Friday, 18 November 2016

Screenprinting with NZ printmaker Greg Straight

The printmaker Greg Straight working on his new edition
Catching Rays, a new limited edition print by NZ printmaker Greg Straight, encapsulates just about everything we like to see in a contemporary print by a New Zealand artist.

It's technically proficient, printed with great attention to detail, it has crisp lines and dense colour.

The artwork is large scale (it's on a full A1 sheet) and in a small edition (just 25 prints).

It depicts something unique to NZ in with a creative and distinctive artistic voice that is both thoughtful and decorative. The design on the rays wings may at first glance appear to be just a riff on classic Maori motifs but there is definitely something bat(man) like about the patterns on a second look.

Checking colours of the artist's proof
Catching Rays is also great value, you are buying a very large handmade print by a popular artist for just $300.

We also love the subject, New Zealand's sea creatures like sting rays haven't had as much exposure in contemporary art (compare the vast range that is available to buy in the ever popular native birds and native plants collections) but they deserve to be celebrated by our artists to the same degree.

Greg with his print "Catching Rays"
(available to buy here)
 Artist/illustrator Giselle Clarkson whose "Fish Species of NZ" print came out a couple of years ago is another artist whose interest in depicting NZ's sea creatures is making us wonder if a new kiwi wall art trend is stirring.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Mailing dates for Xmas gifts 2016

From now until Christmas is the busiest time of the year sales wise for NZ Fine Prints. Art prints are perennially popular Xmas gifts and making sure we deliver on time for Xmas around the world and throughout NZ has been something we have been doing for 50 years!!

Official mailing dates are below, these apply to our standard delivery service. There may be other delivery options available outside of our standard service/pricing so if you think you are running out of time please call us on 0800 800 278 in the lead up to Xmas, we may be able to work something out for you.

NZ Fine Prints Christmas Mailing Dates for 2016 are as follows:

Delivery worldwide at our standard rate of just $NZ15 (for any number of prints):


Please order your gifts by Wednesday 7th December 2016

UK & Europe, East Asia, North America & South Pacific

Please order your gifts by Friday 2nd December 2016

Rest of World

Order Xmas gifts by Wednesday 30th November 2016

Xmas Delivery to NZ Addresses

Standard Delivery for $NZ6 (for any number of prints)

We need to have your orders for prints being delivered as gifts for Xmas by 3pm Tuesday 20th December 2016

Deadline for next day courier delivery via CourierPost with guaranteed delivery for Xmas day is 3pm Thursday 22nd December 2016

Framed Prints - please order 10 working days before these mailing dates to ensure we can deliver by Christmas.

Gift Vouchers

NZ Prints also deliver gift vouchers by mail to NZ addresses if ordered by 22 December - and email gift vouchers are even being purchased on Xmas day itself and delivered instantly around the world. Now that is last minute Christmas shopping!

Shipping & Delivery Updates

As we get closer to Xmas we will update any delays or known issues with Xmas delivery on our shipping & delivery page.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Local art publishers have world-wide circulation

2016 has been the 50th anniversary of the founding of our company. This has been a great reason to revisit our history, much of which we have in scrapbooks (actually bound book proofs with blank pages of their earliest publications) dating back to the 1960s.  This article is from 1973 and is particularly interesting as it features the founders of New Zealand Fine Prints Don & Enid Ellis, discussing how they started in the art publishing business with Christchurch reporter David Young.  A note on the name change - in the 1990s the publishing and mail order businesses of Avon Fine Prints and Capper Press were merged into a single company around the time we shifted focus to publishing and online retail when our catalogues went online at

Local art publishers have world-wide circulation
"Local Art Publishers" article from 1973
The Queen, the Pope, President Nixon, Emperor Hirohito and Mr Trudeau are among the recipients of the work of a Christchurch company, Avon Fine Prints Ltd.

One of Avon’s more monumental achievements, Cook’s Artists, a collection of the drawings and paintings done by men on Cook’s voyages, became the official New Zealand Government book for 1969.

That year was the tricentenary of Cook’s discovery of New Zealand and the book went to official recipients and private collectors all round the world.

