September Le Pater Update: From Thomas Negovan
Posted on September 21 2017
It's been a while since I wrote to you personally, so I wanted to post an update on this project. It's a bit long, but I appreciate all of you and want to make sure I'm being present and communicative by covering all the points. Thank you!
Century Guild is a small, family owned company, and to say that we all appreciate your patience is an understatement. We are huge fans of Kickstarter and pre-order reservations, and the way it allows our gallery to create deluxe art books that are only possible under this beautifully non-traditional, patron-based publishing model. If we followed a more cookie-cutter approach to publishing we'd be able to consistently predict how projects would unfold, but in a world where next-day shipping has escalated to same-day delivery we are still clinging to the unpredictable journey of things being as hand-made, elegant, and unique as possible, and we are honored and grateful that you are taking that journey with us.
Because of our desire to make everything as mind-bendingly fabulous as we can, sometimes we are on time, sometimes we are early, and sometimes we are late. In all these cases, the effort on our end is exactly the same: constant pressure to move forward while never compromising the object that we want to send out. Clive Barker's IMAGINER book was painfully late (we used materials and a process for the cover that were very, very challenging), but when he had the first copy in his hands, he publicly announced that it was "the finest book to carry (his) name." When someone has had hundreds of editions of books from the largest publishers in the world, that’s high praise. We try and remember that people (like Clive) who are ultra-sophisticated and really, truly love beautiful books appreciate the time we spend to make these hardcover editions as fabulous as we can imagine.
In the case of this Mucha book, every time I thought I was finished something else incredibly important surfaced, a thread that I believe needed to be pursued. That decision would push the delivery date back, but I didn’t want to deliver a book that wasn’t the definitive volume regarding Le Pater. I can’t believe that anyone who is upset about the delay is really reading the updates, thinking about what we've expressed, and deciding they just want to take a pass on the expansions we've added. The hair on my arms stood up when I saw the preliminary painting for a work revising Le Pater at the end of Mucha’s life–it’s not in any other Mucha book, and in each case like this I did whatever I needed to do in order to get it photographed to include it. As a direct result of these delays, the book you’ll be receiving is double the page count and contains a vast number of materials unavailable anywhere else.
I want everyone to have the most magnificent book possible, even if it means that I am disappointing anyone in the short-term.
Supporting projects by placing a pre-order reservation or pledging on Kickstarter isn't like ordering on Amazon. Each one has its place, and I do both constantly. In one venue, I want it as soon as possible, and in the other I want the person I'm supporting to take their time and create what they can to the best of their ability. My experience as a patron has been the same as a creator: some projects are early, some are on time, and a great, great many are late. I have at least one book I've supported which is as overdue as Le Pater, and from the other books they've created I'm confident it will be magnificent. If you support us on Kickstarter or through pre-order reservations, there will be times that projects (like this one) are late. The reward–and we hope this feels like a reward–is that when a book is late it’s because the scope and scale is increasing, and you are locked in at the proposal price. Le Pater’s retail price at this point is twice the pre-order price because the page count has increased so much, but your copy is already paid for in full. Following those paths means a book like this loses SO MUCH money on our end, but it’s incredibly important in my opinion to make sure that this book stands as tall as all the others we’ve created and receives the same accolades. These books mean the world to me, and I don’t want to send out anything that isn’t absolutely the best that it can be. When you support us through pre-order reservations and Kickstarter, you are joining us on that creative journey. When you buy from us at retail on Amazon, you are not.
BUT- if anyone doesn't want to be with us on the boat of the creative process, this isn’t intended in any way to be a hostage situation–you can write to email@example.com and get a refund immediately, and revisit the book when it’s available on Amazon.
I love Kickstarter (25 campaigns created, and 155 backed!) and I’m excited to be a part of this organic community. There are campaigns that I’ve pledged on that arrived right on time, and far more that were a little late, and even a few that went long, long overdue. Why do we love Kickstarter? Is it for a discount? Or because we want to see things happen that are outside of the norm, and to be a part of supporting that process? For me, it’s a bit of both, but primarily the latter.
