Made in the Shade: Fine Art Paper Adds an Artsy Finish

Getting a glimpse into Michael Macone’s world is a crafty art-lover’s dream. Macone runs The Potter’s Shed in Shell Lake, Wis., a cool art gallery-meets cafe-meets do-it-yourself art space-meets music venue. “It’s 50,000 square feet of art fun,” he says. He also runs Macone Clay, where he creates all sorts of clay projects including lamps, bowls, cups, plaques and much more.

One of Macone’s most popular items is the artsy lamps, which are almost entirely created in-house. The wood base is made in the woodshop, the body is extruded clay that’s manipulated while it’s still wet. The shade is printed on LexJet Sunset Textured Fine Art Paper 310g.

When he first began making the lamps, he was purchasing shades from a home supply store and hand-painting each one. “That was a lot of fun for a while … but the painting was arduous and stressful,” he says. “We had to be careful not to over-saturate the paint, and eventually it turned into a big bother rather than fun.”

But the lamps, which sell for $225, were gaining popularity, and he needed a solution. That’s when he came across printed lamp shades at a wholesale event, and decided to give it a try. “It was a big learning curve getting the template in the digital realm, but we figured it out,” he says. He was working with a different brand of paper, which was fine, he says, but his LexJet rep introduced him to the Textured Fine Art Paper, and he made the switch.

“It ended up being thicker and felt better on the frame,” Macone says. “It looked noticeably better, which surprised us. When we compared it – the color just snapped more.”

Macone’s lamp shade designs start sometimes as pencil sketches or photos or paintings that he manipulates in Photoshop to get the final design that pairs best with the lamp’s body, which is painted and enhanced with melted glass that drips elegantly down the edge.

He offers four lamp base styles and 20 shade options, and sells about 500 lamps a year through YouNeedArtNow.com, in The Potter’s Shed gallery and at art fairs around the country.

A long-time LexJet customer, Macone also uses his Epson wide-format printer to create collages with sweet artwork and sayings that are adhered to wooden plaques. For those, he opts for LexJet Premium Archival Matte Paper, which he finishes with a UV coating that he also utilizes for the lamp shades.

“It’s a good quality photo paper that we’ve been using for a couple of years,” he says. “We always have lots of colors [in our designs] and just have a lot of fun with the art.”

Freeflow Art: Giving Untapped Talent a Place to Thrive

When Marco Hope was incarcerated for 14 years, he didn’t waste his time. In fact, he set about completely revamping himself through reading and introspection. He also found a way to overhaul his career when he realized he was surrounded by a lot of untapped, unrecognized artists serving time with him.

“When you’re in jail, your family can send you funds to buy food other than what they serve and things like that,” Hope says. “What I would do with that money was buy art [from other inmates].”

Deep Discounts on Select LexJet Photo Papers End on Sept. 4

Deep Discounts at LexJetThere are only five business days left (including today) to take advantage of deep discounts on select LexJet photo papers:

Save up to 40 percent, and even more on some roll sizes, on the LexJet photo papers listed above. Here are some examples of the staggering savings you can realize if you act before Sept. 4:

Call a LexJet printing expert at 800-453-9538 or order online at lexjet.com to stock up before this special promotion ends on Thursday, Sept. 4.

Then, on Friday, Sept. 5, check back here at blog.lexjet.com for the next dynamite deal.

Artisan Craftsman Books on Sunset Photo Canvas Paper

Artisan Craftsman Books

As the name implies, Artisan Craftsman Books specializes in hand-crafted fine-art photo books. Owner Larry Crandall is also a veteran photographer of 30-plus years who knows how photography can be maximized in a photo book.

Wedding Book by Artisan Craftsman Books
Larry Crandall of Artisan Craftsman Books used Sunset Photo Canvas Paper for the page spreads inside the book and a portion of the cover. He used a protective spray on the cover and placed the book inside a clamshell case to showcase it and provide additional protection.

As a fine-art photo book maker, Crandall typically uses matte paper, and most often LexJet Premium Archival Matte Paper, for the photo pages within the book. “We specialize in matte, giclee-printed books; we don’t do photographic or press-printed books,” adds Crandall.

With the introduction of Sunset Photo Canvas Paper 230g, Crandall may have found a new staple for his photo books, not as a replacement, but as an excellent textured option. He tried the new paper for the first time on a wedding photography book that was also printed on Premium Archival Matte.

Wedding Book Cover“I’m not laminating the Sunset Photo Canvas in order to let the texture show through. Instead, I spray it with a protective spray and I think it’s durable enough. It’s pretty neat looking; it has a matte, fine-art finish and I really like it,” says Crandall.

