I'm never at my best on Monday mornings--who is? That's why I was extra challenged when I sat down at around 6:30 on Monday morning, April 30, 2012, and read the following message in my inbox:
Long distance Hello to you from Tokyo, Japan!My response: "What???!!!?"
My name is Kenji Ishii. I am a member of a congregation belongs to Japan Church in Christ (JCC known as Kyodan).
I am writing this e-mail because I was delighted to find your beautiful quits on the web.
I have been looking for images of "a tree rooted in God", for the poster of our church event in March 20. We will have a worship in which a guest preacher will be talking about "a life of hope". We are preparing a leaflet and a poster for this event and we would like to invite people around our church.
I find your artwork of "Bearing the Fruit of Peace and Justice". I was so impressed by its warm message of fruitefulness of trusting in God's love.
I would like to ask your favor to allow us using your quilt image in our leaflet and poster.
If you kindly agree, we would pay some copyright fee. Please let me know how much will be adequate.
We will use your image just once for the event. We are going to print two big poster for the nearest railroad station and several hundreds of leaflets to pass our neighbors.
Other artworks of you are also great. I like them very much!
in God's love,
2-14-4-201 Hiratsuka, Shinagawaku, Tokyo 142-0051, Japan
Phone & Fax +81-3-3787-3676
I am a member of Senzoku Church.
Was this for real? I had to figure out how to respond. I shared the message with some of my knowledgeable art quilter friends, and with their advice, composed a list of things to do.
Starting with finding out about the Senzoku Church and Kenji Ishii.
|Kenji Ishii, right, with Reverend Yoshinobo Tobu|
Turns out Kenji is a geneticist and neurologist working at Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, conducting research on the aging of the brain and dementia. He's fluent in English, having spent some time with the National Institutes of Health facility in Frederick, Maryland. He's been an elder of his church for 18 years, and he contacted me in that capacity, as he was looking for an image to advertise an upcoming church event, a special worship service called "Tokuden," an abbreviation of Japanese words "Tokubetsu-Dendo-Reihai" meaning special missionary worship.The speaker at this event, Rev. Yoshinobo Tobu of Aoyama Gakuin University, a prestigious private university in Tokyo, would take as his text the psalm, "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither."For that reason, as Kenji told me later, he went to the Google Image site and "...input key words 'rooted in god' because I was looking for an image of tree with roots and fruits. Actually your kilt image comes out in the top ten images right now."
The quilt he found, titled Bearing the Fruit of Peace and Justice, was created for a commission from the United Methodist Church of Hartford, and it was on the web because I wrote about it on this blog! Like right here, for example: http://stitching-it-all-together.blogspot.com/2011/04/i-used-to-be-working-on-bearing-fruits.html
Kenji explained, "We expect people to get a feeling how peaceful, secure, fruitful a life rooted in God is, through your beautiful quilt image."
Once I was satisfied that this voice from Japan belonged to a real person, and an admirable one at that, I had to try to figure out the extent to which I had any rights to the image. I researched copyright law, and it turns out that although the United Methodist Church of Hartford owns the quilt, I own the right to the image. I immediately copyrighted it.
The next step was to figure out whether to ask for reimbursement for the Senzoku Church's use of the image. I went onto the very useful Yahoo group run by one of the quilt organizations to which I belong, Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). http://www.saqa.com/. I posted my question. Some respondents suggested that I ask for a modest fee; some suggested that I not charge any fee because the organization was and is a church. One respondent suggested I contact internationally-famous Japanese quilter Noriko Endo, who, besides being a native Japanese and a professional artist, was also a member of SAQA. I own one of her books and I admire her work. Take a look: http://park19.wakwak.com/~noriko/
To my surprise and delight, Noriko responded immediately. Here's what she said:
I read your e-mail. it is now our Golden Week( long vacations, 4/29-5/6), so everybody is taking vacations. I know the church, as I grow up in my junior and high school age near the area, Senzoku.
Congratulations! Many people will see your beautiful quilts image.
As he is going to use your image for the coming event in the church, so your question is how much you can charge him as he is offering to pay money. I understand you have copy right.
I suggest you that you better not charge him. In some cases of mine( not only my cases, but many of other quilters around the world), I am often asked to borrow my quilts or use my quilts images for the events or campain, I never asked them to pay me some amount of money. As your quilt images spread out to the world, so you will be become popular and popular. It is a good thing for you.
In case he insists to pay you, you better answer him to donate the money to the church.
This is my opinion, how do you think?
In case I needed to borrow my quilts which already went to the collectors for my solo exhibitions etc., I didn't need to pay any money to the collectors.
Hope you understand.
I decided to follow her advice...she was in the best position of anyone to advise me. So I drew up a simple contract specifying how and when the Senzoku church would use my image, asking in return only for copies of the handouts and posters, and for photos of the posters hanging in the local train station and outside the church. Here's the contract I drew up:
Now a copy of the poster resides over the fireplace in my living room:
Best of all, Kenji's congregation is thinking about having me make a smaller, similar quilt for their church.
In all this, I am many times blessed.
Many thanks to everyone who helped me figure out what to do, especially to my friend Edith Tresner, who commissioned Bearing the Fruit of Peace and Justice for the United Methodist Church of Hartford, and to my friend Betty Warner, who not only set up this blog for me, but also held my hand through this mysterious and wonderful interlude in Japan.