Kimberly Smith Brings Home Gold During the Click & Win Image Awards

Earlier this year, LexJet hosted the Click & Win Image Awards as part of the Click & Print Event. In the weeks leading up to the awards, photographers of all levels of expertise submitted images for the chance to win trophies and cash prizes, as well as experience what it’s like to participate in a photo competition.

By the time the judges made their final decisions, Kimberly Smith walked away with First Place in the Portrait category, with “Cameo”.  She also received First Place and Best in Show for “Well, Hello There!”, her entry in Fine Art/Composite.

Once the winners were unveiled, Smith received some great feedback from Judge Cheri Hammon. “We really enjoyed the story of this [image], we loved the humor and the color pallet,” she said. “It was really well done.”

“Come Out, Come Out., Wherever You Are”

As for how the award-winning image came to be, Smith says she was inspired by some photos of birds she took while at the zoo and didn’t realize what she had until she was going through her photos. “I noticed this bird was bent over, looking at me through its legs like ‘Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there!’,” she says. “I knew that I had to do something with it.”

After she started working with the image, Smith wanted to add something that would explain why the bird was peeking through its legs. “I wanted him to be looking at something, but I didn’t want it to be another bird, I wanted the focus to be on him,” she says. “I added the butterflies because it had to be something that flies and could be up there.”

Her Best in Show piece wasn’t the only winner she captured that day at the zoo. Her second-place piece, “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are” was also influenced by a bird, although, a much larger and more intimidating species. “I took a picture of some type of African Crane and the way he looked at me was creepy,” she says. “I wondered what kind of story I could tell with him. I could see him ripping through the side of a tent, just stalking somebody. He was scary.”

“High Society”

Fortunately, “High Society”, an artistic piece that took third place in Fine Art/Composite is a little lighter. That image showcases a spunky giraffe with several bowties and a flower dangling from his mouth.

“I’d been commissioned for a giraffe piece, but I wanted to see what else I could do with some of the other images. I really liked this one and I thought he needed a bowtie,” she says. “I remembered photographing a dog with a bowtie for another client. When I cut the bowtie out, a little fur came with it, so I thought I’d give the giraffe a fuzzy collar. I just kept going because he had such a long neck. I added the flower because I thought he needed something in his mouth.”


After sweeping the Fine Art category, Smith took the top spot in Portrait with her image “Cameo.” Although the image gives an old-time feel, it was created from a 2021 Senior photo shoot. “She loves old hats and stuff, so I photographed her with the hat,” she says. “I wanted it to be high-key, and I wanted it to be that old-fashioned look.”

Because Smith has a specific artistic look to her work, she needs the perfect media to complement it. Whether she’s teaching at the Texas School or submitting her work to State PPA competitions, Smith uses the Sunset Bright Velvet Rag 315g. “It’s the only one I get and the only one I tell people to use,” she says. “The light airy look just looks so good on that paper.”

Kimberly Smith did well at the 2021 Click & Win Image Awards, as well as Oklahoma and other Open competitions around the country, but for those photographers who are just learning about competitions, the Click & Print Event and the Image Awards offered insights from professional photographers who have spent years honing their craft. If you’d like to learn more from our keynote speakers, visit the showroom floor to catch them on-demand.

PrintFX Bursts onto the Scene with HP Printers and Media

For the last 10 years, Jayson Ownsby had been working for a local print service provider in the Knoxville, Tenn.-area. While he’s always dreamt of opening his own print shop, he didn’t make the leap until last year. Partnering with his cousin, Caylor Tallent, Ownsby started looking at equipment, and in early 2020, they opened PrintFX. “It was last January or February when we started pricing equipment, then COVID hit,” he says. “It threw a wrench in the plan, but through Dave [Grotkiewicz, LexJet sales representative], we worked it out.”

Their first investment was the HP Latex 335 Print and Cut Solution. Once they got up and running with the printer, Grotkiewicz recommended the products in the HP Adhesive vinyl portfolio. “I love that vinyl,” says Ownsby. “I go through about 7-8 rolls a month of the HP Prime Gloss CP.”