The pages are printed on an Epson 7890 as a full-page spread. Crandall uses the auto-cut feature on the printer to make it easy to stack up the sheets in order, then trims the edges and scores the middle of the spread so that the pages are ready for binding. This particular wedding book is about 50 pages, or 25 full-page spreads, all printed on Sunset Photo Canvas Paper.

Artisan Craftsman Books Wedding Album
A close-up showing both the detail and texture achieved with Sunset Photo Canvas Paper.

“I was concerned that the texture might take away from the detail, where it runs over someone’s eye or other facial feature. That’s not the case. It still prints beautifully,” says Crandall. “You get a little better continuous tone from Premium Archival Matte in certain areas. What I like is the texture itself, which has a nice feel. A large part of these books is the touch and feel, which doesn’t apply as much when you hang it on a wall.”

First of The 5: Deep Discounts on Select LexJet Photo Papers

For one month only – starting today through September 4 – get deep discounts and staggering savings on select LexJet photo papers… up to 40% (and even more on some roll sizes).

First of The Five Photo Paper DiscountsHere are some quick examples…

And that’s not all… there are deep discounts on every size of:

Remember, these prices are only good through September 4, so call a LexJet printing expert today at 800-453-9538 to get your deep discounts on photo papers. This offer is available via phone and at lexjet.com.

Then, check back on September 5 to find out the next outrageous offer of The 5

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Layers of Imaging Opportunities at Image-Tec

Fine Art Canvas
Image-Tec has full canvas production capabilities in-house. This canvas fine art reproduction printed on Sunset by Fredrix Matte Canvas is in process.

Tom Grassi likens his business – Image-Tec, based in Methuen, Mass. – to Photoshop. It’s an apt analogy: Photoshop is arguably the iconic representative of the digital age of photography and imaging, and Photoshop is almost infinitely organic in the various ways you can get from point A to point B through its tools, filters and layers.

Commercial photography at Image-Tec
Commercial photography continues to be an important part of Image-Tec’s business.

“This business has layers and layers to it, and you can keep digging and keying off those layers, and marketing off those layers to build a huge customer base,” says Grassi. “It’s like Photoshop… How far do you want to dig and how many layers do you want to build?”

Though the majority – a thin majority – of Image-Tec’s work is fine art reproduction, the business is diverse and nimble enough to find those proverbial layers, bringing clients along to take advantage of the opportunities presented when you dig a little deeper.

“I tell artists during demos we put on here at the studio that the possibilities of taking your art and doing something with it are endless, and go far beyond the typical reproduction on canvas or fine art paper. Once the digital age came in, you could do just about anything with the digital file,” says Grassi. “But to find out what the client really needs you have to stop selling people and listen to them. From that, you can find other products that might do well in the market with their work.”

Artist Note Cards
Artists love the note cards Image-Tec prints for them on LexJet Premium Archival Matte Paper.

It may be that Grassi sees more of those layers of opportunity since the advent of digital imaging and reproduction, and the liberation it brought.

Image-Tec was founded in 1982 as a commercial photo studio with an in-house lab and Grassi recalls: “We were limited in what we could do for artists. We were shooting film and making some color prints; basically, we were producing transparencies to go to offset, which was extremely expensive versus now where you can print on demand.”

Grassi says that on-demand is a point of emphasis at Image-Tec where the main goal is to get the artwork scanned and recorded and then work with the artist to market the images.

Image Tec's drive in photography studio.
Image Tec’s drive in photography studio.

“There’s no need for us to sell them inventory in a print-on-demand environment. They can spend a couple of hundred bucks, get a bunch of paintings scanned, print some note cards, see what images sell and email us the order,” explains Grassi. “If customers are going to spend money with you, why not make the process as easy as possible? You don’t have to commit to a thousand dollars worth of prints; just bring the scans in, we’ll get them scanned – that’s the first step – and then from there you call us and we print them on-demand. People appreciate that because we tell them to do baby steps, especially in marketing their artwork because you don’t know what will sell.”

The original impetus for the founding of Image-Tec was control. Grassi went to the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif., to study photography, then returned to the Boston area to ply his trade as a photographer where the processing side was a thorn in his side.

Product photography for Pet Edge at Image-Tec.
Product photography for Pet Edge at Image-Tec.

“I was going down to Boston to process film and thought it was nuts because I was losing all this time and paying all this money to get it done. I knew how to print color so I got a loan, put a lab in and ended up generating a ton of money and saving a ton of time,” says Grassi.

That philosophy has stuck over the years. As Grassi puts it: “If we don’t do it here, we don’t do it. For me to send something out, have it come back wrong, and then go back and forth, I’ve lost money trying to make 20 percent on something I don’t handle. I much prefer to give the client the name and number of someone who can do something we don’t do here.”

