We’ve had our hands full…

July 30, 2019 Written by Joe Menth

Well folks, it’s been a while. Suffice to say, we’ve been a bit busy with both business and baby. That’s a lot (and a lot of alliteration too!). Miss Maevyn is now almost 2 years old, and my oh my has the time flown by. So, yeah, I know I haven’t written since before our newest addition was born, but…life happens, right? And no one really reads this blog anyway. 😉

She’s getting big!

In the last couple of years, we’ve been kept on our toes with the major change in pace that comes with running a full-service copy center on top of all of our fine art printing services we’ve been offering since 2005.

The end of 2018 saw the pseudo-retirement* of Joe’s mom Nancy from the day-to-day operations of the printing studio, and brought Rhiannon into a more production-oriented full-time position as Joe’s business partner for not just Feather & Fox, but for the combined services and print production of Fine Balance Imaging & Printing. She’s doing great, by the way, and is an incredibly quick learner when it comes to all levels of production. Our efficiency has had quite an uptick, and our turnaround times have gone down as well – all due to the way Rhiannon’s mind works combined with Joe’s continued efforts to create a better project management system (thanks to Trello!).

The added work at the studio, thankfully, has been somewhat balanced out by having a new designer on staff (just kidding).

Answering the phone

Greeting customers

Maevyn is also great at answering phones, greeting customers, and helping sort and box print jobs.

Boxing a print job

But seriously, it’s a joy to have the little one in the studio. Most of the time. Except when she “helps” by putting things into paper trays that are, uh, not paper…or reorganizes the products in the gift shop when we’re not looking. But, you know. She’ll learn what’s what and be helping for real soon enough. Because time flies. It really does.

Helping pull apart custom cut stickers

Always adding to the shop (Feather & Fox)

Now that Feather & Fox is under the same roof (and has been for three years) as Fine Balance Imaging, we’ve got the best of all worlds.

Max Cole-Takanikos sticker designs
Max Cole-Takanikos sticker designs

It’s enabled us to quickly test out new products in our very own gift shop – things that local designers or artists might want to try as prints, cards, shirts or stickers.

New stickers, cards and more

We keep adding new things – like a few new lines of illustration and art supplies, while also allowing the shop to evolve and adapt the way that feels right. To that end, we’ll be pulling most of the rest of the more mundane office supplies off of our shelves this summer, and will only carry the most basic of copy paper stock, some pens, and the like. We want to make way for new lines of art supplies, and fill up the shop with fun new designs that Rhiannon and Joe are working on for all sorts of products (new shirts, new stickers, new lines of prints and cards and postcards, and a whole line of laser cut wood and acrylic jewelry too!).

So, what’s new?

Actually, quite a lot!

We never really talked about it, mostly because we were easing into learning some new skills…but about a year ago we added a laser cutter/engraver to our ever-growing list of equipment. The new capabilities have expanded our range of services by quite a lot!

A little wood “stand-up” of Maevyn’s name

The machine is a Glowforge Pro, and is currently living in our dining room while we await the delivery of an air filtration system. The thing is, in our “new” space (that we’ve been in for three years now!!!) in Langley, we don’t have any windows that open. And a laser cutter is…stinky. It needs ventilation. So short of putting a huge hole in the wall, we can’t have it in the studio until we have a good air filter that will remove and process the fumes.

Meanwhile, we’ve still been having quite a bit of fun with it. See below for some examples!

Acrylic stand-up name
Topographic engraving of Whidbey Island
The Targaryen sigil handle-wrap for a custom battle ax!
Engraved wood rounds for Waldorf Potlach
Testing a custom embossing seal
Custom embossing seal
Printed and custom cut puzzle test
Testing out engraved bookmarks
Custom rubber stamp!
An order for 100 engraved bamboo cutting boards
Custom “composer name” key fobs
Custom walnut wood box with integral hinged lid
Name tags for a fundraiser
Custom investor booklet with acrylic binding and wood veneer back cover
Custom engraved award plaque
Photo engraving test

What’s newer? Oh yeah, the DTG.