“You name the country - we sent it there”, says Mr D.G. Ellis, who with his wife,
Enid & Don Ellis of Avon Fine Prints
runs Avon Fine Prints.

Both aged about 30, the couple have for the last seven years been publishing reproductions of early New Zealand paintings and prints as well as facsimiles of fine, historical books.

Publishing, not printing, is their line, their speciality being limited, hand-numbered prints of scenes which, while not common, are not unfamiliar sights on carefully decorated walls.

“We are a pirate outfit really,” said Mr Ellis when I telephoned to ask about his operation.

But in a personal interview, this same candour revealed that his and his wife’s interest in New Zealand nineteenth century art is considerable. The couple have an extensive personal collection and it was Mr Ellis’s father’s knowledge of the subject which really led to the establishment of the present business.

World hunt
Returning from Australia in the early 1960s with a bundle of New Zealand paintings by such artists as Hoyte, Gully and Lindauer - all purchased for about £30 and resold here for considerably more - Mr Ellis jun. went hunting for similar material round the world.

His best deal, he says, was a Lindauer which he bought for £20 and sold for £900 - the then top price for a New Zealand painting.

But while the market knew no bounds, the supply of material was distinctly limited.

“So”, he explained, “we had to print our own stuff.”

Mrs Ellis said that in the early 1960s they did a great deal of original research with the help of the librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library (Mr Tony Murray-Oliver), who suggested that they start publishing limited edition prints.

To start with they did three tiny Canterbury prints by Holmes, hand-coloured, each with a run of 300.

Since then the company has published about 160 editions of prints by artists such as Blomfield, Chevalier, Gully, Hodgkins, Hoyte, Lindauer, Nairn, Sharpe and Wilson, as well as a series of early New Zealand town scenes.

Surprisingly, there is little original work of Canterbury, Mr Ellis pointed out. Canterbury was settled later than many other areas and Dr Barker was on the scene with his camera almost before the artists could set up easel.

Again, the New Zealand material that is suitable for reproduction is limited and Avon Fine Prints is now moving into other Pacific countries to continue its work.

It is the only company of its type in this part of the world, so includes Australian and Hawaiian art among the work it reproduces.

“We can do it in New Zealand because the printing works are geared to smaller runs than elsewhere”, said Mrs Ellis.

“We have the advantage of being able to do a run as small as 300 - which other countries just won’t touch - and we can still obtain quality from our printers.”

Why do people buy prints?

Essentially, say the Ellises, they like the picture for aesthetic, historical and decorative reasons. They also buy prints as an investment.

The object of a limited edition is that it will at least hold its value, monetarily, as well as providing an inbuilt reassurance to buyers that not everyone owns a copy.

The prints do appear to be a reasonable investment - a $6 Canterbury print now sells for $24 and others from limited editions show similar upward movement.

An offshoot of the Avon company is Capper Press, which produces unlimited editions - usually about 2000 - of New Zealand paintings, which sell more cheaply.

Capper Press also publishes facsimile copies of such early New Zealand books as Knocking about in New Zealand by Charles Money.

But the most spectacular undertakings have been Avon’s large, historical book productions.

Apart from the Cook publication, which contained much original research and previously unpublished material, Avon reproduced Pictorial Illustrations of New Zealand, by S.C. Brees, as a facsimile which sold for $60 and which now changes hands for $125.

Now Avon has just completed the printing of a facsimile edition of New Zealand: Graphic and Descriptive by C.D. Barraud (1877).

The giant book, with its 22in by 17in pages, printed on special paper with 76 illustrations including 24 colour plates and a Moroccan finish is a colossal undertaking. The 1000 copies being printed require 11 tons of paper, and special, unmarked skins for the leather cover.

Subscribers from around the world have paid their $35 deposit on the $150 subscription price and, following in the tradition of the 97 year-old original, will have their names bound into the volume - one of the few departures from the true facsimile.

Interestingly, some of the names in the back are the same as the ones in the front - the descendants of the original subscribers in some cases have followed in their grandparents’ footsteps.

Only a few copies remain of the original volume and many of these are now scattered.

“We’re not interested in publishing new books - writers drive me up the wall. We like our authors dead 100 years,” Mr Ellis said.

