Hubby just returned from China. He was there visiting his parents and also to settle some business for Taryn Zhang. More on that later. Of course he returned bearing goodies: candies, cookies, and Hello Kitty paraphernalia. When all that had been presented to happy, excited me, he presented me the above message in a bottle. I unfurled the tiny pink scroll and saw this:
The Chinese characters he’s handwritten at the bottom of the paper reads “jia you” meaning literally “add oil.” (See the link. There’s a wikipedia entry on it! Nuts.) “Jia you” are words of encouragement to someone who needs to perservere. You might tell your favorite team at a sporting event to “jia you” if they’re falling behind. If a friend is studying for a major exam and seems to be losing steam, you might tell her to “jia you.” Or if your wife has been hitting a bunch of walls with regard to her entrepreneurial venture, you might write her a note with these same words.
Lately I have been feeling a tad lost on a plateau. I have been pouring every ounce of myself into this Taryn Zhang venture for the last year and without a whole ton of results to show for myself. Look at this blog and the TZ website and what we have so far. Estimate how much effort would go into yielding that. Multiply that estimation by ten and you’ve got about what I’ve been pouring into this venture. So pardon me if it gets a little discouraging at times.
Thus, Hubby’s “jia you” message couldn’t have come at a better moment. My next question was how in the heck did he get that red ink stamp of our logo?! Ah! He smiled. I thought you’d never ask.
While in China, Hubby had commissioned a certain renown ink chop artist to carve the above. Ink chops, also known as Chinese seals, are signatures (usually the Chinese characters of an individual’s name in calligraphy) carved into fine stones to be used as ink stamps.
There are two kinds of Chinese seals: bai wen seals, which are the characters carved into the stone, and zhu wen seals, which are like my seal above, where the negative space around the characters are carved out. Zhu wen seals are more expensive and take more artistry. Hubby got me the zhu wen seal. =)
The renown ink chop artist was an artiste who didn’t consider carving the TZ logo into the stone “art.” Typically when you commission a renown ink chop artist to carve your seal, the artist carves the characters in his or her unique style of calligraphy, and you pay a premium for that unique style. So in fact Hubby didn’t need to get this artist to carve the TZ seal for us since there was no “art” to it–the guy just had to copy the logo; Hubby could have gotten any street vendor downtown market ink chop guy to do it. Consider it like paying a world famous surgeon to apply first aid cream and a band-aid on your papercut. It’s a bit of an overkill.
However, Hubby specifically wanted an artiste to carve our ink chop, and not some street vendor downtown market ink chop guy, because after all, Taryn Zhang is an artistic endeavor, one that we very much cherish.
Why Hubby didn’t just get me an ink stamp pad, I have no idea. Nooo. He had to get me the old school vermillion cinnabar paste, this clay-like substance that was challenging as heck to handle. The clay-like paste comes wrapped in plastic. It’s your job to transfer it to the little porcelain jar. No instruction booklet, of course. This is supposed to be one of the four traditional Chinese arts, up there with calligraphy and poetry. In my hands, it was all a little bit nasty. That cinnabar paste thing would not cooperate. Would have much preferred the ink stamp pad…
I tested it out by stamping a page from my sketchpad. Hmm. That does not look right. It kind of looks like the stamp should read “FRAGILE! HANDLE WITH CARE!” or “CONFIDENTIAL!” and doesn’t quite look like art… Oh if that Chinese artiste knew what we were doing to his work of art ink chop, he’d be crying a river… =/
Now the business part of Hubby’s trip:
For those who have been following along my design journey, you’d recall the nightmare experience I had with the first and former manufacturer from southern China. After we parted ways, they had verbally agreed to return all proprietary materials, esp. our design patterns and anything with the TZ mark on it. But they never did. Ultimately we had to get a friend of a friend to go to the “factory,” kick up a storm and personally collect our property.
First of all as it turned out, the “factory” wasn’t actually a factory. The registered address to the company is residential. The “factory” depicted in all the photos on the company’s website is a rented space to show foreigners. If you’re a foreigner and you intend to “visit the factory” in China, the company takes you to that rented space, so it appears to you as if the company is huge. The actual place of business of the company is somebody’s basement, or something like that.
I was aghast. If we had not gotten a native to southern China to look up the company for us and march up to the actual registered “headquarters”, we would have been thoroughly duped. Quite appalling. So. Budding designers who want to do business in China, beware!
By the way there isn’t anything wrong with a small business registered to a residential address. What I did not appreciate was the lack of disclosure. Why fool me? Why pretend you’re some goliath factory when you’re not? If they were straight from the get-go about the size of the company, I would have been totally cool with it.
Luckily for us we got everything back through our southern China contact, and Hubby went to retrieve them for me. The above are the first 2″ x 2″ logo plates we made, and since we decided on 1″ x 1″ logo plates that look leaps and bounds better, this giant sack of 2×2 logo plates I now have are nothing more than souvenirs. And not even good souvenirs. They’re meh compared to the current ones on our alpha collection bags!
Sigh. Oh well.