What They’re Saying: Vescom “Really is Incredible”

Earlier this year, the design team at Century Sign Builders in Albuquerque, N.M., partnered with All American Wallpapering to decorate the final phase of a three-phase project that started in 2017. Nuevo East – the Graduate Student housing at the University of California San Diego – was to be redecorated and ready to go in March; however, Damien DeMenno, Project Manager for Century Sign Builders, says that COVID-19 altered their plans. “We completed it in March, but we had to finish quickly because the buildings had to be turned over to the State of California to be used as quarantine pods.”

After researching different products and finishes, DeMenno and the Century Signs team chose Type II compliant Vescom Polster for the wall décor for the UCSD grand finale. “We narrowed it down to a couple of different finishes and ultimately selected Polster for this project,” he says. For phase one of the project, DeMenno used Korographics Glassed Out and they originally looked at using Vescom Matte for phase three because the texture was a close match to the first project.

“When you’re dealing with putting a ‘matte’ product on a super smooth surface, you still get a little reflection off of it,” DeMenno says. “What’s cool about the Polster product is that it has a super light stucco texture to knock down any glare and it just made the whole project seem much more high-end.”

Giving his clients a high-end look is important, but working with a product that is easy to print and install also factors into his product selection. “We previously used a lot of laminated vinyl graphics, but the industry trend seems to have shifted to wallpaper. Since we have an HP Latex 365, we started working with Vescom and have for several jobs, now.”

For large projects like UCSD, he sees the consistency of Vescom as a huge benefit. As a precaution, DeMenno normally adds an overage allowance to job estimates to account for material errors, printer errors, or anything that may happen during fabrication. However, with this project, there was no need to use the extra material. “This material printed beautifully, and the color was consistent. We didn’t have any issues and we ended up using exactly what we specified and didn’t need any extra. This material really is incredible.”

Prior to working with Vescom, he’d experienced installation or color issues with other products but did not run into any delays while working with Polster. “In the past, I’ve noticed other brands will stretch or be 1/8” off at the top or bottom or sometimes the colors won’t match up and you’ll have to reprint a panel,” he says. “We had none of those issues with this product.”

DeMenno says it was important to have a product that would allow them to cover 34 walls, each with a unique graphic, in a very short timeframe. “With other products, we had the primer and the glue, and all the tools of traditional wallpaper,” he says. “When we started working with Vescom, we realized we didn’t need any of that. We needed the glue, but we could roll it right on to the wall and do it that way. This job didn’t require all the tools that traditional wallpaper takes, and that time-savings makes us competitive.”

After working with Vescom for several projects now, DeMenno says he would recommend it to future clients or anybody doing wall décor. “Everyone should get the samples and practice with them, that’s how you get the best results,” he says. “We did test prints on several different things to make sure we were happy with our choice. The effort is far worth it.”

With minimal waste – of both product and time – and easy installation, DeMenno and his clients were happy with the final outcome. “It’s an incredibly affordable product and to get results like that, everyone was just thrilled.”

If you are interested in Polster or any other Vescom textures, visit us online or call a LexJet representative at 800-453-9538.

The Front Porch Sessions – Photographers Get Creative in the Wake of COVID-19

Photographers by nature, are “people” people, and when sheltering in place and social distancing guidelines went into effect in March, they were among the many who were temporarily out of business. It was no different for Elise Wicklund, and her husband Tracy, of Wicklund Photography in Parrish, Fla. “It virtually stopped our business,” Wicklund says. “In an instant, we had to clear our calendars.”

With so many cancellations – and they were cancellations and not reschedules – the Wicklunds had to get creative and come up with something different to capture this historic moment of the worldwide pandemic. “We considered education, but we know we aren’t teachers,” she says. “We are photographers, so our reaction was to come up with different types of sessions.”

That’s when Wicklund got the idea for the “Front Porch Sessions”. She reached out to neighbors and clients to see if they were interested in doing family portraits on their porches. The popularity of the sessions exploded, and they booked all the sessions they had available. “We decided to let families document this part of their lives, just like they would any other – birthday parties, graduations, pandemics – if we don’t take photographs of these times, we won’t have anything but memories, and memories fade with time,” Wicklund says. “That’s why we photograph, so we figured this is just another memory to photograph.”

The sessions proved to be a great outlet for many of the families and some of them proved it with their sessions. While some families took a serious approach, Wicklund says others had fun with it. “Everyone had been cooped up inside their homes,” she says. “The sessions were whatever the families needed – some took them very seriously; others had a ton of fun.  We didn’t care or direct that part.  We were there to document and serve our families.”

While they enjoyed chronicling the pandemic through these sessions, the Wicklunds did not charge their clients for these sittings. “We still weren’t officially allowed to operate, so in lieu of session fees, we took donations for the food bank,” she says. “Our brand is all about servicing our clients and we believe if we have a servant’s heart, our brand will succeed.” Photographers who are doing charitable work, like Elise and Tracy, may consider printing on LexJet 8 Mil Production Satin Photo Paper, an economic solution that offers a wide color gamut and gives photos a natural look with minimal glare.