Not justified
As far as paintings are concerned: “We’d like to go more modern - a lot more modern - but there are not the sales in this country to justify this. 

“Today people in this country are getting sophisticated - they know what they want.

“We’re not arty-minded or anything like that, but we’re interested in good New Zealand paintings and we are leading people to the situation where they can make a choice,”

Mrs Ellis put in: “We are sales and commercially orientated, but our work stems from an interest and a knowledge in our material. You’ve got to put a premium on these things.”

With one exception - when the work was sent to Hong Kong - all the printing is done in New Zealand.

Avon pays reproduction fees to the individual and the institution owning the material. It is often institutions which constitute a large proportion of the buyers of reproductions.

Its reputation now firmly entrenched in so many parts of the world, Avon Fine Prints could continue to keep Christchurch on the map for some years to come.

But however they develop, the Ellises are determined that their work will never loom so large that their personal touch in business is lost.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Educational Posters for NZ kids

Growing up with prints of famous paintings on the walls at home should be considered part of our parental responsibility of bringing up kiwi kids who are culturally well-rounded. There is something about living alongside famous artworks everyday that makes them not just familiar but understood. Seeing a print everyday is a different and more resonant level of engagement than swiping through images from the internet, where initial impact is all important rather than a lingering contemplation.

However art education prints are not the only wall art available for kids rooms, kiwiana is big too as it features icons of kiwi childhood like buzzy bees, jet planes and playground rocket ships, often now remixed into something more than just nostalgic Pakeha recycling, what we are calling post or neo kiwiana where the artistic conversation with NZ's past moves beyond just nostalgia and the appropriation of commercial motifs.

NZ Map in the Maori language
Educational poster for 4-12 year olds
The kiwiana ABC poster released a few years ago has made us realise that our range of educational posters should not just be limited to art education as we all like to put some basic learning resources on the walls when the kids are young, maps in the bathroom, a counting poster by the potty in our family's case. When we researched the publishers selling educational posters designed for NZ children we realised that with about twenty titles specifically made for kiwi parents to buy we could add a purely educational strand to our collection of kid orientated wall art pretty easily. Thanks to publishers like Huia we now have the first of these posters arriving in our kids collection, starting with two cool new NZ and world maps in Te Reo by Wellington artist, designer and illustrator Josh Morgan.

I will be adding pictures and links to this article shortly, writing this away from the office in the midst of the drizzliest school holidays in living memory and my kids only have so much tolerance for Dad using the iPad for work (but expect me to leave them in total peace if it is their turn on devices!).

And here we have the illustration that was supposed to accompany this post "Toko Whenua: Aotearoa", a large (A1 size) poster of NZ with all place names and places of interest in te reo Maori.  It's a fun learning resource for families, schools and pre-schools with eye catching illustrations designed to inspire kiwi children to learn more about the country they live in and increase their Maori language skills as the name and talk about the features of different places.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Ends of lines - editions about to sell out

What is our Endangered Prints gallery all about?

When customers were first able to buy prints online from NZ Fine Prints back in 1999 one of the first galleries we created almost on a whim (and definitely with a whimsical name) has become one of the most frequently visited pages at - up there with NZ's currently top selling prints and what's new most months in page views.  It's rather odd name (endangered prints) has stuck so perhaps the high traffic to this collection is due to the puzzling listing on our galleries page being clicked on by curious first time visitors!

Quite simply the endangered prints gallery lets print buyers know which prints are in danger of selling out. 

When we sold through mail order catalogue pre internet this impending deletion/selling out was impossible to convey, so we would have to drop a print completely from our range if we forecast that there wasn't enough stock to cover sales expected for the length of time that the catalogue was current. 

Some customers find it curious that both limited and open edition prints can go out of print - and ask why can't we just print some more if the print is not from a limited edition?  So in this article we'll talk about how both kinds of prints become endangered and then at the end of the post you will find our list of prints that have made it onto this list over the past couple of months.  It's a cliche but true when we say to please buy now to avoid disappointment...