The price and the quality of the vinyl have given them the opportunity to print stickers for local nutrition shops. “Because of COVID, they are using disposable cups and hand applying the stickers,” he says. “They also give the stickers to their customers to put on their own coolers or tumblers and I’ve even seen the stickers on bumpers around town. It helps them advertise and it helps us turn a profit, because of the price point.”

Ownsby says it’s not just the great pricing that keeps his customers coming back to him.  The combination of the latex ink and HP adhesive vinyl means he can offer a quick turnaround on a more durable product compared to national online retailers. Getting his customers a durable product at a competitive cost with a short lead time helps make the nutrition shops more efficient. “When they purchased online, the stickers would come on rolls and the baristas can only do a few at a time. The stickers I give them are on sheets, which makes it easier to hand out so more people can knock them out in a few minutes.”

Printing stickers for the local nutrition shops aren’t the only thing keeping these cousins busy. They also use HP Optimal Gloss Air GRP for box trucks and recently, they used it on a racing truck. Once again, Ownsby says it’s the cost of the product that is helping improve his bottom line. “ I can either spend a few thousand on other brands to wrap a trailer, or a fraction of that on Optimal and the pairing laminate,” he says “I’m wrapping the same job, but only spending one-third of the money.”

As a small business owner, Ownsby relies heavily on the support of Grotkiewicz and the quality of the HP brand. “HP and LexJet make it affordable for me, as a small shop, with no employees and two owners. We are doing extremely big things as far as a two-person shop.” He says. “I think we go above and beyond and compete with the big boys who buy pallets of material.”

Tallent agrees. “The HP product line allows us to compete,” he says. “It is superior to other products and at a better price.”

Opening a new business is always challenging but starting a business and succeeding during a pandemic takes grit, determination, and the backing of customers and vendors. “None of this is possible if I don’t have the products and the support. Dave has been integral,” says Ownsby. “Going forward, I don’t see my shop surviving without HP, that’s how important the products are to my shop and to my business.”

Looking over their first year in business, Ownsby realizes his dream has finally come true. “It’s always been a goal of mine to be my own boss,” he says. “I could never have imagined, when we set out on this adventure a little over a year ago, that we’d be sitting here in 2021, having had a successful first year.”


10 Creative Stories that Brought Joy and Success in 2020

Our customers worked hard this year to create projects for their clients and communities to bring smiles to faces across the country. From window graphics with SQUID Textiles to unique and fun applications with the versatile HP Satin Wrapping Paper, these creative solutions are sure to inspire you for 2021:

For Flexibility, Privacy & Design, Squid Delivers for this Texas Printer Phillip Cole, sales manager at Thomas Graphics Inc. in Austin, Tex., is always looking for unique products to offer his clients. Once he heard about Squid Textiles, a new self-adhesive window fabric that offers privacy, reduced heat and glare from the sun, and the opportunity to create customized graphics, Cole knew it would be a great addition to his product line. “I like the unique ability to print on it because that’s what we do, and it opens up lots of ideas on how it can be used,” he says.


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. “When we were researching, we noticed that Epson was the top of the line. We love using their printers for our art prints. I don’t think we’d ever switch to anything else,” says O’Neill.


Georgia Sign Shop Keeps Kids Busy with Giant Wall Art Coloring Decals Earlier this year, 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.


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. That’s when she 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 and the popularity of the sessions exploded.


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 Nuevo East – the Graduate Student housing at the University of California San Diego. 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 project. “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,” DeMenno says.


What They’re Saying: “The HP Films are Good Quality and They Look Great” For over 30 years, Tony Evans has been living his childhood dream through Evans Graphics. “Ever since I was a little boy, it was my dream to work with fire trucks, and I would say that now, around 80% of my work is on emergency vehicles,” he says. Evans uses HP Adhesive Vinyl and Overlaminates on his HP Latex 115 to print and protect graphics for safety vehicles and work vehicles in and around the Monessen, Pa. area.