As the state of Florida has slowly begun reopening, Wicklund says they are starting to see more interest in regular sessions. They’ve also reached out to past clients, especially wedding clients, about design services for albums or videos that were not purchased at the time of the event. “We’ve reached out to see if people want to pre-book their sessions once isolation orders are lifted,” she says.

Looking at the future, Wicklund says she’s not opposed to scheduling more porch sessions, even after things return to normal, but it comes down to helping their clients get the most out of the sessions. “If this hits again, we will probably offer them again,” she says. “There’s no real reason to only offer those sessions, but it might be fun to see how things have changed in a year.”

As with most “people” people, photographers will certainly be happy to get back to weddings, graduation, and newborn sessions, but in the meantime, they are looking to get creative like Elise and Tracy Wicklund. However, as we approach the second half of the year, Wicklund is cautious about what’s on the horizon. “Based on how 2020 has gone so far, there’s no telling what we will be photographing this time next year!”

Georgia Sign Shop Keeps Kids Busy with Giant Wall Art Coloring Decals

When schools started shutting down, Tim and Shari Roe, owners of Outspoken Signs in Marietta, Ga., felt a calling to do something for their community. “A few weeks ago, we wondered how we could help using our capabilities at the shop,” Tim says. After some brainstorming, the Roes came up with a wall decal coloring project to keep kids occupied while sheltering in place.

Coloring Book Wall Art is a free program for families with kids looking for a creative outlet for their energy. The line drawings are designed in a Zentangle-like style, which is an art form that uses the drawing or coloring of structured images to aid in relaxation. “Before she died, Tim’s mom was really interested in that style of art and she always wanted to teach it to kids,” Shari says. “She was always the creative one, drawing and coloring with pencils and then hanging them on the wall,” says Tim.

When trying to decide choose an adhesive media, Tim reached out to Vincent Bejar, his LexJet sales specialist, to help determine which product would meet his criteria. He wanted a matte vinyl that could be colored with crayons and have a removable adhesive, so as not to damage the walls when the graphics were removed. Bejar knew he had a simple solution for Tim and Shari: LexJet Simple WallCal.

Once a graphic is selected, Tim prints the image on his HP Latex 330 and then die-cuts the animal and the child’s name, so they are ready to color. The two-piece decals are one-of-a-kind wall décor that the kids decorate themselves. “We wanted something bigger than a standard coloring book,” Tim says. “We love the idea that the kids can color them and then put them on the wall,” says Shari. “The kids are excited when they find out it’s an oversized sticker.”

So far, the project is a hit with kids and adults, alike. “These kids see the picture of their favorite animal and they always say ‘hey, it’s got my name on it!,’” says Tim. “We’ve had a lot of joy out of the kids’ responses.”

It seems the graphics are generating some good old-fashioned sibling rivalry. The Anderson family, one of the first families to get the graphics, has six kids — four sisters who are 8-year-old quads, a 15-year old sister, and a 6-year old brother.  “Two of the quads left the shop with energy and excitement,” Tim says. “They said they would get them done faster than their siblings, and theirs would look the best.”

For Tim and Shari to offer this gift to the community, they needed some additional partners. LexJet donated the media for the prints and Ken O’Leary of Surepath Financial in Woodstock, Ga., donated 100 boxes of crayons for families who may not have crayons readily available.

The program is going so well, the Roes are thinking about other ways they can give back to the community. “We’ve thought about working with local fire stations so they can take these graphics to kids who have gone through something traumatic,” Shari says. “We are trying to think of other avenues to get them to the kids.”

Follow the Outspoken Signs Facebook page to see more images of the kids’ creations.

If you are looking for ideas you can help in your community, give us a call at 800-453-9538 or get inspired by LexJet brandUP projects.

EPSON Helps Loftipop Grow from Etsy to Amazon

In 2013, Rachel O’Neill and her husband, Ryan, started their Sarasota, Fla., based company Loftipop as an Etsy shop. Today, they conceive, design and print their décor products in a 2,500 sq. ft. warehouse to ship across the country and through Amazon.

“I looked at Etsy and I saw people selling art prints and thought it was cool,” O’Neill says. “I told Ryan we could do it. We both brainstorm ideas and then he runs with them and designs.”

O’Neill did her homework before deciding which printer to choose for the art prints. “When we were researching, we noticed that Epson was the top of the line. Now, we love using their printers for our art prints,” she says. “I don’t think we’d ever switch to anything else. When our StylusPro 7890 finally died, we stayed with Epson and bought a SureColor P6000.”

