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Cafe Creation

(September 2008) posted on Thu Sep 11, 2008

Graphics Gallery produces fruit-based art wall for cafe.

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At City Center at Oyster Point in Newport News, Virginia, you can work, shop, and play all in the same place. And now, thanks to Graphics Gallery, you can also grab a snack and sit in a pleasant cafe to further the experience.

The City Center development company is a longstanding customer of Graphics Gallery, located in Glenn Allen, Virginia. So when an unusual job presented itself, Michael Elrod, principal of Graphics Gallery, got the call: Using graphics, the company was to create a cafe space in a new building and close off an unused space with a wall.

But the wall had to be lightweight and easy-to-move because people still needed access to this area. The solution was to design and build a free-standing room divider. And with Graphics Gallery’s Matrix frame system, Elrod could do just that.

The fruit-based art for the 11.5 x 18-foot wall and the seven framed art pieces (each measuring 3 x 3 feet) was provided by the designer, with Graphics Gallery producing color proofs. Upon approval, the images were printed directly onto DecoTex using the shop’s 72-inch DuPont Artistri 2020 printer and the water-based DuPont Dispersed Dye inks (6-color plus violet and light black). The fabric was then calendered on its 126-inch Klieverik, with tissue paper on both sides of the print. Printing of the nearly 300 square feet took just 23 minutes; calendering took an additional 10 minutes.

Finishing this project began with careful trimming using a hot knife and then sewing a 1/2-inch silicone strip (similar to the rubber strip used in screen doors) around all four sides. Graphics Gallery has invested in an attachment for its sewing machines that evenly feeds the silicone strip; the strip fits into the Matrix frame channel.

The correctly sized graphic and exact placement of the silicone strip are key elements to producing a perfect graphic for the framing system. Sounds easy enough to do, but "fabric itself isn’t a dimensionally stable product," says Elrod. "It can shrink in any direction with no rhyme or reason. We’ve had pieces shrink a half-inch in one direction and elongate one inch in another."

One of the beauties of the Matrix system is its easy install, reports Elrod. In fact, on-site installation of the wall and art took two employees 3 hours. Graphics Gallery became the US distributor for Matrix Frame this February. And until then, sales of printed fabrics at Graphics Gallery were minimal. Now, however, the company is promoting its newfound dye-sub imaging capabilities that fit nicely with the framing system.

Additionally, "Matrix has developed unique ways to backlight fabric using an etched acrylic panel with LED lights. The system offers an even bright light, uses less power, and doesn’t create heat." And this frame system isn’t static; Matrix is developing new ways to use the system by attaching frames together, putting them on wheels, making odd shapes, and bending fames.

And, from Graphic Gallery’s perspective, because the parent Matrix company is also a print shop, it has a greater knowledge base to help print providers. "They can talk about color, sewing, the frame, and fabrics-covering every step shops need to be successful."

In business for more than 20 years, the 12,500-square-foot Graphics Gallery moved from its origins as a prepress house for the offset industry to focusing exclusively on large-format output, finishing, and installation. It offers a wide range of print options, including Durst Lambda, EFI Vutek QS2000, Roland Soljet, and its Artistri. The company is looking to add a 10-foot Hollanders textile printer in the future.