What They’re Saying: “HP Satin Wrapping Paper is a Unique Way for One Small Thing to Have Impact” Andrew and Kristy Hodge, owners of Red Barn Canvas in Lake Hartwell, Ga., have found success creating year-round customized gift wrap and high-end posters with HP Satin Wrapping Paper. Hodge says in the two years since they started offering it, their wrapping paper business has grown exponentially. “Our first holiday, we probably sold about 20 sheets and now, it’s every other day. It’s not just Christmas holidays, it’s birthdays throughout the year, which is fun.”


Karin Giusti Uses Art to Create Thought-provoking “Third Space” Piece Rhode Island artist Karin Giusti – a Professor Emerita of Art at Brooklyn College – enjoys creating pieces that are close to her heart, but also speak to anyone who sees them. Giusti was awarded an opportunity to create a public art display on the unique exterior of the downtown Providence Civic Center parking garage for PVDfest. Her plan was to treat the exterior of the building as a loom and weave brightly colored ribbons of LexJet 8 Mil Absolute Backlit. “It was an absolute blast! It was so much fun because the backlit and the laminate were manageable and easy to work with.”


The Frame Room is Gifting Back Using HP Satin Wrapping Paper Last year, Kory Mitchell, owner of The Frame Room in Baltimore, wanted to do something different and creative to help out local charity Friends of Patterson Park, the stewards of Baltimore’s iconic Patterson Park. He heard about the new custom printable HP Satin Wrapping Paper and saw an opportunity to raise money by selling made-to-order gift wrap and donating $5.00 for every sale. Mitchell is partnering with local animal rescue organizations and artists for this year’s outreach program.


Bringing it Home with HP Latex and Media More people are working from home these days, and Reynoldsburg, Ohio-based photographer Jennifer Marshbank certainly has found a way to make the most of this opportunity: she prints all her work on an HP Latex 365 from her home office. From photos to customized wrapping paper and banners to stickers, she can help her clients celebrate any milestone with multiple applications.


Do you have a story you’d like to share with us? Tell us about your projects and you could be featured in 2021!

Bringing it Home with HP Latex and Media

Gretchen, Jennifer Marshbank’s dog, supervises as prints roll off the HP Latex 365

More people are working from home these days, and Reynoldsburg, Ohio-based photographer Jennifer Marshbank certainly has found a way to make the most of this opportunity. Working with her LexJet sales specialist, Ramiro Torrez, she chose an HP Latex 365 for her home office. “It’s very fun, but it was scary at first,” she says. “I’ve had other printers, but this is my first latex, and I love it. I named it Oscar because when you have something this big in your house, it deserves a name.”

Many photographers have busy and slow seasons, and Marshbank says that working with the HP Latex printer has given her a chance to offer more applications and products for her clients. She recently added HP Satin Wrapping Paper to her portfolio and is currently promoting it as part of a special treat when she sends packages to her clients.

“I printed photobooks for some customers and wrapped them in special ‘Thank You’ gift wrap that also announces the launch of my custom wrapping paper,” she says. “Because it’s customized, people love to see the gift wrap with their face on it or something personal about them.”

Celebrating her mom’s birthday with a customized banner

Marshbank is excited about the variety of opportunities she now has with the latex printer. From photos to canvas wraps and banners to stickers, she can help her clients celebrate any milestone with multiple applications. Recently, she used HP 13 oz Prime Matte Banner to create a special treat for her mother’s 73rd birthday, and it was a hit with the birthday girl. “My mom loved it, she told me that she’d never had anything like that before,” Marshbank says.

If there’s one thing small business owners have learned this year, it’s adaptability, and Marshbank certainly has had to adapt long before COVID hit. “I got sick last year, so I slowed down a little bit, but then it picked back up,” she says. “It helps, being able to print from home where you can offer more things.”

