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Art & Frame Review
by Ken HallSept - Oct. 2005
"Not just picture frames any more"
About two months ago, a forlorn looking artist walked into the offices of Graphik Dimensions Ltd., in High Point, N.C., toting originals of his work under each arm. He'd just exhibited at an art show and watched helplessly as his peers to the left and the right of him sold beautiful reproductions of their work at attractive prices, while he sat there, unable to sell a single original.
The problem wasn't so much the quality of his work - he was very talented. He just couldn't compete on a price point basis.
"Can you help me?" the artist asked, rather plaintively.
The answer was yes, and almost immediately the folks at Graphik Dimensions Ltd. / pictureframes.com were giving this artist an extreme makeover — and the chance to offer prints of his work that are virtually indistinguishable from the original.
The reason this story can be told at all is because of the miracle of giclées (from the French word meaning "sprayed ink"), a highly sophisticated printing process first introduced in the '80s and the best archival means of image reproduction that truly captures the artist's original intent.
When they're done right (and therein lies the key), giclées are so true to the original that they've actually been installed in the permanent collections of such esteemed institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
Indeed, Graphik Dimensions Ltd. offers artists "a start-to-finish solution," according to Lauri Feinsod, Executive Vice President, "so the artist is freed up to do what they love most — create art. We make the business edges go away and the stresses invisible to the artist. You could say we're partners in success at the next level. That success is driven by the expertise and talent of the people here behind the equipment."
Say an artist, like our forlorn friend above, approaches Graphik Dimensions Ltd., for help. After a brief pre-screening process, they're normally referred to Jane Rhem, the company's Senior Editions Consultant. Jane's been with the company for nearly nine years and has worked with artists and collected art all her adult life.
"I act as a liaison between the artist (or photographer, as many photographers are fast becoming fans of the beauty and profitability of giclées) and the giclée printmaker," Rhem said. "I address all of the concerns and answer all the questions an artist may have. I basically see the project through from start to completion. They know I have their best interests at heart and they appreciate that. I like to think I understand the mind of the artist or photographer."
Jane counsels them on the many services available. Will the artist be producing open- or limited-editions of their work? What size or sizes will the giclée prints be? Is website design necessary? (If so, the company employs a Web Team of about 10 people, many of them artists themselves). Is framing required? (The company's been doing that for all of its 40+ years). Will warehousing/archiving of product be a requirement? (It's available, with a 5-piece per edition minimum).
Once the artwork has been received and converted (if necessary) to its digital file form, that's when the proofing process begins. And that's when William Tiemann, Graphik Dimensions' Master Giclée Printmaker, begins working closely with the artwork. Tiemann is qualified for the task, with a background in photography and art (he was named a Texas Emerging Artist for 2003 and has works in the permanent collection of the University of Texas at San Antonio). Moreover, he's been color matching and working with the Epson giclée printer line for the last four years.
As part of the pre-production process, an artist or photographer may provide their work one of three ways: as a digital file (the most efficient and cost-effective way, with no set-up fees attached); a transparency (35mm to 4" x 5", with a modest set-up fee); or original artwork (strongboxes and armored tubes are available to protect their artwork while in transit; there is a modest set-up fee).
The firm is in the process of quadrupling its current space and has allotted room to install nine more printers (possibly Epson 9800's, but other state-of-the-art lines are being looked at). The extra space is needed, to handle the rising demand for giclée printing and to accommodate other services: contract framing, print on demand, fulfillment services, a mirror shop, engraving, and the newest addition: third-party web solutions. Feinsod pointed out, "Framing can be an additional profit center for the artists. And when they become web affiliates, other discounts and price points are available."
At present, Graphik Dimensions Ltd. employs just over 100 people, all in High Point, in "the mother ship," as Feinsod called it. But who knows how many people they'll have on board that ship, or how many additional square feet they'll take on, in the years to come. As a company founded by artists and for artists, they've never deviated from the script of offering a variety of top-notch services at a price that won't leave artists starving.
Artists interested in having Graphik Dimensions Ltd./ pictureframes.com support their artistic endeavors may have some of their initial questions and concerns addressed with a brief visit to the website at www.pictureframes.com/editions . Then, a call to Jane in the Editions Department would be the next step. Her number is toll-free: 1-877-70FRAME.