There’s very little, however, that Image-Tec can’t do when it comes to photographic and fine art reproduction, including artwork capture with the BetterLight system. Capture, in fact, is an important part of the business, since about half of what Grassi does is commercial photography.

Fine Art Reproduction by Image-TecThe two sides of the business – capture and output – balance each other and reveal more layers of opportunity. Plus, the combination helped ease the transition from chemical to digital in the late ’90s as both sides of the business made the transition together and shined the light on new niche markets, like fine art reproduction.

“Back in 1999 we moved to a new facility and went digital with a BetterLight scan back to shoot catalog photography. By going digital we could save a lot of money in film, Polaroids and processing and be able to hand designers digital files, which sped everything up. However, everyone was reluctant to do that because digital photography wasn’t that great in the late ’90s, but the BetterLight was a very high-res scan back,” says Grassi. “We offered both chemical and inkjet during the transition and as inkjet took over we found we were using less of the chemical process. Plus, buying a high-end Epson scanner allowed us to pull from the thousands and thousands of 4×5 and 8×10 negatives so we can just scan one and make an inkjet print.”

Grassi estimates that the split between print production and capture now is about 60/40 in favor of printing. For commercial photography there’s a drive-in studio for photographing cars and other large pieces, and the subject matter runs the gamut from food to manufacturing.

Stretching canvas at Image-Tec.
Stretching canvas at Image-Tec.

“It’s a whole workflow. Over the past three weeks, for example, we’ve been taking in over 100 paintings per week for digital capture. Along with that are all the print orders. Some weeks we’re producing a ton of prints while other weeks we’re bringing in a lot of work to capture,” says Grassi. “All we use the BetterLight for is capturing art. The DSLRs are so great now that I use them for commercial photography. We bought a Horseman, a view camera you can mount your DSLR on, so you can correct perspectives, swings, and tilts and do selective focus a lot easier without buying a bunch of different lenses. It’s kind of a throwback to the old-school 4×5 process.”

For output, Image-Tec runs a Canon iPF8300 and an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 and has a full frame and finishing shop, including a Tensador canvas stretching machine. One of the keys to the output, says Grassi, is in the BetterLight scan back’s ability to create a file size that’s the same size as the artwork.

“File size is what drives this whole process, so we can tell a customer they’ll end up with a 40×60 canvas that will look just as nice as the original because it’s the same file size,” says Grassi. “We’ve perfected some specialized lighting techniques for different paintings that get us closer to the original. You still run into colors that tend to want to give you a hard time, but you just stick with it and run proofs. We’ll run strips in selected areas, match them up and get them as close as possible. We also spray the proofs because you might see some color shift when you spray something.”

Product Photography at Image-Tec
One of the many layers in the Image-Tec business mix is product photography of all kinds at the company’s studio.

Grassi’s favorite inkjet print materials for reproduction include the new Sunset by Fredrix Matte Canvas, LexJet Premium Archival Matte Paper, Sunset Textured Fine Art and Sunset Hot Press Rag. Grassi says Sunset by Fredrix Matte Canvas helped solve issues in finishing since the ink stays on consistently when it’s stretched.

Grassi describes LexJet Premium Archival Matte Paper as a workhorse for about 60 percent of what clients want to do with their artwork, including note card and bookmark prints that are popular with artists as alternative products.

The choice between reproductions on Sunset Textured Fine Art and Sunset Hot Press Rag will depend on the type of medium on which the original was created. “When we scan a watercolor on a watercolor paper we pick up the texture as well, so we print it on the smooth Hot Press Rag paper because you don’t want to add more texture to what has already been picked up by the scan,” explains Grassi.

It’s great to have every step in the process nailed down to ensure a quality capture or print every time, but Grassi says it’s all for naught if the customer isn’t comfortable or feels like the process itself is a black box they’re not privy to understanding.

“When we do a demo or have an artist come in as a new customer we spend 45 minutes with them. We show them the process, show our personality and have fun with what we’re doing. There’s a lot of technical stuff that goes on and if you can shed some light on it, they appreciate it,” says Grassi. “They go through the process, and then after they leave with their work we follow up to find if they loved it or if there are any problems we can correct. We make sure they’re 100 percent happy with a follow-up. How we can judge if we were successful is through consistent re-orders.”

This approach builds invaluable word of mouth, but Grassi is also active through the use of Google ad words and social media marketing. The most effective marketing piece so far in the social media/Google age, says Grassi, is a video he posted on the Image-Tec website that gives an overview of the print process.