Collecting fine art can be an enjoyable and valuable enterprise, but it can also be expensive. Not everyone can plunk down two or three thousand dollars for original art. But a unique process that has become popular in the last few years is the reproduction of fine art on aluminum. Metal art is a growing industry and most of the large commercial art suppliers offer this product.
Now imagine having local artists’ work in this beautiful, affordable form. Here in our region, Madison-based Blue Lobster Creations has joined the ranks of printers who have the capability to render fine art reproductions onto high quality aluminum. Doug Herr and his partner, Skip Zuse, use a printing process known as dye sublimation.
Herr explains, “It’s a process which is highly detailed and can easily reproduce colors and multiple colors, as compared to screen printing, which is usually only one, two, or four colors.” Herr and Zuse decided four years ago to use that process—which had been successful with the tee-shirts—and employ it for printing on aluminum.
“We can take any photograph and duplicate it onto certain metals,” says Herr. “In the dye sublimation process, the substrate heats up, the pores open, and the inks are like dry ice, where they vaporize from a solid and go into the pores. When the pores cool down, the color is locked into the metal.”
Local artist Susan MacKay has taken the plunge and now offers many of her beautiful paintings printed on aluminum. “I heard about this a year ago,” says MacKay, “at a time I was looking for a way to commercialize my art. I do giclée prints, but they can be expensive. I wanted to find a way to make my work affordable. I originally thought about fine art tee-shirts, which is how I met Doug Herr and learned about printing on aluminum,” she says.
MacKay’s beautiful landscapes and animal portraits lend themselves to this process, and she has work on display at Gallery at Firehouse Square in New London, Perfect Pineapple in Watch Hill, Spark Makerspace in New London, and Company of Craftsmen in Mystic. She’s been using this process for almost two years and is quite happy with the popularity of the products.
What are the advantages of these aluminum prints? “They are very durable and last a long time because the ink is in the substrate,” says Herr. “And, as far as we know, they don’t seem to fade as much as a photograph. These pieces can be easily mounted on a wall, or positioned on a table stand. We supply them with rounded edges for safety, and the aluminum is thick enough to prevent bending.”
Robin Goldschlager, the manager of the Gallery at Firehouse Square, has observed another trend. One of the gallery’s most stunning pieces, by Essex photographer Steven Nadler, is a sunset scene over water. All winter, this piece has been hanging outdoors, in the gallery’s private courtyard. You’d never know. The image is pristine.
“It won’t fade, it won’t peel. This process has really advanced; it’s amazing,” Goldschalger says. “We’re used to seeing sculptures and other three-dimensional art outside, why not two-dimensional? It pairs well with the trend toward erasing the transition between indoor/outdoor living spaces, and creating areas that flow.”
Nadler works with Blazing Editions, a fine art printing service in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, which uses a 400-degree heat transfer process to convey the image onto the piece of metal.
Photographs can be reproduced differently, glossy or matte, and with different effects. MacKay takes her original artwork to a professional photographer to get the highest resolution photos for the printing process.
“I love that I can mass produce my art in a beautiful, affordable, eco-friendly way that allows people to support multiple small local businesses besides me,” says MacKay.
(formerly Get Wow Now)
Gallery at Firehouse Square
239 Bank St., New London, CT 06320
60 Bay St., Watch Hill, RI 02891
225 State St., New London, CT 06320
Company of Craftsmen
43 W Main St., Mystic, CT 06355