Video doings ...
Posted by Dave Bull at 7:59 PM, June 18, 2013 [Permalink]
Just over a day after uploading the most recent video to our YouTube channel, we can see that we have another 'winner' - this one has already garnered well over 2,000 views.
That's not a lot in terms of pop music videos, but for a woodblock printmaker, I think it's just fine! And we're learning that our videos are not just 'for the moment'. They get steady attention month after month. A number of the ones I uploaded last year are now well over 20,000 views each, and one is over 85,000!
But there is another important statistic relevant to these YouTube videos, and that is the one that they call 'audience retention'. A lot of people might click to start a video, but how many make it to the end?
Well, YouTube provides statistics on this sort of thing. Here's the retention graph for the most recent video prior to this new one:
Now at first glance, this looks pretty bad - 50% of the viewers have bailed out before we even get to the two minute mark! But a bit of reflection puts a better light on it.
A great many of the people originally clicking the 'play' button on this video were people who had been watching another video on YouTube, and when that was finished, clicked on this one - which was presented to them automatically by the YouTube software in the 'suggested' videos that always show when one has finished playing.
For the most part, these were people without any inherent interest in woodblock printmaking, and it is most of these people who disappeared in the first minute. "Eh? What's this? No thanks ..."
But to me, the really interesting thing about that retention graph is that once the casual 'drive-by' viewers were taken out of the equation, everybody else stayed, pretty much right to the end. The graph is almost perfectly flat all the way along. And this is nearly fifteen minutes long - an eternity in YouTube terms, where they recommend that we keep it 'under five minutes in length' at most, or 'you'll lose your audience'.
So this tells me that we're offering pretty good content. To hold somebody's eyeballs for fifteen minutes - when the whole internet is just a click away - is doing very well indeed, I think!
The Soul Eater - process slideshow
Posted by Dave Bull at 2:09 AM, June 17, 2013 [Permalink]
Here we go, with a slideshow showing the buildup of colour tones on the latest in the Ukiyoe Heroes series!
Pull your browser window tall enough to show the whole thing, and sit back and enjoy as it comes to life!
Please note: this is a proof copy of the print; we are still working on it, and the final version that will be shipped out by Jed will almost certainly differ in a number of details.
'The Soul Eater' video is ready!
Posted by Dave Bull at 1:31 AM, June 17, 2013 [Permalink]
Has it really been two months!? Anyway, your long wait is over - the next Ukiyoe Heroes production video is ready!
Grab bag ...
Posted by Dave Bull at10:01 PM, June 13, 2013 [Permalink]
Too much blog silence ... sorry! It's because of too much work, of course ...
Anyway, let's catch up a bit. The construction has been moving along very nicely, if slowly. We now have the complete 'envelope' - all six sides of this box - fully insulated.
Here's how we are handling the insulation of the length of windows - with a series of wooden frames stuffed with bubble wrap and backed with thick polyfilm:
Here are the team members who finished off the job just last night; this is Patricia Fujii on the left, with Ayumi Shiba:
They are happy, because they are looking forward to a toasty warm workshop come next winter!
Speaking of work in the workshop, here's an updated photo of our baren drawer:
These are the barens in 'active service' (we have more in another drawer, either taking a break, or waiting their turn.) They are mostly the type known as 'hon baren' (real baren) and include ones that I myself have purchased over the years, and of course the ones that we obtained from internet auctions recently.
Honestly speaking, a single printer has no need for this many barens, but we now have five workstations here, and are frequently finding ourselves 'fighting' over who gets to use any particular baren, so given that situation, it's impossible to have too many.
You might notice that we have given up and numbered them. I really didn't want to do this, but it's pretty much unavoidable, as there is simply no way that all the staff members can remember all the details of each tool. We're preparing a wall chart that will be posted next to this drawer, giving detailed information on each of these, and on which blocks it is most suited for.
And finally this evening, here are a couple of snapshots as a 'teaser'. This is printer Ishikawa-san, working on a batch of this print:
She starts with some standard gold leaf:
... and turns it into 'sunago', torn and crumpled fragments while will be 'printed' onto the surface of the paper ...
New workroom - first tryout!
Posted in General Interest by Dave Bull at 11:50 PM, May 20, 2013
As promised the other day, I can bring you a few snapshots of the first tryouts of the new workroom today (Monday morning) ...
