When attempting to describe Joanne Chappell’s 45-year journey from art student at Indiana University to owner of an influential, enterprising and constantly evolving art publishing business based in the San Francisco area, “investment” is a word that captures the core of what made that journey a success.
Editions Limited and its affiliated companies – Studio EL and Drybrush Graphics – are the culmination of Chappell’s early investment in the art world. That initial investment in time, money and passion has paid off, not only for Chappell and the 31 team members at Editions Limited, but more importantly it has paid off by bringing original art to more people and introducing hundreds of artists to a wider audience.
About ten years later, Chappell moved her gallery to San Francisco’s financial district. Her new location dictated to some degree the direction Editions Limited would ultimately follow.
“Because we were in the heart of the financial district we had corporate people walking in and wanting us to help them find artwork for their companies. We started looking for artwork that would meet their needs, and in doing so we shifted away from residential applications,” explains Chappell.
Editions Limited eventually ended up in its present space in Emeryville, Calif., a 100-year-old brick building with high ceilings and plenty of space to house the design and printing operations.
Today, Editions Limited focuses on creating poster art for the masses. Studio EL, which was launched about seven years ago, is focused on creating custom print-on-demand (POD) art for health care, hospitality and corporate environments. Drybrush Graphics, which launched about ten years ago, provides limited edition (250 and less) signed and numbered custom reproductions to a more exclusive audience.
Essentially, Editions Limited covers the gamut, from the narrow niche served by Drybrush Graphics to the less narrow but custom niche served by Studio EL, to the wider consumer market served by the company’s poster publishing arm.
Though Editions Limited is the flagship operation from which everything else flows, Studio EL has been the company’s fastest growing and most dynamic component. It was created to meet the demand for high-end yet economical art specifically designed for each location in which the artwork is placed.
“Studio EL is a collection of fine art archival prints that are custom tailored to each project. The sizing, substrate and finish are determined by the client while the artwork is sourced by us,” explains Chappell. “I brought in a different team for cutting-edge, trendsetting art. The Studio EL team works with an amazing amount of artists and it’s usually a collection of limited edition fine art prints or utilizing some of the art from our poster art collection.”
Even with more than six million images from which to choose, the Studio EL team will source new artists and photographers to ensure a perfect fit for their clients. Moreover, Studio EL prints to practically every medium, including fine art papers, canvas, aluminum, wood, glass, acrylics, wall coverings and even mirrors.
Though each market sector with which Studio EL works – be it health care, hospitality or corporate – has its own general style, each individual project varies considerably. Artwork for the health care market, for instance, is typically designed to take patients out of what is usually a stressful environment and transport them to soothing and exotic locales.
“In the hospitality business it’s more site specific; what coordinates with the furnishing and design of the room, plus something that ties into the geographic area. Editions Limited is a bit more of a mainstream look whereas Studio EL has a different aesthetic, possibly a bit more of a fine art feel in steyle, with subject more cutting-edge to eclectic that are perfect for site projects,” says creative director Todd Haile.
Studio EL utilizes a fleet of printers, including two Epson GS6000 low-solvent printers, three Epson 11880s and an older Epson, which is used primarily for proofing necessary in offset printing. The trick for the digital department has been to ensure quality and color calibration across the various print platforms, from offset to giclee.
“This company is over 35 years old and the business model for many years was primarily offset posters. Since the addition of giclee printing we’ve got it to the point that the calibration and profiling is dead-on. We’re so much more efficient now,” says Haile. “A lot of our customers request some of our poster images for on-demand applications. They’re used to seeing the poster interpretation of a specific image and we wanted to make sure that we’re resembling that with inkjet so we’ve worked hard to profile and calibrate everything consistently.
What that means practically, says Haile, is limiting the inkjet printers for those poster-to-giclee projects since inkjet allows a much wider color gamut. “The very nature of the Epson printers is that they produce color that’s much richer than what you get from offset so you end up having to limit them somewhat when you make that transition. You get this rich, almost pastel chalky texture to an aqueous inkjet print that’s luscious compared to an offset print,” he says.
The low-solvent printers are used primarily for canvas reproductions. Haile explains that printing on satin canvas with low-solvent inks negates the need for post-production coating since the ink and canvas surface bond with each other and provide more protection than output from a standard aqueous printer.
While creating an efficient and calibrated workflow has been an important contributor to the company’s success, most important has been the consistent presence of a dedicated, professional staff.
“Most of our people have been here 15 years or more. Even during the recession, we kept everyone on board. I think that’s really very important because the art consultants, for example, have very specific territories and people know them, and we’ve been intensely involved in finding art that works in a lot of different situations,” says Chappell. “That’s an area in which we’re unique. We are relentless about finding artists and artwork that fits all these different situations.”