Get Inspired: 10 of Our Favorite Customer Projects of 2015

Throughout the year, we’ve been awed and inspired by the innovative work our customers have created: from wall murals and tote bags to gallery exhibits and social statements. As the year draws to a close, we’ve been reflecting on some of our favorites, and thought we’d share them with you again. While there were many more excellent projects that we featured over the year, here are 10 of the blogs we thought our readers would enjoy revisiting as much as we did:

6 FInishedChurch’s Sleek New Student Center: Clear Lake Press transformed St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center in the Minnesota State University Campus’ student center into a fun gathering spot. “It was one of those projects, when it started, I was extremely nervous about it,” says Eric Erickson, who used LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric for the wall mural. “All of those nerves were laid to rest as we were installing it.

With Avatrex, the Solution for this Artist Is in the Bag

anita bags Collage

Self-taught Indianapolis-based bag designer Anita Hopper specializes in upcycling outdated leather apparel into gorgeous, one-of-a-kind handbags, totes and clutches. A couple of years ago, she got the idea of embellishing the leather further … with her photographer son’s images.

“I noticed a couple things on Pinterest that caught my interest,” says Hopper, who runs ReFind Originals. “But it looked like the images weren’t painted on … they were actually printed onto the leather. I searched any way I could to find what kind of process people were doing. Obviously some people were doing it, but there was no place that was explaining the process.”

What followed was several months of research, trial and error and print companies that wouldn’t even attempt to print on leather. Some of the processes she tried resulted in images that would crack or peel. “I was getting very discouraged,” she says. Then she found Helen Farrell, account representative at DCG: Digital Color Graphics.

“We’ve printed on a number of different oddball things, from faux leather to toilet seats,” Farrell says. “Our guys are not afraid to at least try it.”

Hopper came across an article about LexJet’s product, Avatrex, a printable material that can transport and conform to almost any surface. Once affixed to the surface, the image actually takes on the texture of the surface.

“Our MO is that we’re not afraid to try anything,” Farrell says. “So once we got the material we tried different settings for ink density and color saturation. From the first one or two runs, we were having success right off the bat. The feedback I’ve been getting from the guys is that Avatrex is really easy to use.”

Mother and son design team, Eric and Anita Hopper
Mother and son design team, Eric and Anita Hopper

Once the Avatrex is printed with Anita’s son Eric Hopper‘s images, she uses a heat press that she purchased to affix the images onto the leather. “I love how you can see the actual grain of the leather in the photos,” she says. Then she sews them into a variety of bag styles.

She’s currently building up inventory for ReFind Originals as well as craft, art and trade shows. Although she’s been asked if she’ll create bags with customized images from clients, she says she’s going to stick to Eric’s dramatic nature shots.

“I love the art aspect of it,” she says. “Eric and I are in control of what’s going on … that’s where we want it to stay.”

She said that although it’s been a long process, she’s feeling more confident about this new line of bags and already sees even more opportunities using Avatrex. “I can think of so many things to do with it … jewelry cuffs, upholstery … anything,” she says.

We look forward to seeing what she dreams up next.

Did You Play Plinko at DscoopX? Use Your Show Special Now

LexJet’s booth at DscoopX.


The LexJet crew that attended DscoopX, the two-day, 10th annual conference of the Digital Solutions Cooperative, had a great time showing off various products and techniques and meeting everyone who stopped by booth No. 317.

Taking a try at the LexJet Plinko board!
Taking a try at the LexJet Plinko board!

LexJet was among 100-plus featured industry partners at this conference for HP Graphic Arts users. More than 2,800 people attended this year’s event, and many stopped by LexJet booth, where they learned about product applications and were invited to play a round of Plinko to win one of four show specials. If you attended DscoopX and won at Plinko, be sure to use your show special promotion by March 31, 2015.

“We had the opportunity to meet the decision makers with a number of our key customers and spend time understanding what more we can do for them and what the key drivers of their business are,” says Tom Hauenstein, LexJet’s digital coating product manager. “It also gave us a chance to network with other key suppliers who, over the years, have allowed us to create better and stronger solutions for the Dscoop community.”

Speaking of solutions, Hauenstein lead a half-hour Priming 101 seminar during Dscoop titled, “A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Priming Your Own Substrates.” About 40 Dscoop participants attended the Saturday event.

Several Avatrex applications were on display in HP’s Xplore Zone during DscoopX.

One of the mega-trends at Dscoop this year was a greater focus on unusual applications of the various products highlighted at the show. Avatrex, available through LexJet, is a printable material that can be applied to any surface and will take on the color and texture of that surface. It was a big hit at the conference and featured in HP’s Xplore Zone. Applications included a wooden wall display and a plush, leather photo book, both finished with an Avatrex-printed photo.

“This year, compared to last year, people are really looking for more value-added and things they can make for their customers,” says Anne Grbic, LexJet’s Avatrex applications specialist. “People were hungry for something different beyond two-dimensional prints.”

Tote bags with Avatrex prints.
Tote bags with Avatrex prints.

