Sustainable photo printing and framing

In my search for more sustainable ways of living and solutions to minimize my impact, I am also researching my own art practice. This Sunday at the Volkshotel Photography Market I will sell prints on Hahnemuhle Hemp paper. I don’t want to buy new frames, so I will reuse frames as much as I can. Some tips for other artists who are interested in sustainable printing, this is what I found out now:

Print on demand

Print on demand. It’s a simple thing, but well, let’s start with simple 🙂 I realised I am always left with a lot of prints after an event. That’s why I will only sell prints on demand at the Volkshotel Photography Market. I have three example prints and a portfolio with photos you can choose from

Type of print

Gloss or semigloss papers usually contain plastic, so it’s more sustainable to print on matte paper, for example made from hemp, agave or bamboo. I understand it should fit with your style. I normally print on semigloss but for the Photography Market I will experiment with hemp paper from Hahnemuhle

Printing method

I found on the internet that Giclee printing is more sustainable. It’s very nice that some printers say that on their website, but I understood from the printers I am working with that it’s basically an inkjet print that a lot of printers use 🙂

Company sustainability

Always call your printer to ask how they deal with sustainability because there are so many other factors involved in this. Think about the machines: the energy they use, the type of ink et cetera and how they deal with paper waste. But also think of the supplies: which papers are they using, where are they made, how much water is used et cetera

Sustainable framing

Frames is another story: there are so many factors that determine whether your frame is sustainable or not. With wooden frames you can check if it is FSC. You can consider where the frames come from. The more the frame travels, the less sustainable it is. But you can also look for recycled frames which usually have a wooden color but you could consider to paint it yourself with sustainable paint. You can reuse frames as well: dive into the wonderful world of Marktplaats and look what you can find!

Prints without a frame

You can also just not use frames. We are so used to it, but it can also be nice to pin a print to the wall. You can use different kinds of needles (not the push pins but for example beton naalden) to do that and it looks nice

Material costs and pricing

Never go for cheap. This is something that’s a bit vague. Also when something is expensive, it’s not always more sustainable. But cheap stuff is most of the times less sustainable. I get it: you also want to earn something as an artist so you want to keep your production costs low, but it is good to educate your buyers. They don’t think about it and also they don’t know what is more sustainable or not. Even we as artists sometimes don’t know (that’s why I am researching it right now). So dive into your own art practice, reflect and give the right answer (and price) to your buyers.

Diversity in editions

Give your buyers the option to just buy the print and to frame the print themselves. It keeps the price low because sustainable frames can be more expensive. Maybe you think: but then they will buy a cheap frame themselves and I have no control over what they will buy. Yes that’s true, but you can always give your buyer advice about it or maybe even a list of sustainable frame options 😉 In the end it’s all your choice. I had some experiences with markets where they told me to keep the price low because the target group cannot afford to buy expensive prints. I rather make a concession in print size and type of framing instead of completely paying for the costs of sustainability myself. It’s understandable that someone can only afford a print of 100 euro but I also have to consider the amount of time I spend on making the work, producing the print and selling the print. By the way, you could also consider selling posters. There are quite some sustainable options as well. Look at Groenprint or Peterprint for example but there are many more

Selling my stock

I still have some art pieces at my studio that I did not sell. I could try to put more effort in to selling them (and to be honest here comes the ‘time’ problem; it costs a lot of time and I don’t have that). Sometimes I wonder if I could just sell them for a low price. Immediately you would think: no you can’t do that because it devaluates your work and if you sold it already to someone for a higher price, that buyer will very likely not be happy. Well ok, but what if your buyers would see their investment as something that is not bound to the product (see also the next point)? Or what if you state that you have different prices for different target groups (such as Jan Hoek does)? Maybe you are also afraid that people will think you are doing bad because your artwork does not sell. Well, that’s another discussion. If your artwork sells depends on so many things. I don’t know. I sometimes feel that we get stuck because we believe we can’t change the systems we are living with but artist are so good in asking the question: what if…? So let’s do that more!

Other business models

Don’t print and frame! Haha. I am looking more and more into this. In the end, whether it’s an art piece or a smartphone or a table: it’s all material good that we want to have for our pleasure or comfort. We could eat on the floor, we could just ring the doorbell of our friend and see if he or she is at home and maybe we could also enjoy art in a different way. Ok I know I am exaggerating, but think about it. I would actually prefer people to invest into my art practice and get an experience in return. I mean usually people already get that experience when visiting an exhibition, but as artists we never ask something for it. This is maybe another topic, but the culture we set here also brings us artists into problems. Because then we need to sell our artworks in order to pay the costs of the exhibition. Why? If people want to buy an art piece to have it in their home, that’s also ok, but just saying it’s not the only business model there is. In any case I think doing the mind exercise of ‘what if I would not print’ can give you creative ideas for alternative business models.

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