Responsible shopping ...

It has been more than 25 years since I began making a living from my woodblock printmaking. What that means in actual practice is that I produce things, make them available to people, and then hope that enough people find them interesting and worthy of acquiring. This is how our contemporary economy is structured - we are all producers and consumers both, putting our labour into the market in one form or another, and in return selecting the services and things that we wish to consume. It really does seem to be an extraordinarily efficient system (although I have to admit that it may have some very large defects - externalization of environmental costs, etc. - that may ultimately bring it down if we don't sort them out.)

During all these years of making and selling prints, I have done so in a fairly honest way, I think. I never try to coerce people to purchase the things I make (I don't advertise, for example) but because the market is so vast these days (nearly anybody on the planet has access to our work), there always seems to be enough demand to keep us busy.

But I have had experiences recently that have made me wonder about my position in this large and complex system ...

I had an email from somebody who was obviously quite a fan of our video game parody prints, and who was asking about the purchase options. She mentioned that her partner had just been laid off, so she couldn't purchase a set just now, but asked to get the storage box in advance, and then the rest of the prints as soon as their situation was more stable. I complied with the request, and as it happened, a job must have come through for them, because she ordered the full set of prints just a week or so later.

Lest you think that this sort of behaviour is rare and unusual, I have to tell you that it is not. "I'll be placing an order as soon as I can pay down my credit card balance ...", or "I just got a new job after being laid off, so I want to get some of the prints ..." are similar comments that we have received during the period that we have been making these game-related prints.

Should I be conflicted about this? On the face of it, I am of course doing nothing wrong by putting the prints into the marketplace, and we are certainly not aggressive about selling them; these people are not being coerced at all into placing their orders. But part of me - the white-bearded 'old' guy - wants to counsel these young people about how they should be using their money. With a financial situation perhaps not all that secure, might it not be best to put something away for the future, rather than spend their scarce resources on decorative woodblock prints?

Now of course it's absolutely none of my business how they run their life, so I will keep such thoughts to myself and happily provide the prints that they want, but I do have to express unease at finding myself in a position where I seem to be 'promoting' behaviours that seem to me not to be in peoples' best interests.

I guess you're perhaps laughing at me. Here we are at Mokuhankan, successful at creating products that have relevance and meaning for a wide range of people all over this planet, and I can still find something wrong with that!


Comments on this story ...

Posted by: Guillaume

The fact that these people place your prints at such a high priority in their spending is a testament to how exciting the blend of old and new this series is.

While I've found that people of my generation do tend to spend their money frivolously, that some choose to buy woodblock prints when there are endless mass-produced gadgets and entertainment grasping at their income is encouraging.

Speaking of which, I've been meaning to get that 'Trouble Afoot' print... ;)

Posted by: Franz Rogar

I count myself into the "when I get a job" category (Yoshitoshi has to wait yet, you know ;-) and also in the "I want it".

I don't consider myself a *collector* in the strict meaning of the word. I own +4,500 books in my personal library, +50 Japanese prints (yours in), and other series of interesting items (music instruments, specialized tools, etc.) that are worth a bunch.

But, on top of that, why I do own those? Because they represent *knowledge* and *history* and, therefore, are OUR HERITAGE.

IHMO, I don't know what else to add that might sound more exact that the last paragraph. (And I do hope you might understand the underlying truth I tried to show).

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