When choosing media for her printer, Marshbank discussed her options with Torrez. “She’s working with a lot of HP media right now because all the profiles are pre-loaded on the printer,” says Torrez.

With her customized wrapping paper launch in full swing, her next step is to launch a sticker line using HP Prime Gloss Air GP, which will give her clients even more opportunities to personalize their photos. While once nervous about the prospect of working out of her house, now that she’s doing it, Marshbank is really excited about the way her business is growing.

Personalized stickers

With so many people looking for alternative ways to keep businesses up and running, Marshbank has certainly come up with a great solution. For those who are unsure of being successful, in her characteristic positive vibe, Marshbank says, “I think you can do almost anything out of your home if you put your mind to it.”

The Frame Room is Gifting Back Using HP Satin Wrapping Paper

Last year, Kory Mitchell, owner of The Frame Room in Baltimore, wanted to do something different and creative to help out local charity Friends of Patterson Park, the stewards of Baltimore’s iconic Patterson Park. He heard about the new custom printable HP Satin Wrapping Paper and saw an opportunity to raise money by selling made-to-order gift wrap and donating $5.00 of every sale. “Friends of Patterson Park is a smaller organization and it gave us a chance to prototype the idea,” says Mitchell.  “It went well, and we raised several hundred dollars for them in a very short time. This year we will start an outreach campaign with animal rescue organizations and a few others.”

Customized HP Satin Wrapping Paper designed for Friends of Patterson Park

Since it was his first time working with HP Satin Wrapping Paper, Mitchell played around with the settings on his old EPSON Stylus Pro 9800. “It took some time to find the right ink levels and the Epson wouldn’t do a full bleed,” he says. “We adjusted some of the images, and it was fine.”

For this year’s outreach, Mitchell expects a different outcome. Not only does he have more experience with the product, but earlier this year, he purchased a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4100 printer, which will do a full bleed on 30-in media. Mitchell is excited about helping different organizations raise money. “We want to work with rescue organizations and artists,” he says. “In the past, we worked with Jordan Lawson – a young artist known as Art by JLaw – and he uses it for branding and holiday gifts.”

One of the reasons Mitchell uses HP Satin Wrapping Paper as a way to help raise money for local charities is because he knows he can sell customized gift wrap at a nationally competitive price and still donate a portion of the proceeds to a good cause.

Wrapped framed photos for employees of Legg Mason

It is an appealing price point that has also opened large-scale opportunities outside of charity work. Recently, Legg Mason – Baltimore’s last fortune 500 corporation – was purchased by another financial firm. Before leaving, the previous owners wanted to do something special for their employees, so they commissioned Mitchell and his team to create 1,050 framed photos of the Thunder Birds and Blue Angels taken during the “America Strong” flyover that recognized healthcare workers on the front lines of COVID-19. For the prints, he used Sunset Photo eSatin paper, framed and matted them, then wrapped them in custom wrapping paper.

Whether printing adorable, adoptable dogs and cats to help raise money for an animal rescue or creating heartfelt parting gifts for a wonderful group of employees, Kory Mitchell and his team at The Frame Room are doing some amazing work with HP Satin Wrapping Paper. “It’s not just for profit, we are doing some good as well,” he says. And it’s the perfect message to remember as the holiday season quickly approaches.

Karin Giusti Uses Art to Create Thought-provoking “Third Space” Piece

Rhode Island artist Karin Giusti – a Professor Emerita of Art at Brooklyn College – enjoys creating pieces that are close to her heart, but also speak to anyone who sees them. Several years ago, she created a piece honoring the firemen who lost their lives as a result of 9/11. It was an all too personal piece, as her fiancé was one of those who died as a result of health problems developed from that dreadful day.

