The Highlander Studios in Kilmarnock, Va., has evolved over the years so that printing has become as much of its business, if not more, than photography. Owner Charles Lawson has found that, when it comes to printing, customers are looking for more than just the usual prints of their photographs.
To keep up with that demand, and to keep the business growing, The Highlander Studios has recently emphasized stretched inkjet canvas wraps. In doing so, Lawson has encountered the Goldilocks Syndrome, where finding that just-right process for creating canvas wraps can be elusive.
Doing it by hand, while less expensive, is time-consuming. Using an automated system, like the Tensador II, requires a larger upfront investment and subsequently more volume to justify it. Stretcher kits save time, but often lack the quality and durability Lawson would like to ensure a long-lasting stretched canvas.
“I felt like I was stretching something around a piece of balsa wood. They achieved the goal of having a gallery wrap, but left a lot to be desired when it came to humidity resistance and other environmental factors,” says Lawson. “We had a young artist who bought a ton of stretched canvases and I worked my hands down to blisters trying to stretch them all with pliers, so I started looking at the automated machine a lot harder, but we typically don’t have the kind of volume to justify it.”
Lawson’s search for a better way led him to try LexJet’s new Sunset Stretcher Kits and he found that they’re a perfect match for the volume he does and the quality he’s after.
“The Sunset Stretcher Kits are a lot sturdier than other kits we’ve worked with. They’re built better and made out of better materials. It’s a whole different ballgame,” says Lawson.
Lawson expects the canvas wrap business to ramp up for him during the senior photo season when he plans to roll it out as an alternative print product. “People seem to like them, they’re different and it’s not something my competition is doing,” says Lawson.
Another angle Lawson is taking with canvas wraps is creating personalized baby photo montages through photoduds.com. Lawson allows the customer, working through the templates he buys through photoduds.com, to pick out the design the design, colors and text elements.
“They’re really part of the process and making their own unique print for their home. I do all the retouching and laying out, and they come out with a 16×16 gallery wrapped print they’ve designed for themselves,” says Lawson. “It’s great when you can get customers involved in the process within designated template parameters. It creates more ownership in the product and helps with repeat business. We really do it more as a less expensive promotional item to help get people in the door.”
In the fall, Lawson says they’ll be busy with artist’s reproductions as they prepare for the avalanche of spring shows and gallery presentations. Then, the mix of materials will expand from photo papers and canvas to Sunset Cotton Etching and other art papers.
“We have even started marketing for the artists using banner stands with Water-Resistant Satin Cloth. We’re in a rural area so we have to do a little of everything. We have to change it up all the time, and it gives me a chance to try all of LexJet’s stuff,” adds Lawson.