three outside professional freelancers (doing most of the Ukiyoe Heroes series), the two ladies who scramble to handle all the packing and shipping, and the young woman who has been doing most of the carving work on the Portraits series (who had quit the printmaking world, but came back at our instigation). And that of course doesn't include such people as the papermakers, the block provider, and other outside businesses providing all the necessary services for this work to move forward.
"This has all been made possible by the impetus provided by that Kickstarter campaign - truly 'kickstarted' in every sense of the word. At the entrance to our new shop, we are going to hang a sign letting all visitors know about this history, with a Kickstarter logo, and something like, 'This business was made possible by support from backers all over the world, contributing through the Kickstarter system ...'
"If this current Kickstarter campaign is also successful, I will make sure that such a sign is updated to reflect the fact that the shop construction itself has also benefited greatly from such support!"
Risks and challenges
We don't think there are many risks for this project! Dave's track record of getting beautiful prints out the door extends back over twenty-five years. When the previous Kickstarter (with Jed Henry) exploded far beyond the original intentions, he and his workshop handled the pressure well, and managed to get all the promised prints completed successfully, and even (for the most part) on the announced schedule. His team is now far more experienced, and anticipates no 'deal killer' problems at all. The actual delivery schedule will of course depend on how many backers join this project, but we will keep everybody updated with that as we move along.
Just how successful the new Asakusa shop itself will be is still up in the air. We believe we have a strong concept and a sound business plan, and we certainly have plenty of community support. Time will tell!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)