More people attending Dscoop were also interested in inkjet printing solutions, and LexJet plans to focus on latex printing solutions next year, says Tricia Ohm, LexJet senior product line manager. “We’re definitely excited about Dscoop 11,” Ohm says. “Dscoop is truly a unique community where you see cooperation between printers to help each other to understand how to grow their businesses. And HP does a fantastic job of supporting it.”

To redeem your Plinko prize, call us at 800-453-9538 no later than March 31, 2015.

Fostergraphs Turns Kegs into Custom Decorated Bar Stools

Custom Bar Stool Cushion SportBrands

There are many uses for a beer keg, but did you know you could turn it into a custom bar stool? That’s exactly what Kent Foster, owner of Fostergraphs and SportBrands, recently did for a customer loyal to the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The challenge is the seat of the barstool and how to apply a custom graphic to it, especially since the seat is leather. Leather is usually decorated through a complex dyeing process that requires super-large production runs to be economically feasible.

Custom Decorated Bar Stools SportBrandsFoster, however, has been experimenting with LexJet Avatrex 3500 Matte, a clear inkjet-receptive material that also has an adhesive and laminate built into it. Avatrex conforms to the substrate to which it is applied, retaining that substrate’s look and feel.

In other words, Avatrex is the only viable way to apply custom graphics to a textured surface like leather, so Foster gave Tom Snooks, LexJet’s Avatrex expert, a call for guidance.

“We tried bonded leather at first, but the problem is that it’s designed for book covers and is not very pliable and would wrinkle around the sewn edges of the seat. My upholsterer brought a leather hide and asked if I could use it,” says Foster.

First, Foster printed the Iowa Hawkeyes logo to the Avatrex on his Epson GS6000 low solvent printer. Avatrex is printed in reverse then applied, print-side down, to the substrate.

Foster sprayed a primer designed for Avatrex to the leather hide to ensure permanent adhesion, then bonded it to the Avatrex with a 40×60 vacuum press at a frame sign shop. The Avatrex was pressed to the leather at 225 degrees for 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

The upholsterer then wrapped and sewed the leather around the seat, applied to the keg – and voila! – a bar stool keg.

“Now I’m thinking motorcycle seats, leather jackets, tote bags… anything I can put a logo or image on, I can do with Avatrex. I don’t know where it will go from here, but I’m thinking, ‘What can I do next?’ The real leather look is priceless. I’m going to explore all corners of the universe with Avatrex because it’s so far outside the box,” says Foster.

Mixed Media Art with Avatrex by Michele Jackson


Flower Girl Mixed Media
Flower Girl 2 by Michele Jackson.

Michele Jackson creates surreal and intriguing images with ingenuity. A mixed-media artist who combines papers, paints and prints on wood using Photoshop to draft her vision, Jackson recently discovered Avatrex from LexJet.

Avatrex is not a film or a paper and does not act as a carrier to transfer the image. Instead, the image is printed in reverse on what is essentially an inkjet coating and is then applied to the substrate so that it conforms to and becomes part of the material to which it is applied using heat, a glue stick or a primer, depending on the application.

Flower Girl Mixed Media
Flower Girl by Michele Jackson.

Jackson uses a Uhu glue stick to apply her printed images. In the photos of the finished pieces, called Flower Girl, shown here, she designed the image in Photoshop, printed to Avatrex and applied to a flower-textured paper backed by a 1 1/2″ piece of wood.

“I like the transparency of Avatrex to show what’s underneath, but it doesn’t feel like a typical transparency paper; it feels like a regular film. People touch it and they can’t figure out what it is because it conforms to what’s underneath,” says Jackson. “It gives me a lot more flexibility with my mixed media work than I had before. It makes a nice, professional looking presentation.”

Ashes of Freedom Mixed Media
Ashes of Freedom by Michele Jackson.

Jackson also combines Avatrex with paper and paint, as she did with Ashes of Freedom, which includes layers of burnt paper as part of the media mix.

“In Photoshop, I’ll include the image that will be printed on Avatrex there as an overlay or dim the opacity so I can get a feel for how it will look and show underneath. Then I cut all my papers out and glue them down,” says Jackson. “Flower Girl was simple because it was all digital and applied to a textured paper. I’ve found that Avatrex works best on a light background; you don’t get as nice an effect on dark backgrounds.”

Show Specials, Primers, Photo Papers and more at LexJet’s Dscoop Booth

HP Indigo Press Primers

Stop by LexJet’s booth (202) at the Dscoop9 2014 Annual Conference, March 6-8, in Orlando to find out how LexJet can help streamline and add profit to your HP Indigo printing process.

LexJet will showcase its line of Michelman and Utopia primers and new photo papers for both Indigo and dry-toner presses to expand your business. We’ll also feature a new and exciting technique for producing photo albums with Avatrex transportable imaging technology.

LexJet show-only specials include:

  • 10 percent off any order for new customers ($5,000 maximum)
  • 10 percent off any new product for current LexJet customers ($5,000 maximum)

If you have any questions, or would like schedule a meeting at Dscoop, give us a call at 800-453-9538. We look forward to seeing you there!