A printer is often the first big purchase for a small business, and O’Neill feels that Epson has played a part in the success and growth of Loftipop. “The printer helped us launch our business and to this day the art prints are still a big part of our business, and they always will be, even though we’re doing other things,” she says. “We’ve always had great results and no major issues with them.”

The right printer needs the right media to create the perfect art print, so O’Neill uses LexJet Premium Archival Matte for its longevity. It is an acid-free paper and achieves 200-year archivability when partnered with the Epson inks.

In the beginning, O’Neill thought Loftipop would be a fun side project and never expected it to blossom into a full-time business. “We just opened a shop and put a couple of designs up. They started selling and it went from there,” she says. “We thought it would be cool to have a little side business, but we didn’t imagine where it’d go.”

Once they were comfortable with aqueous printing, they brought in a dye-sublimation printer so they could offer home décor and coffee mugs. O’Neill says it works great having both aqueous and dye-sub printers because they have been able to grow their product offering.

“The art prints launched our business,” she says. “We started doing the prints then expanded to other products, everyone has wall art and drinks out of a coffee mug.”

Growing from an Etsy shop to an e-commerce company didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t easy, but O’Neill says that they are grateful that they could grow it into what it is today and look forward to continued growth. “We did it in a very safe way. We didn’t quit our jobs to start it,” she says. “We still worked full time for a good three years. We worked on it after our regular jobs and on the weekends.”

Right now, it’s just her and Ryan and a third employee. She says it can get a little hectic during the holidays, but they make it work. “There is work that you have to put into growing a business,” O’Neill says. “But for us, we really enjoy, it’s fun for us.”

In November, they will celebrate their 7th anniversary and are adding new designs and offerings all the time, but it’s the prints that started it all. The right designs, the right printer, the right paper all create the products people want and have taken Loftipop from a small Etsy shop to an Amazon Prime reseller.  O’Neill is excited to see what they’ve built. “Now, we’re happy, we love what we do, and we love working for ourselves.”

LexJet brandUP: Cool Community Projects Powered by Print

If you’re looking for inspiration for your next office remodel, retail upgrade or community event, head over to LexJet’s brandUP video page to discover some of the projects we’ve helped bring to life through the power of print.

Over the last few years, we’ve worked with community organizations, businesses, non-profits and event planners to enhance their messaging efforts with printed graphics – from windows to walls and from stickers to signage.

On our brandUP page, you’ll find stories about:

  • How we used a variety of print technologies and applications to help with traffic flow and event messaging at the Suncoast Jeep Festival
  • How students from Ringling College of Art + Design used print to promote a virtual reality game at a SXSW exhibit, featuring branded water bottles, banners, vehicle decals and other eye-catching prints
  • How some clever graphic ideas spruced up a new dog grooming business with window graphics, wall murals, paw prints on the floor and so much more

Check back to the brandUP page to see what we’re dreaming up next!

Do you have a community print project that you’d like to share with our readers? Tell us in the comments below or email us.

Photographers for Charity: A New Way to Make a Difference

In the late 1990s, then Professional Photographers Association president Bert Behnke created PPA Charities. “It was a way for photographers to work together and make a difference. People are impressed when someone gives a big check, but so many of us can only give $5 or $10 at a time,” he says. “PPA Charities was a way people bonded together to show how our industry helped people.”

After 20 years of coordinating charitable activities and organizations, PPA Charities was shuttered in 2018. Behnke felt there was more the industry had to offer to the organizations that received donations and assistance from the original program and Photographers for Charity was born.

“Last summer, we finally got all the paperwork completed,” he says. “In fact, PPA was generous enough to give us a $2,000 donation – our first – to help us get started.” Currently, it’s just Behnke and his son, Al, putting things together. “This program just started. We officially launched at Imaging USA [in January 2020],” Behnke says.

Right now, they are slowly exposing the organization to the industry. “We will have a small presence at PhotoPro Expo in Covington, Ky., and we have some other marketing programs with Marathon Press,” Behnke says. “We hope to reincarnate Celebration of Smiles, an event PPA Charities held where photographers offer a mini session and a print for a $25 donation. We want to launch that in May, but we’d like to have a little more participation.”

Some of the organizations that will benefit from the generous donations of time, talent and money include:

Behnke is partnering with a former PPA Charities trustee to bring in more groups and plans to hold a charitable marketing conference sometime in 2021.

If you are interested in becoming a member, there are three donation levels: $250, $500, and $1,000, or you can pledge monthly $25, $50, $100 for a year. To help create excitement for P4C, Behnke is offering charter memberships, which recognizes donors as founding members, and they are part of the “Honor Wall.” The wall will be limited to 200 members and will be part of a 10 ft. x 8 ft. backdrop for P4C tradeshows and events.

“We are still in our infancy, so we’re still finding our way around,” Behnke says. “The website isn’t complete, but our Facebook page is active.”  If you are interested in charter memberships, the Honor Wall or to learn about upcoming projects and missions, you can email Behnke for more information.