You have to have a really thick skin to be a Kickstarter creator. I think that probably half of the questions I respond to from newer creators involves supporting and coaching them on that front. Raising money is one thing, being kind and present and also following the winding road of a creative project faithfully are very different muscles. I'll share that it's not uncommon for emails asking where the items are to begin literally the day a campaign closes. By the end of the first week, the angry ones start. I always remind other creators that most people understand the creative process, and that we need to remember that we are grateful for the opportunity we've been given to create something. My experience is that the people who have created the things I most respect are the most patient and offer the kindest words of support when I am late, and I try to pay that forward with the 100+ people I’ve backed when they hit their inevitable delays. No creator wants to be the one who is a year or more late on a project. Most people who post public comments are generally the ones who are upset and want to be heard, and the ones who are thrilled when something is early or just are generally happy and want to offer support tend to send private messages because they are focusing their kindness directly towards you. We've actually received flowers (which was really special!), and when people post images of themselves with one of our creations on social media it absolutely makes our day. I hope that our body of work inspires confidence in our process, and that when anyone has Thomas Negovan and Century Guild projects in their home they’re among the coolest books or objects they own.
Right now, I’m trying to sort out a mechanical problem with the Le Pater book. I want to have Mucha’s concept sketches underneath a fold-over next to the finished artworks so that you can see first the final work then look at them next to each other if you choose. I’m not going to give up on that just because it’ll make the book late, if it works it’s too magnificent to have been tossed in the bin for any reason other than it was pursued to its end point and didn’t create the experience we’d hoped. I generally don’t address these things directly on here because I don't want to advertise paths that might not come to pass, and I’m actively trying to solve any challenges so that I can hurry up and send books out. Chandra (bless her) helps me by posting updates to keep people aware of the general movements of the enormous beast that is each project, and when people comment “why are there other projects moving forward when this isn’t delivered” or "it's a shame" or "extremely disappointed" or things like that, she tries to give a kind and general reply; the more detailed answer is that if I’m waiting 24 hours for a paper sample or a week for a new proof to arrive, I’m using the down time to move other projects forward. When the boomerang with Mucha attached comes back across my desk, it’s top priority, and then I send it back out and wait for it to arrive with new data. If I negotiate with a museum to re-photograph an artwork at higher resolution, for example, there is a window while I wait for that file to arrive. In that time, I work on other points on the Le Pater list, and when everything related to that is out of my hands, I move on to the next projects on my list. There's no point when everyone here isn't working completely and totally towards pleasing every single patron at every level. (This paragraph is extremely boring and I feel like I'm whining, and is a clear example of why I don’t write the monthly updates.)
I can’t stress enough how much I love our patrons and the community that surrounds us. I’ve met people who have become some of my closest friends as a result of this community, and it’s made the creation of things I’d only dreamed of being able to see happen a tactile reality. I’m genuinely grateful for the support of each and every one of you, and knowing that people care about wax cylinders and Art Nouveau and mysticism and pirate girls and sideshow paintings and eccentric 19th century posters and all this GREAT stuff that I’m surrounded by is what fuels me finding ways to share it with all of you. Thanks to you, our projects have a 100% success rate; the body of work that’s being formed is entirely because of your support.
What is the delivery date of Le Pater? I hate estimating, and I tend to not do it because then the focus isn't it being done properly over all else. I'm working on Le Pater every single day, and right now the creative work is finished and it's just mechanical paths that need to be pursued. Once those are sorted out, advance copies of the book are sent to us, and once those are approved the rest get loaded onto a ship–at that point we can have a pretty clear delivery date barring customs issues. I'm asking for your patience so that I can make the book right and not quickly. To quote Adam Jones, "it's not good when it's done, it's done when it's good." If this sounds even remotely dismissive, it is absolutely the opposite: it's because I respect each of you so much that I want this to be perfect for every one of you, and I'll mention again that I hope our body of work inspires confidence in our process.
I feel like I need to end this on a creatively empowering note by changing the subject and mentioning something someone else is creating. What I love about Kickstarter is that it fosters such glorious and unique creative projects, and it’s why for every project I undertake I try and contribute to five or six. The one that I am most excited about right now is (brace yourself, this is absolutely the kind of thing you won’t find anywhere other than Kickstarter) a puppet film called The Haunted Swordsman. If you’ve read this far, do yourself a favor and check out this link: http://kck.st/2x9Xqkf. Kevin McTurk, the creator, is one of the kindest and gentlest artists I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet, and his films are an example of the kind of projects that require the unique platform of Kickstarter to bring them to life. Seeing the wax shavings surround his in-process sculptures reminds me that all these projects might be messy during their process, and that in the world of art many of the steps are fluid and chaotic, but the beautifully polished end results are something that we all hope you feel are well worth it.
With sincere love and even deeper respect,
Expressing gratitude; an original Mucha painting, one of the glorious and enchanting rarities from our upcoming book.
Link to project update on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/centuryguild/alphonse-mucha-reprinting-a-lost-art-nouveau-maste-0/posts/1995110