Someone is always coming up to me and asking about ningyo editions or the title of this blog, “ningyoprints.” I can’t even sit down in a restaurant to a sweet potato quesadilla without some confused, inquisitive busybody asking what ningyo editions was, or what it is, or more to the point, how it is pronounced. And then the blog, there’s that word again! Well, Smart Guy, pretend you are learning to read for the very first time. You sound out the syllables to form words. Ergo, it is pronounced nin-gyo, just as it sounds: “ning” as in “planning” + “gy-o” pronounced as if you’ve run into someone you initially think you hate so you begin to tell them to “go” but then suddenly realize they’re okay and so you change your salutation to “yo.”
I remind these people that both the press and the gallery are closed, while the blog lives on. I tell them that I’d rather focus on my own work than facilitate the work of other people, who, wonderful and delightful as they may be, nevertheless saw me busting my ass with little hope of financial recompense (what an asshole I sound like). Then I make a brief comment as if to myself about how all these questions can possible merit interrupting someone’s lunch. However, people are stubborn as mules and I am like an irritable feline. A bad combination, but unavoidable, so I put down my fork and engage. I transcribe a typical conversation between ME and the typical INQUIRING PERSON. It runs something like this:
INQUIRING PERSON: What is Ningyo Editions?
ME: The accurate question would be what was ningyo ediitons? (Here I emphasize the lower case). It was a printmaking studio and gallery in Watertown Square specializing in etching and relief printing. We published artists’ editions by invitation. We still offer contract printing and editioning services. Are you interested?
ME: We closed over a year ago, or about a year ago. I can’t remember. These days I’m eating lunch, as you can see.
INQUIRING PERSON: Are you a not-for-profit or a cooperative?
ME: Again, the word you use should be were, not are. The past tense, even the imperfect, is acceptable, but, aside from the blog, we are talking about things that have happened some time ago. (I put my fork down in resignation.) We refer to these times as the past and make linquistic amendments to our language to account for this. (Pause) We were not a not-for-profit only in the sense that, after paying rent and utilities each month, no profit was made.The opposite, in fact.
INQUIRING PERSON: (ignoring the quip, which nettles a bit – I thought it was funny): How big is your press?
ME: Um, well, I haven’t measured, but I haven’t had any complaints. Oh! The press! Right, well, it’s a 24 x 36” Takach etching press. It can accommodate a full 22 x 30″ sheet of paper. But, you know, it feels bigger than it looks.
INQUIRING PERSON (frowning): What does “ningyo” mean? Am I even pronouncing it right?
ME: You’re a bit deaf as I believe we just went over that. Neen – gyo. It’s Japanese for “doll.” It also means a person who is half human/half fish, like a mermaid. Do you like mermaids?
INQUIRING PERSON: (Ignoring the question) Why did you name it that?
ME: Well, I didn’t want to name it after myself, since I hear my own name frequently enough when I’m scolding myself. I also didn’t want to name it, say, after the street number (i.e. “Studio 81″) like so many restaurants do, or after the street itself (i.e. “Spring Street Editions”). So I naturally named it ningyo.
INQUIRING PERSON: I notice you keep using lower cases. You clearly felt no need to capitalize the name, but never mind that. What about the rabbit? The logo is a rabbit. It’s still on your door. Shouldn’t ningyo mean “rabbit”?
ME: (reflecting) …perhaps it should, but I cannot change the Japanese language. I haven’t looked into it, but the red tape, you know. Nevertheless, you are correct, the rabbit has nothing to do with the word ningyo, nor does a rabbit relate in any way to a mermaid. Do you like mermaids?
(Ignored again! Then silence, frowning, obviously still confused. My quesadilla has gone to room temp.)
ME: Well now, if you’ll excuse me I-
INQUIRING PERSON: Of course, sorry to have bothered you, Mr. Curcio, and good luck in your future endeavors.
ME: Thanks so much for your interest! (then incomprehensible, disgruntled muttering, sotto voce)
This concludes the exchange. I hope that this imaginary yet accurate conversation has helped explain the completely ambiguous nature of the name of my defunct gallery and current blog. No doubt as time goes by I will continue to construct new rationales and raisons d’etre for an etching studio, gallery and blog with a name that, to my chagrin, the public found so hard to process or even pronounce. For now, excepting the fact that I have just written about it, it is the last thing on my mind.
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