It was that piece, Three Seasons at Black Forest Farms, that helped her land a coveted spot commissioned by the Providence Art in City Life Commission for PVDFest 2020, public art installations in downtown Providence, R.I. The members of Providence ACT (Arts, Culture + Tourism) were familiar with Giusti, but that doesn’t mean they were just going to give her the opportunity, she had to earn it. “They saw my pillar piece, so they knew my work, but it still was a competition,” she says. They looked at the presentations and selected me as one of the three finalists. We then had a run-off against each other.”

Giusti was awarded the Civic Center garage, a 3-story parking deck with a unique grid pattern that she could incorporate into her design. “I looked at the building, but things got very serious in January,” she says. “I measured and photographed it and I didn’t know if my idea would work, but I had to give it a try.”

Her “idea”? She wanted to treat the grid pattern on the exterior of the building as a loom and weave brightly colored ribbons of LexJet 8 Mil Absolute Backlit – the same material she used to create her 9/11 exhibit – to create a fabric appearance.

There was a lot to consider about using the backlit material, so Giusti reached out to LexJet’s Dean Lambert and Ramiro Torrez. “I didn’t know how the material would hold up, but I wanted to use it because it’s so beautiful,” she says. “I know the team at LexJet couldn’t make promises for such an unusual application, but I’ve worked with the material before and I know it’s really strong.”

Another difference between this project and the backlit columns is interior vs. exterior application. Her 9/11 exhibit was inside and not exposed to Rhode Island weather or a downtown environment. Torrez suggested the Performance Matte UV Vinyl Laminate to protect the artwork. “I’d never put this combination of materials outside for six months, so I really didn’t have an idea as to how it would stand up,” Giusti says. “But it’s been amazing! No fading, no damage, no tearing. This stuff has been indestructible out there, and it looks just as good now as when I put it up earlier this year.”

Giusti was excited to have her work displayed on the building since the colors would provide a bright contrast to the building, but also because it was supposed to be backlit at night. Unfortunately, the city went into lockdown, so the exhibit didn’t get the lighting it deserved. Although the extraordinary conditions of the pandemic are limiting her audience, she is thrilled with the results of Dreamweave for a Third Space. Originally scheduled to be on display through November, Giusti learned that her exhibit has been extended into 2021.

“Nobody was going out or going downtown. Normally, I would’ve been hosting parties on site all summer long and doing PR, but it’s just been insane,” she says. “The colors are beautiful, and as an artist, not every sculpture you create will be that pretty or photogenic, and this one is. It’s a shame more people aren’t going to be able to see it.”

The different patterns were representative of countries around the world. “Even though the patterns are from varying countries, they are related. Some countries have copied other countries, some have occupied other countries, bringing their ideas to those countries. Of course, they don’t stop at borders, these patterns have a life of their own,” she says. “It’s all so interconnected, Third Space. it’s an urban theory about people learning to work together, not in ‘your’ space or ‘my’ space, but in a third space.”

While Dreamweave may not have been viewed by as many people as she would’ve liked, that’s not going to stop Giusti from coming up with her next great piece using Absolute Backlit. “I want to play and see if I can make this stuff permanent. Maybe sandwich it in plexiglass. I really want to push the limits of it and see what it can do,” she says. “Playing with this material has been phenomenal, and I can see doing more projects like this. I want to do this kind of project at festivals all over Europe.”

Even though there is so much going on during the creation of this piece, Giusti says she really enjoyed working on it and was glad to have something to do while in quarantine. “I spent the whole lockdown producing the piece here in my studio. Ramiro got the materials to me and it went smoothly,” she says. “He also helped me with the laminate material, but it was an absolute blast! It was so much fun because the backlit and the laminate were manageable and easy to work with.”

Giusti is grateful to so many people who helped Dreamweave become reality including FirstWorks, the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, and Bliss Properties, owners and operators of the Civic Center Garage, as well as her friends here at LexJet.

Through COVID, through quarantine, through cities being on lockdown, Karin Giusti drew upon the positive Third Space energy and had a great experience working on Dreamweave, “I had the time of my life on this project.” Hopefully, when people finally do see her work, they will have the same positive experience.