Fabulous Fabrics and Wearable Art
Fine art becomes a fashion statement.
Custom Poster Works, based in Orlando, didn’t set out to be a fine-art imaging shop. Rather, it originated as a laminating company. Then, "in 1993 we started in wide-format inkjet with an Encad NovaJet II," says owner Robbie Burger. "We did our first experiments in polyester with our next printer, an HP Designjet 2000. Currently we use an Epson Stylus Pro 9000 and a 9600."
Reproducing artists’ fine art on canvas, art papers, and silk is a typical job for the company. But, according to Burger, fabric printing in the wearable-art market is beginning to take off. "Reproductions on silk now account for about 20% of sales, and projections indicate that we’ll be increasing silk production faster than the other media that we’ve been using."
The company uses its Epson Stylus Pro 9000 with dye-based aqueous inks to direct print onto pure China Silk, and is also able to print on other organic textiles, such as cotton and a selection of polyesters. Its silk production is focused on the lightweight (5-mm) Habotai silks for sarongs, sashes, scarves, and shawls. Fabrics are steamed after imaging to permanently set the inks and then finished off with a hem.
Co-owner and artist/photographer Marlena Burger began printing her images onto silk and finishing them into scarves. She saw wearing the printed product as a whole new way of getting art to the public.
Piggy-backing on the company’s success with fabric imaging, Marlena formed Designer Scarves by Marlena (www.designer scarvesbymarlena.com). At this website, any image-from fine art to photo to company logo-can be ordered for printing onto silks. The final printed fabric can be finished into sheer panels, privacy screens, pillow appliques, framed art, or scarves.
"While the concept of printing on silk is not new, our approach is somewhat unusual since we market directly to the individual user," says Burger. "This way, the artist himself can realize a more substantial share of the sales."
Typical customers for Designer Scarves are artists and photographers who wish to market their work in a different way. Print runs tend to be quite short, ranging from one 8 x 60-inch piece to 48 pieces measuring 42 x 74 inches. Jobs are generally turned around in a week.
Of course, imaging fine art onto thin silk presents its own challenges: "Generating accurate profiles is somewhat complicated by the texture of the material and can be a problem," says Burger. "And off-bias orientation of the silk to the printhead sometimes causes dimensional distortion in the image." In addition,
Burger notes that post-processing is tricky and requires vigilance and careful timing. A recent job saw Burger producing 18 x 24-in. scarves from panoramic images shot by wife Marlena. "Sunrise Serenity Blue" features the skyline of downtown Orlando and is imaged onto silk using the shop’s Epson.
With a staff of three, including the two owners, both Customer Poster Works and Designer Scarves by Marlena work out of a 1600-square-foot facility.
CUSTOM POSTER WORKS