In one of the newsletters last year I included a story that described some of my business affairs - my basic income and expenses, and how many prints I was sending out. I think I'll do another one this year, and will perhaps make a regular habit of this, bringing you a sort of 'Annual Report' on my affairs. After all, you collectors could certainly be considered 'shareholders' in this venture, and it's only fair that you have enough information to judge whether or not the 'management' is doing its job properly!
(This story doesn't belong here in the Autumn issue of the newsletter - it should have appeared earlier in the year; there are just so many things waiting for inclusion though, that I just couldn't fit it in. Next year when it's time for the 2005 report, I'll try and get it published earlier ...)
As you can see, even though the Hyakunin Isshu and the Surimono Albums series were 'finished', they still accounted for the bulk of my income. And in fact, there is no way that I could make a living without these 'back issue' collectors.
The Beauties of Four Seasons was nowhere near as successful as I had hoped it would be; it was less than one half subscribed. That's plus/minus of course, as those prints left here on my shelves will go out as back issues slowly over the coming years, playing their part to keep me afloat (I hope!).
Where are the Collectors? ...
There are not too many surprises in this chart; of course the Hyakunin Isshu prints are of most interest to people with a deep knowledge of the poetry, and that means Japanese people for the most part! But once my theme went wider, and more specifically, more visual and less poetic, my work became of more interest to people living overseas.
I was surprised - and somewhat disappointed - to see that the overseas interest was not maintained in the Beauties series, as I thought those prints would be nearly 'culturally neutral', being of interest to people anywhere.
Income/Expense: 2004 (figures in yen) ...
It was very interesting to see that again this year, the gross income held steady at just over the ten million yen level, varying less than 1% from the previous year. This was quite a relief, as with the considerable decrease in the number of collectors of the newest series (the Beauties), I had been very concerned about maintaining a livable income.
But as the year went on, that relief was tempered by concern over the sharp increase in the expenses related to packaging materials, which shot up from 5.5% of income the previous year to more than 16% this time. Most other expenses held basically steady, but that single exception was enough to reduce my bottom line personal income for the year to the level you see on the chart. And there was a 'double punch' - because the rate at which such things as medical insurance and taxes are calculated here in Japan is based on the previous year's income, those expenses became a very heavy burden during 2004.
As the situation gradually became clear to me during the course of the year, I had to think of a way to redress the income/expense imbalance, and this is why - starting in January 2005 - I asked the collectors to begin paying the postage fees for shipping their prints. When I made this switch I half expected to meet resistance, but I needn't have worried ... not one person complained about it. This will make a tremendous difference in the income statement you will see in this newsletter next year, as I annually spend nearly a million yen on postage, and having this expense recouped will put things back to a livable level I think.
It also occurs to me that I should perhaps start including one more statistic in these reports, one that I have never published before. As I mentioned above, it is a combination of newly issued prints and back issues that keeps me going, so I should make sure you all know what is available here!
Hyakunin Isshu: I have 20 complete sets of the prints set aside, to be sold only in complete sets of 100. I also have a few of the annual sets of 10 reserved for the benefit of previous collectors who 'missed' them at the time, and who would like to complete their collection.
Surimono Album: The first album has come to the end of the inventory, barring three or four sets that I have here for people who asked me to reserve one for them. Set #2 is starting to get low, but there is plenty of stock of the other three sets.
Beauties of Four Seasons: As mentioned above, I still have plenty of these prints available ...
All of these back numbers can be sent to collectors as complete sets, or as 'subscriptions', one a month, two per month, etc. etc.
So those are the raw economic facts of 2004, but what about the activities behind them? Well, the Beauties series was a tremendous challenge, and I think it turned out very well; I am more proud of some of those prints than of anything else I have made. When deciding to include that kuchi-e reproduction - the autumn print - I was far from sure that I would actually be able to produce it; work like that has been only rarely attempted in the intervening years since the Meiji era. But when I held the finished print in my hands, I knew that it had not been a mistake to take the challenge ...
As for daily life, I'm not sure what to say; 365 days passed by in a mix of pleasant work (plenty of that), enjoyable time spent together with Sadako (not enough of that), and good communication with family, collectors and friends.
All is certainly not perfect for me - when the temperatures drop near freezing in my home, or when I finish up the day's work sometimes near midnight, I begin to wonder "What on earth am I doing living like this?!" - but overall, there is very little stress in my life. In fact, my biggest 'problem' at the moment is the question of what kind of project to undertake next year; I have to come up with something that will be both interesting and affordable - for both of us, I the producer, and you the collector.
I'm sure this 'problem' too, will turn out to be solveable ... read all about it in the next newsletter!