"Oh joy—another educational experience!"
That's a phrase I learned in college. It should not be said with a cheery demeanor.
My Long March is over. All 730 prints sold in my dye transfer print offer have been printed and all 450 orders shipped. If you haven't gotten your print order within the next 7–10 days, drop me an e-mail.
It was a learning experience:
• You can have too much of a good thing. I always thought that promoters who vowed "no more than X copies will be sold!" were just engaging in marketing hype and that putting a limit on my sales would be an act of hubris. Seems not. I'm never going to get myself in a jam like this again!
• Matrices wear out. For most photographic printing, the point at which you wear out a negative or slide is far, far beyond normal printing limits. Not so with dye transfer. After 100–150 prints, the characteristics of the matrix have changed enough that I can't pull an acceptable print. I went through 2–3 sets of matrices for each photograph in this run. Another argument for limited sales.
• The gods want me to keep making dye transfer prints. It's no secret that I've been a lot more interested in digital printing than dye transfer of late, although dye transfer still pays a lot more of the bills. Making 730 prints was going to use up about two thirds of my remaining paper, but I saw that as an opportunity. I could look forward to the day a year or so from now when I'd have no choice but to move on.
Within a week, I got contacted by two people offering me dye transfer paper that they'd had squirreled away. They'd never even heard about the print offer; it was pure coincidence. End result? Instead of having only one third the amount of paper I did when I started, I actually have more paper now than I did in September!
I know when I'm being handed a cosmic message, and I know not to argue with 500 pound metaphysical gorillas. I'm going to keep doing dye transfer printing for the foreseeable future, artistic druthers notwithstanding.
I'll also be doing another print offering in the fall. Next time, though, it'll be limited to no more than 100 of each photograph and prices will be at least 50% higher, to throttle back demand.
• Kodak made really crappy paper! I didn't realize how bad, though, until I started printing the same photograph hundreds of times. The variation in paper quality could be huge, even within one box of paper. I had to do lots of hand-weeding of defective sheets. Inevitably, some defective sheets slipped through screening; I couldn't avoid making some modestly-flawed prints. I've given some such prints to friends (like Mike) as gifts, but I've still got around eight pairs of prints that are slightly defective. Color and tone are perfect but they have minor surface defects that probably wouldn't be visible if they were mounted, matted, and framed.
Here's the deal. Email me if you want to buy one of these sets for the original sale price of $180. First come, first served, U.S. customers only. If you get the prints and they looked too flawed to you, you can return them. Return postage will be at your expense ($4.95, Priority Mail) and I'm going to deduct my shipping and handling costs ($10) from your refund. I figure that this will be enough to discourage looky-loos. And, to answer three inevitable questions, I will not drop the price further (I'd rather keep them as gifts for friends), I will not break up the sets, and I will not ship these outside the U.S.
• Now I know how to do mail order. My businesses is sufficiently bespoke that I previously did not obsess over the cost and time of shipping photographs. I averaged less than one package a week, and a typical job ran several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Faced with 450 orders, I had to get really good at this. I can now package and ship prints for a fraction of the effort and money. This lets me think about some new approaches to selling my art to my audience, and selling less expensive prints than ever before. Stay tuned; I'll be floating an idea or two for your consideration in the near future.
I'm done. I need a rest. I am going to take a rest. And tomorrow morning, for the first time in almost three months, I will be able to sit back and enjoy a leisurely cup of tea without thinking about how many minutes I can afford to take before I have to go set up the darkroom trays and start printing. Ahh, luxury!
Featured Comment by Geoff Wittig: "Thank you for the information. As the dye-transfer matrices are simply hardened gelatin, I had wondered if they would deteriorate over time with repeated impressions; now I know! Personally I have never done any 'production' printing more challenging than a dozen 24x36" inket prints for an institutional order. The quality control issues even for such a small project were not trivial. Just thinking about making 730 perfect individual dye transfer prints makes me shudder, especially after seeing via the Luminous-landscape video how labor-intensive the process is. The two prints I received are flawless, and Ctein is correct: the depth and purity of color displayed by a dye transfer print really has to be seen to be appreciated.
"Bravo, and enjoy a well-deserved rest."