With the floor in place quite some time ago, and the ceiling 'done' last week, attention turned to the walls. We're going to use a mix of techniques, and this side wall is getting a simple frame with fiberglas insulation. This was Sunday afternoon:
With that done, the crew began work on the rear wall, and got some of the framing done before knocking off for the evening. So the room is still far from finished, but today - the Monday morning - we had four printers scheduled for work and only room for two of them, so before they arrived, I pushed aside the construction materials and moved the parts for the two new workstations into place:
The first two printers arriving sat in the present workstations (in the 'old' room), and got straight to work. This is Tsushima-san (foreground) working on Jed's new TOP SECRET project, and Ayumi-san working on an Eisen kuchi-e reproduction (we'll blog about both of these a bit later ...)
A short time later, Fujii-san arrived and became the first person to try the new workstations, followed a bit later by Shiba-san, seen here assembling one of the new stools:
I didn't have a whole lot of time to stand and watch, because I'm busy with carving the current Chibi pair, and I'm way behind schedule - the printing of this one should already have started by now, in order to get them all ready by the end of the month.
But once everybody had gone home in the early evening, I took another quick photo of the new workspace. These two benches will have two more situated behind them (once the construction junk is out of the way), with the four places laid out in a staggered arrangement.
It is going to be a very nice space to work!
Final work on the Infestation print ...
Another one bites the dust! The first batch of the Infestation print - 175 copies - is now done and on the way to Jed, for distribution to the waiting collectors.
Here's a shot of the stack part-way through the process of doing the final trimming:
And we couldn't not show you the hair!
(In case you missed it a few weeks ago, I uploaded a video to YouTube showing the hair being cut ...}
With this one now 'out of the way' for now (we'll be printing more copies of course, because orders are still flowing in), I am now very busy with carving work on the next one, which Jed has dubbed 'Soul Eater'. Here's a shot of the key block so far:
More soon ...
Busy weekend ...
Posted in General Interest by Dave Bull at 8:28 AM, May 13, 2013
Update on the workroom progress, including new printing benches.
Although there was no printing staff here over the weekend, a lot of progress was made. The construction guys were here for a day on Saturday, and got the ceiling basically done (all but the final covering):
And for my part, with the monthly Chibi Heroes done, the Infestation print out of the way, and the 'secret' test print for Jed's new project finished, I was able to spend the time in the woodwork shop, getting ready for the upcoming move into the new workroom. I built two new workstations:
With all their compound angles, these benches are not trivial to construct. The top surface has to be sloped to match the printer's arm angle, and the legs are angled inwards for the best stability. And if everything isn't perfectly tight, the thing would just be too wobbly ...
Together with the current two, this will give us room for four printers to work at the same time (not counting my own workbench, which 'rotates' between carving and printing as required).
I'm looking forward to the upcoming photo showing them all in place together, and then the next photo, showing four printers busy at work together!
Workroom construction ...
Posted in General Interest by Dave Bull at 8:39 AM, May 4, 2013
Insulating the ceiling of the new workroom ...
We're on a mixed schedule here right now, as this is 'Golden Week', a time when a number of national holidays cluster together, resulting in many companies closing for the week, or part of it. So a number of our staff will be off this week due to family commitments.
But while they are away, it means we can make a mess, and that's exactly what has been going on here for the past few days. Finally, we're moving forward again on the workshop construction in the room next door.
The next major step is to get the ceiling insulated, and for that we need a light 'frame' for the fiberglas batts, just the same as the one in the current workroom:
We're using a super-strong wood/concrete bond, with concrete screws to hold each 'beam' at the ends. The 'go-bars' are sprung to squeeze each piece up in place while the bond dries.
It makes a very clean layout, into which we will easily staple the fiberglass ...
(Just who are all these people? That's going to be the topic of tomorrow's 'A Story A Week' ...)
The 'Infestation' video is ready ...
The next YouTube video is ready!
The 4th print in the Ukiyoe Heroes series is now done. Or at least my part in it is done. I finished all the carving a week or so ago, and after running up a few proof sheets, I delivered everything to Numabe-san for pulling the first batch.
I took plenty of video all the way through of course, and here's the resulting 15 minute 'movie' showing the overall process:
And even if you missed the Kickstarter last year, Jed is still taking orders for this one over on his UkiyoeHeroes.com website!
Infestation - block set
The blocks for the next Ukiyoe Heroes print are ready!
A whole lot of people (nearly 9,000!) have now seen the video of carving the hair on this print, but things have moved on steadily since then, and the block set is ready:
Flip them over ...
The overall count of colour is remaining pretty consistent over the course of this series, at around 15~16 impressions for each one.
As I write, proof printing is done, and the block set has been taken over to Numabe-san's place. He'll do his own proof to compare with mine, and we'll then make our final decisions on the details, and he'll get busy. The first batch (we're running around 180 sheets) should be ready in just about two weeks ...
A most interesting year!
