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Slow Food ...

Posted by Dave Bull at 2:25 AM, February 28, 2012 [Permalink]

The subscriptions for the new 'Arts of Japan' series are rolling in, one by one. I'd love to be able to say 'pouring in', but let's keep this real!

When I reply with a short 'thank you' note, I usually include something like this: "As you might have seen from the RoundTable blog, it's going to be a month or so before this one is ready to ship - making those cases here 'in house' is going to take quite a lot of time. I hope to have the first print ready to fly by the start of April. Thanks for your patience ..."

Most people reply (if at all) with a simple "No problem!". This morning though, a slightly longer reply came in:

You know, I'm probably not alone in this: one of the things I really enjoy about subscribing to your series is that I _do_ have to wait for it. It's something we don't have to do very much these days. I _like_ that I pay for something, and then a while later (but not so long that I notice that, "Hey, wasn't I supposed to have received that already?") I am surprised and delighted when it shows up on my doorstep. It's decidedly old school, and wonderful.

I understand these sentiments, and - of course - concur. But it reminded me of an experience I had some years ago when the original Treasure Chest was under way. The number of collectors was 'OK', but there was still plenty of room left for more. One day I received a sudden flood of subscriptions (nearly a dozen of them), and it turned out that I had been written up by Jason Kottke, a popular blogger (one of the earliest, actually).

David Bull is an artist who makes fantastic woodblock prints. He doesn't number his prints, doesn't sell through collectors, doesn't even offer individual prints, and yet he's been making a living from his art for more than 16 years. He sells subscriptions of his prints through his site ...

(He actually meant 'doesn't sell through galleries', but the error will live on forever, I guess ...)

When all this happened, I was happy, and then I was sad. Originally 'happy', because of course this was a nice boost to my work, and having a group of new subscribers helped very much. 'Sad' because of what happened over the next few months - over half of these new collectors either quit, or became delinquent.

I learned something important through this episode. Up to that time, if you had asked me (as people frequently did in interviews) what 'type' of person was a typical collector, I would have replied, "No 'type', really. Some are young, some are older, some Japanese, some westerner, everything from the town baker to a long distance truck driver ... The only common thread seems to be that they are interested in my work, which is a kind of circular answer ..."

But the Kottke experience taught me that there was indeed something common to my long-time subscribers, which I hadn't really understood up to that point. The people who saw his post, clicked over to my website, did a quick scan of the info, then clicked 'Subscribe' ... these people were a type who live in a much faster paced, click click move move go go environment than I do. They weren't (as a group) suitable people to become collectors of my work.

Without wanting to try and get (too) pretentious about this, it really does seem as though my collectors and I are a self-selected group; a group of 'slow lifers'. Both I - who makes these things - and you - who 'consume' them - simply have to be willing to take it easy, or at least accept the fact that this is going . to . take . time ...

So it was that when I made that little explanation video for the Treasure Chest concept last year, I - very consciously - began it with a very slow-paced introduction. If the viewer can't even get through the first 60 seconds and clicks away somewhere, then ... well ... perhaps this stuff isn't really their kind of thing, anyway!


Following comment posted by: Barbara Mason on February 29, 2012 12:15 AM

I think I am somewhere between the click click and the slower lifer, I just came back from 10 days in Arizona where I barely moved...it was great. But i had to go to McDonalds to read email....now I am back home and moving at warp speed to catch up. I am out every night this week with one thing or another. So no rest in part of my life...I think I have no problem waiting as I forget and am surprised when the prints arrive...a little stop in my busy life to just sit and look at it for awhile. In the mean time...click click....
I think those that have supported your work for years just appreciate amazing work. As you said once, if it is really good does it matter if it takes a long time????

Following comment posted by: Sharri on February 29, 2012 2:35 AM

Maybe most of us are older and we can conveniently forget that we've subscribed and love the surprise that comes every few weeks.
Barbara's description of her life sounds pretty much like mine, except I didn't get that wonderful week in AZ. I remind myself of that quote from David quite often, except that I remember it as, "If you enjoy doing it, isn't it a good thing that it takes a long time?" I'm reminding myself of it daily as I work through this large copper engraving. Having a little miracle from David arrive every now and then is such a delight and forces me to sit with a cup of tea and just plain and simple, enjoy life!

Following comment posted by: Dave on February 29, 2012 10:18 PM

According to the Baren archives, the way I phrased it when I first posted that idea was, "If you like doing something, isn't it better if it takes a long time?"

I'm sure it must have been in response to somebody 'complaining' about how long it took to make a woodblock print ...

Following comment posted by: Odawara on March 2, 2012 11:10 PM

I did not recognize myself, but, yes, I am very much comfortable waiting for your beautiful prints.
In addition, I love to watch you carve and print through the Webcam.

Looking forward to super beautiful first print in the new series!

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