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The Fine Art of Success

(April 2008) posted on Wed Apr 09, 2008

Exploring the potential profits in fine-art printmaking.

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By Clare Baker

The shop primarily relies on its HP Designjet Z2100 for output although it also has a Z3100 and a Z6100. 'We've found that the Z2100 get the job done. Sometimes the finite detail is so limited that you're just splitting hairs, so even with a 12-head device, you're not going get that much more accuracy.' The shop then prints the images on a mix of media from HP, Breathing Color, and LexJet.

While adding fine-art reproduction services to an already full-service production-level shop may seem costly and perhaps more trouble than its worth, Elrich explains that the venture can be profitable if done right. Although a great deal of time and energy may go into producing that first print for an artist, the steady flow of residual orders from an artist make the avenue worth pursuing.

Says Elrich, 'An artist who’s a regular seller may call me up and say, 'Give me 10 of this print or 15 of this print.' We have it streamlined to the point where we can just go straight to output and he can have the prints in his hands in 24 hours. Very few artists work with us only once. If they're serious about their art, they know that it's going to take time to produce it, and if they're willing to take that time, they're not going to be jumping around from one facility to the next.'

Keeping these customers happy, then, is key to a successful business. Elrich credits having a fine artist on staff as an equipment operator and color corrector as an invaluable component to his customers' satisfaction. 'I've found that someone who’s just an output operator isn’t going to invest themselves in the character of a piece. Because [Extreme Graphixs’ staff member] is an artist, he can absorb himself in the artwork and come up with really great solutions with the client for production purposes.'

Elrich continues to explain that Extreme Graphixs has also found success by maintaining close relationships with their artists and really listening to their concerns and ideas. 'We don't just have a 'get it out the door' mentality. When it comes to developing the art-reproduction component of the shop, we treat it like developing a practice-much more so than just doing business for business's sake.'

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits to artists working with a larger shop like Extreme Graphixs, points out Elrich, is the lower production costs that they will often find. 'We offer custom solutions and really work with the artist in the pricing to make sure that we can assist them in getting their work out into the marketplace affordably and not make it cost prohibitive to the average consumer.'

Fine-art printing currently accounts for about 15 percent of the shop's jobs. 'And that number is growing,' says Elrich. He credits this to a growth in the interest in fine-art reproductions for commercial environments. 'We're taking pieces of fine art and reproducing them on multiple platforms. Instead of just printing them back onto canvas for fine-art-related substrates, we're putting them on buildings or in shopping malls.' Riding the wave of success in those areas, Elrich hopes to double his art clientele in 2008.

Clare Baker is assistant editor of The Big Picture magazine.