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Mystique Series Update : carving, proofing, and subscriptions

Posted by Dave Bull at 2:02 AM, March 22, 2010

I've been so tied to the workbenches, I haven't kept up with these RoundTable updates .. Let's jam all the recent news into one quick post tonight!

Work on the set of blocks for the first pair of prints is proceeding well, although in a bit of a disjointed pattern. About a week back, as I was just about to begin the main carving (after finishing up the blocks for the decorative border), I 'took stock' of what I was about to do, and made a quick re-shuffle of the plan.

The original idea had been to use the Meiji cherry blossom print to start off the series, but - for a few reasons - I have done a 'switcheroo', and that image will now appear as #13 in the series, next April.

One reason for the switch was the time pressure - with the exhibition coming up on the 29th, and the first print 'promised' for early April, it just wasn't looking feasible to get the first pair done in time - with that complex design included. If that had been the only factor, I might have still pressed ahead with it, but when I dug into the pile of blank blocks that I ordered for these first few prints, I found that they really are a lot worse than I first thought when I gave them a 'once over' when I opened the box.

I used one of the hardest blocks in the batch for the decorative border pattern, but there are no others suitable for use as the keyblock for this Meiji design. It will simply have to wait until I can get a block of the proper density and smoothness.

So I hit the books looking for another suitable 'opener' for the series, and found it in a collection of Hiroshige fan prints. A number of years back, when I made my Surimono Albums, I made it a kind of habit to open a number of the sets with a Fuji-san design, and indeed, did the same thing for the previous Hanga Treasure Chest. I'm a sucker for these self-imposed 'traditions', so I made the quick decision to use it, prepared a tracing, and got to work.

Now I said a 'disjointed' work pattern, and what I mean is that, because I'm still under time pressure because of the exhibition, rather than carve images #1 and #2 bit by bit together as though they were a single design, I carved just the right-hand side of each block in the set, and ran up a quick proof, giving me something to show at the exhibition.

(Spoiler Alert) To see the proof, head over to the Mystique web page, and select the first print ...

With the proof safely in my file, ready for display, I cleaned up the printing gear, re-set the carving bench, and am now cutting the keyblock for the left-hand of the pair, which will be #2 in the set.


Here's the set so far ... I should be finished the key for the actor print later this evening; It's all done but the face, and a bit of calligraphy:

And the others - all blank on the left, but with the colour blocks for the Fuji design on the right ...





I should perhaps also mention something about the subscriptions. Last time we mentioned this, I had jumped out to a strong start, with 50+ people signing up in the first week or so, and was just about to send out the information pamphlets to potential collectors here in Japan.

How did it go? Well, that strong start was indeed some kind of 'beginner's luck'. The current total stands at 67 people, with 12 from Japan. And those 12 are all long-time collectors, people who would have signed on for the next series pretty much sight-unseen.

More than 600 pamphlets sent out, mostly to people with at least a general interest in my work, and that's been the reaction. Silence. So it seems that I'm pretty much striking out here on this side of the Pacific.

But it's early days yet. The current collectors still haven't even received their final print in the Solitudes series (Ichikawa-san is busily sewing away still...) so it's perhaps too much to ask them to show a lot of interest in the new series yet.

It'll come down to what happens at the exhibition. That too, hasn't garnered a whole lot of reaction from my publicity endeavours. Around 200 information packets went out to magazines, newspapers, and radio + TV programs, but no nibbles yet ...

Anyway. At this point I've done pretty much all I can do on that stuff. What happens will happen. It's my job now just to get these next couple of prints made as nicely as possible, get them out the door, and then get busy on the next ones.

With less than a week left before the exhibition, I had also better get ready and design and build the display materials. The gallery is a very small place, so this won't be anywhere near as much work as in previous years, but I'd still like it to be a bit more than simply 12 frames hanging on the wall.

But for now ... back downstairs. That kabuki face awaits!


Following comment posted by: Mark Mason on March 23, 2010 6:55 AM

Just had a quick look at the first Mystique print. What a breath of fresh air that image is. And only a rough proof.
A lovely, understated start to the series. What a pleasure to be following the creation of this series.
Good luck with the exhibition, I hope you're planning a 'traditional' filmed walk through for those of us on the other side of the planet!

Following comment posted by: Dave on March 23, 2010 8:51 AM

'Rough' as in the sense of - final block trimming not done (you can see yellow sky peeking outside the outline, as well as blue at the bottom), print title not yet carved, foreground grey colour still 'wrong', sky block needs trimming at bottom right, no seal or signature, etc ... But this is basically what it will look like.

The 'point' as far as the technical description this time, will be introducing the concept that 'white' isn't something that 'goes on' in these ukiyo-e prints, but something that is 'left out'. That band of mist doesn't exist, in the sense of something I printed. It's an area of the paper that I avoided ...

(The actor print will be 'featuring' sho-men zuri ...)

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