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Red Wing Digital Exemplifies Arts Entrepreneurship in Action

You don’t have to live in a major metropolis to build a rewarding life as a successful
entrepreneur or supporter of the arts. In small towns and suburbs throughout the U.S., creative entrepreneurs such as John and Valerie Becker are using their knowledge of online marketing to expand the reach of their community-centered arts businesses.

Since opening a custom-framing shop in the small, historic Mississippi River town of Red Wing, Minnesota ten years ago, John and Valerie Becker have continuously tested
different methods of broadening their customer base. They set a goal of developing two additional revenue streams that could carry them through the months when demand for conventional framing slacked off.

While the core of their business remains custom framing, they also use their imaging expertise and two HP Designjet 6200 wide-format printers to produce high-quality visuals, signage, and decorative art for retailers and other local businesses.  At one time, John promoted fine-art reproduction services to artists, but quickly recognized that most of the demand for large prints was coming from passionate photography enthusiasts and
local photography studios.

John, who is an avid photographer himself, was more than happy to help local photographers produce great-looking enlargements of their favorite images.

Online Store for Panel Prints

The Beckers’ newest venture, Red Wing Digital, is an online storefront through which they sell Panel Prints. The panel prints give photographers an affordable, attractive, glass-free, frame-free method of displaying large photographs in all of their glory.

John Becker regards Red Wing Digital as a way to serve photographers who can’t come into their shop for face-to-face advice on printmaking and framing. After each
photograph is printed with HP Vivera pigment inks on an HP Designjet Z6100 large-format inkjet printer, it is mounted to an ultra-stiff art board that is backed with a hanging system that makes the panel appear to “float” in front of the wall.  The Panel Prints are sturdy, easy-to-care-for and create a pleasing drop-shadow effect on the wall.

Because Panel Prints cost far less than traditional framing and glazing, they provide a cost-effective way for photographers to display their favorite images.

The Panel Prints have also proven to be popular with restaurant owners who want to “localize their décor” by showcasing images from area photographers. Because no glass is
involved, there is less risk of injury to restaurant patrons if the print should happen to get knocked off the wall.

John and Valerie Becker came up with the panel-print idea more than two years ago when they got involved in the photography competition sponsored by a local radio station. Red
Wing Digital was asked to come up with a way to display the winning images in the radio station’s offices. The display product they designed was a big hit—both with photographers and radio-station visitors.

For the past two years, Red Wing Digital has experimented with different combinations of
materials to workflows to ensure that when they started accepting online orders for Panel Prints they would be able to efficiently produce and deliver a quality product.

Becker, who is an active member of the 100-member RedWingPhotographyClub, turned to fellow members of the club for feedback. He says, “They were very supportive in helping us develop the Panel Print before we launched the online storefront. It has been like having a
private test audience.”

“Anybody who can take a digital photo can have it made into a Panel Print,” Becker emphasizes. The workflow he developed includes ways to enlarge images from consumer-grade cameras without visual compromise.  If any quality issues do arise, Becker will reach out to the customer to figure out ways to resolve them.

Red Wing Digital plans to develop other types of photography-display products that can be
ordered either in their framing shop or through their new online store.

John Becker credits his knowledge of SEO (search-engine optimization) for helping Red Wing Framing get a call from the producers of the PBS show Home Time.  Red Wing gladly supplied images that were used during a townhouse-remodeling project on the show. Every time the show is rebroadcast in syndication, Red Wing gets an influx of new business.

Support for Grapefruit Moon Gallery

While knowledge of online marketing is important, the Beckers also welcome the chance to host live events for their many friends who share their passion for the visual arts.

Last year, the gallery at Red Wing Framing showcased some of the vintage illustration art in the collection of Dan Murphy. Murphy, who achieved national fame as the founder
of the band Soul Asylum, now operates the online gallery Grapefruit Moon which
specializes in original paintings, photographs, and prints from the “Grand Age
of American Illustration.”

The Grapefruit Moon collection includes pin-up and glamour art, vintage advertising art, and pulp and men’s magazine cover designs. When some of the pulp-magazine cover prints were shown at Red Wing’s gallery, the event was featured on two Minneapolis TV stations.

“Despite all the technology that’s out there,” says Becker. “Business still boils down to people doing business with other people. It’s all about relationships.”

Becker adds:  “Creating an online creative business has been a challenge and a significant
investment. But it has allowed us lifestyle choices that are important to us, such as living close to family and friends and living in a remarkably beautiful and uncrowded part of the
country.  But if you are determined to make it work and you have that entrepreneurial ‘fire in your belly’, it is possible.  Work with experts, listen to your customers, learn from your mistakes, don’t be afraid of mistakes and provide a unique and quality product.”



RedWingFraming & FineArtPrinting




PrintedArt Offers Decor Photo Prints through Amazon

PHOTOGRAPHERS. One advantage of selling your fine-art photography through a third-party online gallery is that the gallery owner can find innovative ways to display your work on multiple sites that are likely to be seen by more potential buyers. For example, PrintedArt, a web-based collection of fine-art photographs for the hospitality and decor markets, has added a gallery of its high-quality photographs to Amazon.com. The collection features 863 photos by some of PrintedArt’s finest photographers. Available in four sizes, each image is produced as a float-on-the-wall display.

