It has been quite a while since I brought you an update on the Mokuhankan staff, but given that it is getting to the point where I myself am having trouble remembering names, I guess you too could do with a refresher. Here's our current lineup!
Mrs. Yasue Tsushima
We met Tsushima-san in this newsletter over a year ago; she was the first person to start here as a printer trainee. Given that she is a mother with three young children (including two pre-schoolers), she isn't able to be here more than a couple of times a week, but within that constricted time frame she has made good progress. Literally hundreds of her prints are now in the hands of our collectors and customers, and over the coming years, those will be joined by a lot more, we hope!
Ms. Teiko Fujii
Fujii-san came to us on the recommendation of a printmaker friend of mine in the US. She too has been free to be here only a limited number of hours each week, due to school/study responsibilities, but beginning this autumn, she will be able to concentrate more on her work here. She splits her time here between printing training, and general duties including work on our Japanese website.
Ms. Ayumi Miyashita
Ayumi-san is not quite your typical teenager. After finishing high school in Hokkaido last spring she headed for the big city to make her mark ... in traditional printmaking! Her main interest is in studying how to make the baren - our main printing tool - but learning how to actually use it is important too, so she spends a few days each week here at one of the benches.
Mrs. Yoko Ishikawa
Ishikawa-san came to us on recommendation of carver Asaka-san, about whom I wrote in this newsletter a few months ago. She is working with him on learning how to carve, and here with me on the printing side of things. I myself would prefer that people concentrate on one skill, but given my own history, I can't really complain about her plan!
Ms. Nanami Ishida
The youngest of our crew here, Nanami-chan can only work infrequently, as her school responsibilities get in the way. Yes, she is still in school, and originally just wanted a bit of part-time work with us. But she has found this printing work to be much more interesting than she had anticipated, so is now thinking that it might be something worth exploring more seriously ...
Mrs. Kikue Yasui (left)
Now that we are essentially running two separate businesses here - my own subscription print series (all the work carved and printed by myself), and the Mokuhankan productions (printed by the crew above) - we are shipping a lot of prints these days. Getting them packaged and then shipped is the responsibility of Yasui-san, who has now been here something over a year. A typical batch of print orders is quite a mixed bag, heading out to addresses all over the world, but she handles the sometimes confusing stack I give her very conscientiously.
Mrs. Setsuko Ishigami (right)
Ishigami-san has recently taken on a new job with us, one that just started last month. Yes, she's the person managing the new Chibi Heroes project. She takes the stacks of prints from the drying boards, then checks, trims, and mounts them in their backing sheets. When shipping day rolls around, it's her responsibility to see that the hundreds of little prints get sent off to the waiting collectors. As that series grows, we intend to run her off her feet!
Given the huge volume of orders from the Kickstarter campaign backers, it is totally impossible for us to do all the printing here ourselves. This could have been a disaster for us except for a very lucky opportunity - my long-time friend Numabe-san just this autumn became available for doing some printing jobs. (The woodblock print publishing business is not exactly flourishing here in Japan these days ...) I grabbed him instantly, put him to work on this project, and he has done a wonderful job helping us keep up with the demand, turning out stacks of beautiful prints. We hope that we will be able to keep him in work for quite some time to come ...
Although Numabe-san could probably handle all our 'outside' printing requirements by himself, we think it is a better policy to try and use this Kickstarter opportunity to support other people too, and have asked Tetsui-san to join us in working on this project. He appeared in this newsletter last year when I asked him to print some of the prints in the Senshafuda project I tried to get going at the time. He did a very good job with those, so I am very happy to have him back to help with our Ukiyoe Heroes work.
So there we are ... None of these people are working here full time of course, but it seems completely astonishing to me that I am helping to support nine people and their families! No wonder there's nothing left in the kitty at the end of each month!