Posted in General Interest by Dave Bull at 1:56 AM, April 25, 2013
The 1st anniversary of our Heroes project is here!
I had occasion the other day to check on some emails from last year, and while doing so I noticed something interesting. It was one year ago this week (today the 25th, actually) that I received an email from a young man over in the US in which he brought up an interesting proposal.
Here's how it began:
It's Jed Henry – I'm that illustrator guy who was supposed to visit your studio last summer. But things didn't work out. I apologize for that.
Anyway, I had a crazy idea for a creative side project.
First of all, have you heard of Kickstarter.com? It's a creative entrepreneurial site, where people pitch projects and request funds. If a project's funding goal gets met, then and only then does the site withdraw the donators' pledges. If the required fund amount isn't met, nobody pays, and the project doesn't happen.
Most commonly, people use the site to make advanced orders on unique projects. So if a project gets funded, the artist gets paid up front. If the project doesn't get funded, the artist is off the hook, and hasn't lost any money.
I had an idea to team up with you, and sell a woodblock print on there. We would only have to actually make the print if we received the required funds. If the funding doesn't come, then you're off the hook. I would need to paint the design up front, so that customers would know what they're getting.
Here's my idea: a print featuring a pitched battle between samurai and demons. Kind of a gothic thing, like Kuniyoshi or Yoshitoshi. Upon closer inspection, the viewer would realize that each character bears an uncanny resemblance to a classic Japanese video game character. However, the style is still VERY Kuniyoshi. (I'm attaching a quick sketch to show you what I mean.)
Jed went on to outline the type of print he was thinking of (dimensions, etc.) and asked me to think about what such a project would cost, so that he could work out a budget for the Kickstarter.
So was this 'the start of something big'?
No. At least, not directly. Because I turned him down.
I really didn't see much potential in this. The image he sent wasn't something I found particularly interesting, and at that time we were coming to the point where I was running out of money to pay the staff, and taking on yet another pie in the sky project just seemed completely impossible.
So I replied to Jed that although we couldn't help him with his potential project, I would introduce him to a place here in Tokyo where he might be able to get such work commissioned, and over the next few weeks, I helped him establish contact with them, so that he could get a quote on the work.
So what happened to change my mind? How did we come to get involved? It was a combination of circumstances: 1) the quote Jed received from that workshop - for full-size o-ban prints - was pretty high, and it seemed that the resulting prints would be simply too expensive for his prospective Kickstarter backers to afford. 2) Jed continued to refine the image concepts, and began to produce some very interesting work:
3) over the course of the next few weeks, Jed continued to upload more of these prospective images to his Facebook page, and they began to attract wide internet attention. He began to go viral ...
Looking back over those old emails now, I see that it was May 31st, more than a month after our original contact, that I wrote to him offering to get involved. I proposed that our workshop could produce prints in a smaller size than the large o-ban that he had been considering, and that these might be a more realistic goal for his Kickstarter project.
And then I took the plunge; given that we were then at the point of running out of money completely, and pretty much at the end of our rope, I told Jed that we wouldn't (couldn't!) wait for a Kickstarter campaign to run its course - we would begin the production of one of the prints immediately. Hopefully, the videos/photos that we would produce along the way would help make the campaign successful, and we would thus (eventually) get paid for the work.
Jed of course jumped at this opportunity, and away we went. The rest - as they say - is history. Or perhaps will be one day, when they come to write the history of the Japanese woodblock print in the early 21st century!
The Kickstarter campaign was wildly successful, raising over $300,000 for our work (both woodblock prints and ink-jet versions that Jed publishes himself). As I write this, we are just completing the fourth of the seven prints that were commissioned during the campaign, our work is laid out until at least the end of this year, and it seems pretty certain that the Ukiyoe Heroes project will continue into the future indefinitely, presumably evolving as it goes along. There are now eight people working here as printers or printer trainees, and I have had to hire two 'outside' professional printers as well.
We have spun off the Chibi Heroes series - also hugely successful - and are presently working on plans for yet other related projects to be introduced in the coming months/years.
Things are looking very very good for us here these days ... and of course this is to a huge extent because so many people are attracted to the combination of Jed's interesting designs and our beautiful traditional craftsmanship.
But to think that I said 'no'! Obviously I'm a man with a very quick grasp of the situation ... Not!
Samus gets her hair cut
I'm still busy with the production of the next print in the Ukiyoe Heroes series - Infestation - so the main process video is still some time away. But I thought it would be interesting to do another short video introducing just one part of the process - cutting the fine hair lines.
For more entries, please make a selection from the 'Table of Contents' section of the SideBar on the right ...