At the beginning of June, we acquired a brand-spankin’ new Epson SureColor F2100 DTG printer.

What in the heck is that, you ask?

Well…it’s really cool, for starters. “DTG” stands for “Direct to Garment”. What that means is: we can print full-color photographic “Epson-quality” directly on to natural fabric (i.e., cotton, bamboo or hemp) shirts, as well as tote bags and more.

Eco-friendly water-based inks. Because this planet is the only home we’ve got!

The printer uses eco-friendly water-based textile inks, and is certified completely safe for adults, children, and babies – and is completely recyclable as well.

If we’re printing on to dark or black shirts, we print a white ink undercoat first, and then the printer perfectly registers the color printing on top of it. Shirts that use the white ink need a pre-treatment solution that we have a special application machine to get even consistent spray. The Pre-treatment washes out the first time you wash the shirt.

The amazing artwork of Max Cole-Takanikos – on a shirt!

If we’re printing on lighter colored shirts, no pre-treatment is necessary, and the feeling of the shirt is exactly the same as before it was printed! No plasticky feel at all – it feels completely like the original fabric…but with your custom artwork, design or photograph printed on it.

Testing out one of Herb Kane’s images of Pele Honua Mea on a t-shirt

Did we mention there are no minimums either? The beautiful thing about this kind of technology is that it is made for one-offs or low-volume orders. In fact, in the last month and a half, the vast majority of orders we’ve received have been for special custom one-off gifts for Father’s Day and birthdays and going-away parties.

(Grand)-Father’s Day shirt! Two days after we got the printer!
The Next Day – in and out in 5 minutes! Our friend Michael’s band EVA has custom shirts now!
Testing one of Lily’s sketches on a tote bag
Some of our favorite people ordered shirts for their gallery
Testing our gal Grace’s sketch on a tote bag, too!

So, yes, that’s right: you can order just one. If we have the color, style, and size of shirt that you’re after in stock, we can produce the shirt within 1-3 business days. If we need to order shirts for you, we can typically get your custom printed shirt back in your hands within 2-5 business days.

Yeah. It’s really cool!

That’s about it for now…stay tuned!

We’re always looking for the latest and greatest – and really, when it comes down to it, the most interesting and fun ways – to provide more services that allow artists, makers, designers, and anyone else, to create and make the things that make them happy. Because that’s really what it’s all about!

We invest in things that make it easier for everyone to get their artwork out in the world, or even simply to make that special gift for a friend or loved one. Sometimes that also means buying entire other businesses to fill in those gaps of basic copies and printing, banners, and posters, or even archiving old snapshots (or printing new snapshots to get them off your phone!). Lots of new services have been added in the last three years, and there’s always more to come. If you haven’t stopped in in a while, drop on by. We’re excited to share what we know and happy to introduce you to our little artist-in-the-making, too!

Now we’ve got to go and get Maevyn’s hands out of the paper tray so we can get some jobs out the door. Such a good helper!

*You might be wondering what pseudo-retirement means. Well, Nancy has “retired” from day-to-day production and management of Fine Balance Imaging, but has started up her new side business, Kane Art Sales, LLC., to support one of the studio’s most consistent clients, Deon Kane, the widow of Herb Kane, the most famous Hawaiian artists and historians to ever live. Nancy has been working with Deon for years to resurrect the family business after Herb’s passing, and Fine Balance has been the exclusive printer of all of Herb’s fine art prints available in Hawaii and the world over. Now, Nancy is managing licensing new products, produced by Fine Balance in the majority of cases, to help expand the offerings of Herb Kane’s amazing artworks in various forms, from cards and prints to ornaments, magnets, tote bags and t-shirts…and more! Look for her new website soon (we’ll post it here when it’s live).