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The Fine Art of Framing


American Frame


By Katrina Ceruolo


Part 1 of 3


Print service providers (PSP) that offer fine art reproduction printing, or giclée, generally work with a steady stream of high-profile clients with artistic backgrounds. Adding framing services broadens the array of customers, from consumers looking for finished artwork for their personal spaces; to retailers, hospitality environments, and even health centers favoring a more cost effective way to decorate. Printing and framing capabilities combined under one location and as a blanketed cost is an attractive option for these customers.


This three-part series looks at PSPs who added framing to their services and traditional framers who added digital printing once they realized the potential. The combination of these offerings enabled them to expand their client base and broaden their geographical reach by offering ordering and gallery showings via ecommerce Web sites.


Forty Years of Framing

Laura Jajko, VP/owner, American Frame, celebrates 40 years of business since beginning in her family’s home in 1973. “My father, Ron Mickel, originally wanted to sell custom aluminum frames in pairs like stretcher bars, and price them really low so that artists could frame their own work, achieving a quality look for exhibit at significant savings. As the company grew we added wood picture frames, custom mat boards, and accessories working artists,” she says.


Today the Maumee, OH-based shop offers wood and metal frames in eco-friendly options. It relies on machinery from Cassese France, Eclipse, Pistorius, Sawtech Scientific, VacuSeal, and Zünd for framing, mounting, and other finishing.


Mickel’s plan to provide artists with quality materials to frame their own work is still the core focus of the business; however the addition of fine art printing provides even more options. “Although many customers do their own printing and rely on us for framing materials, sometimes it makes more sense for them to outsource. Such situations include the volume of a project is too great for their capacity, the substrate needed is difficult for them or expensive to procure, or when the print size exceeds what the customer’s print set can produce,” shares Jajko.


The company launched its ecommerce-enabled Web site in 1997. In 2003 it began offering fine art printing and image capture services. At the onset, many decisions had to be made including printer and paper profiling; machine maintenance; color, file, and workflow management; as well as how to work with canvas. The most difficult focused on determining a canvas protection technique. After having a disappointing experience with spray finishing, the PSP settled on UV laminates. It currently offers paper selections from Epson, Hahnemühle Fine Art, and Moab by Legion Paper and partners with a European company to print on Plexiglas and aluminum.


The PSP now operates out of a 40,000 square foot facility with a volume framing service area and nearly 50 employees, running print production a minimum of five days a week, with small printed and stretched canvas projects turned around in as little as two to three days. The print area occupies approximately 1,000 square feet and is staffed by two dedicated print specialists and one other who floats between departments.


American Frame proudly calls itself an Epson shop, using Epson Stylus Pro 9800 and 9900 printers with Epson UltraChrome ink. “Each printer is profiled for different sets of papers, which helps with both workflow and color management. We really like the quality and consistency of the output we produce using Epson technology,” says Jajko.


With customers nationwide, the PSP typically receives requests through its Web site. Customers upload digital files or photographs and then follow the prompts for size and substrate choices. Once artwork choices are complete, customers design a frame treatment for their image and place the order. Customers have the option to proof images online or use the shop’s proofing service.


Alongside giclée printing and framing, American Frame’s photography service is beneficial to local painters and mixed media artists. The shop photographs artwork in even lighting at a very low ISO then takes care of all color matching and proofing. The PSP also offers artists a free online art gallery, where they can exhibit, sell, and archive work in digital form.


Turkish Coalition of America

Nurten Ural from the Turkish Coalition of America approached photography professor Terry Abrams to share photos taken on a 2011 trip to Turkey with students to help promote Turkish and American relations. Abrams, a longtime customer of American Frame, turned to the shop to assist with the project due to its scale and timeframe.


“The project involved producing a series of 35 images ranging in size from 60x30 to 24x30 inches; holding them for signature from the artists; then framing, packaging, and shipping the pieces safely to their destination within two weeks from start to finish,” notes Jajko.


Photos were printed using the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 onto Epson Hot Press Bright paper. Each photo received an archival fine art framing treatment. Then, each print was dry mounted in the VacuSeal; mats cut on the Eclipse; matted with a half-inch relief around the photo and a four-inch archival Bainbridge eight-ply, white mat board boarder; and framed by hand with a Nielsen Profile 225 frame in modern pewter from the Reflections collection of frames.


Jajko recalls the artwork size presenting a unique challenge. “We were given the finished outside framed dimensions required by the designer so our staff had to work backwards to calculate the correct print file sizes for the artists.”


To ensure the project stayed on schedule the artists trusted the shop with the proofing process, which allowed them to get the prints ready for signatures in five business days. Once signed, the photos were matted, framed, and shipped to the Turkish Coalition of America’s newly renovated headquarters in Washington, D.C. The artists and coalition were pleased with the results.


“It was an honor for us to work on this high-profile project and everyone involved was thrilled. Many influential people have been through the headquarters to view the framed pieces including ambassadors, congressmen, senators, and other dignitaries,” says Jajko.


A Fine Art Future

High-profile and high-volume jobs generate publicity for American Frame. “It took awhile to gain some traction in the market as it is very competitive but through word of mouth and some search advertising, the word is getting out,” shares Jajko. With satisfied customers across the country enjoying the quality of its printed and framed art, this PSP is sure to celebrate many more anniversaries in the years to come.

Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.

Apr2013, Digital Output DOFAF1305

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