The inkjet prints are produced with highly saturated pigment inks and mounted using gallery-grade materials with aluminum dibond stabilizers and acrylic overlays. “We are pleased to offer such an extensive collection of photos to the Amazon.com audience at such a great price,” said Klaus Sonnenleiter, president of PrintedArt. “It really gives us a chance to introduce our amazing photographers and images to an entirely different customer base.”

Photo by Raymond St. Arnaud

Details on how you can have your own images reproduced in contemporary display formats such as acrylic or aluminum dibond are available on the PrintedArt website.


PrintedArt Image Collection on Amazon.com

About PrintedArt

PrintedArt Photo Lab

Sell Ready-to-Hang, Frame-Free Alternatives to Stretched Canvas Prints

PHOTOGRAPHERS: PhotoShelter’s “How to Sell Prints” guide points out that although the demand for 8 x 10 prints has declined, higher-priced products such as large, stretched canvases have filled the void. Stretched canvases (“gallery wraps”) are popular because they eliminate the expense and hassle of framing enlarged photo prints. Many customers like the light weight, softer look and painting-like texture of a large canvas photo print, but others may be seeking fresher, more stylish alternatives.

Here are just a few companies that offer “frame-free” ready-to-hang prints. Although most of these firms sell to consumers, they typically offer discounts to professional photographers. They know that pro photographers are more likely to become repeat customers and furnish properly prepared image files that look great when enlarged.  On their websites, you can find details on sizes, thicknesses, and the latest custom treatments such as float-mounting.

Acrylic Pix.com
AcrylicPix Thick MountThrough AcrylicPix.com you can have your photos output directly onto a sheet of clear acrylic. According to company founder Mark Alper, the process results in a clean, modern look with exceptional contrast: “It’s hard to describe, but I would say the quality is like high-definition TV. People look as if they could walk right out of the picture.” The prints are available in sizes ranging from 10 x 12 to 40 x 50 inches and as multi-image panels. You can customize the look of your prints by choosing from 13 different colors for one- or two-inch borders. Pro photographers who want to try the service can order a 16 x 20 print for $59, which includes shipping. Simple enter this promo code: shipfree. For more information, visit: www.acrylicpix.com 

Acrylic Pix Family Photo


SizzlePix.com will infuse your photographic art onto a lightweight, durable aluminum base. The panels are waterproof and have an ultra-hard, scratchproof, high-gloss coating.


SizzlPix aluminum panel

Because there is no glass, glare and reflections are minimized while the vibrancy and clarity of your art are enhanced.

Photographer Derrick Story says the SizlPix prints look fabulous. When you hang one on the wall where reflected light can bounce off, “It looks like light is emanating from within the image. It’s crisp. It is clear. It has depth that you didn’t’ even realize was in your shot.” For more information, www.sizzlpix.com

Colorplak Express
Logo for Colorplak ExpressIn this Colorplak process, your image is dry mounted onto Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), then permanently sealed with a protective matte finish laminate that filters out 80% of the UV light to help your image resist fading The plaque is then finished with a beveled edge in your choice of over 30 colors.

The final result is a non-glare, affordable piece of wall art that is safe for use in kids’ rooms and easy to maintain in corporate settings. Custom frame shops offer Colorplak as an affordable way to display posters, maps, and family photographs. Commercial photographers and their clients have used Colorplak with large-format prints for decor, indoor signage, and advertising.  For more information, visit: www.colorplakexpress.com

BumbleJax Bamboo Panel

BumbleJax Bamboo Panel

If your customers are seeking eco-friendly wall art, BumbleJax will mount your images to extremely durable bamboo plywood.  According to BumbleJax, the bamboo plywood is three times more dimensionally stable than oak, and is the same type of product used in high-end cabinetry and flooring. Each bamboo blank is hand sanded and stained, before the photo is mounted. BumbleJax can also face-mount your photos to acrylic or mount your images on 1/8-inch aluminum, ½-inch MDF board, or ½ inch Gatorboard. For more information, visit: www.bumblejax.com

Blank Plywek PanelPlywerk offers environmentally friendly, ready-to-hang mounting panels in more than 35 sizes and your choice of bamboo or maple plywood. The bamboo plywood is ¾-inch carbonized vertical-grain bamboo. The maple plywood is a cabinet quality ½-inch solid birch/alder core with maple face veneer. Both the bamboo and maple plywoods are manufactured using environmentally sustainable practices.

A transparent, pH-neutral adhesive is used to protect the images from the natural acids in the wood and provides an extremely reliable bond between the images and the Plywerk panel.

Plywerk Mounting BoardIf you prefer to print and mount your own photos, you can order blank Plywerk panels (supplied with or without the adhesive). If you want Plywerk to handle the printing, you can choose either C-type or inkjet printing on papers with a variety of surface finishes.

The Plywerk website features a chart recommending what paper types are best suited for different requirements (e.g. exhibitions, portraits, wedding photography).  If you aren’t familiar with different types of print papers, you can order 5 x 5-inch print samples of the options.  Visit www.plywerk.com

Fotoflōt fuses your images to acrylic panels that can be displayed and easily changed using the company’s unique magnetic float mount. The magnetic mounting system makes the image appear to be floating off the wall or desk. Their size options include several panoramic formats.  Visit: www.fotoflot.com

Magnets on the back of each FotoFlot panel attach to a specially designed wall mount, making it easy to change the photo panels.


PhotoShelter Guides Provides Practical Advice on How to Sell Prints