Limited Edition Prints

About to sell out - Tony Ogle's Anaura Bay print
Editions by their very nature are not going to be available forever.  NZ's most successful printmakers long term - for instance Tony Ogle, Dick Frizzell & Shane Hansen - keep a balance in the market between new artworks being made and older editions selling out.  This is a seperate issue from "edition size creep" where printmakers with sold out editions early on sometimes begin to increase edition sizes to a number that is simply too big for the New Zealand market to absorb over a reasonable length of time (in our view 2-3 years).  Top NZ printmakers like the artists above produce 2-5 new editions a year and sell out a similar number of earlier editions annually (see for instance a list of Tony's sold out editions by year here). This means the market for their work is kept in balance, preserving both the purchasers investment and keeping the artist's income at level that sustains their art practice.  This is not an artificial way of squeezing supply - making a large print takes weeks and even months after all - it just prevents an overhang of unsold prints developing over time if supply is greater than demand.

We have found that there is a U shaped demand for original limited edition prints.  There is high demand at the beginning, collectors of an artist's work are keen to add the new print to their collection, sometimes a scramble to secure a favourite edition number from the edition and simply the fact that you can be the first to have a cool new print on your wall drives early sales.  In the middle of the sales cycle print sales will settle down to a regular (and surprisingly steady) monthly sales figure until around 80% of the edition is sold out.  Then demand rises steeply, higher than at the beginning of the limited edition sales cycle, as buyers who have been pondering a purchase are forced to make up their minds and the very fact that this edition is proving it will sell out brings the more financially minded collector to the party.  When we are down to less than 5% of the edition being available the print goes into the endangered gallery.  Some artists increase the price as the edition starts to sell out too!  Knowing which prints are going to sell out creates real value for our customers and we are adding new limited edition prints to the endangered gallery every few weeks. 

Open Edition Prints

Reproduction prints also sell out.  Although technically they can be re-printed there are actually a host of reasons why this may not happen with a particular image. In no particular order...
  1. Most people who want a print of painting x by artist y now own the print and it is not economic to re-print again. The NZ market is tiny, short print runs are the order of the day.  However printed offset a print may still be printed in a run of 300+ prints.  Selling one a week for six years will probably meet the demand for a reproduction of a painting by most NZ artists.  
  2. The artist's contract with a publisher has expired, not been renewed or suddenly ended in acrimony!  Commercial publishers pay artists a royalty on each print sold (not the number printed), traditionally these were offset prints done in longish runs (up to 1000) and contracts stipulated that the publisher could keep selling prints until all physical stock was sold. However with digital (or print on demand) production when the contract (between 1-3 years) comes to an end for whatever reason the tap turns off pretty quickly.  We might have just one print left - or a pile on the shelf if it's a good seller - but either way we'll put the image into the endangered collection as we can't re-order it anymore.  This doesn't mean that the prints are suddenly more valuable, collectable etc, we are just signalling to print buyers that this image is about to go out of print - just like a book - and won't be available again unless it's on the secondary market (eg Trademe or auction).  It usually won't be available again and even in the rare cases the same image is re-printed later by another NZ publisher the format can change significantly between printings. For instance Mickey to Tiki has been printed in four different iterations, all in slightly different sizes and on changeable paper stock since it was first printed by the Christchurch Art Gallery from a print in their collection, followed by Image Vault (who dropped the 5/50 edition number that had been on the original print and was fatefully included on the initial reproduction), then Dick's World (they added the title and artist in the Frizzell font below the image and changed to a lighter paper stock) and soon it will be published by 100 Percent NZ as an A2 poster.
  3. We lose touch with an artist.  Yes, this happens even in the age of Facebook and LinkedIn!  We might purchase from our less mainstream suppliers as little as once a year, then when we re-order the artist has retired, moved or even passed away.  Then all the prints we have left from this artist are moved into the endangered category. 
  4. Publishers and distributors close down.  In just the last couple of years NZ has lost Thorndon Fine Prints and Stanford Arts.  We try and buy at least a couple of years supply of stock if we know this is about to happen but eventually we start to run out and the prints go onto the endangered list. Sometimes an artist whose work has been distributed by another company (like Timo) will get in touch, other times we just have to delete the print from our catalogue if we can't find a contact (we'd love to hear from you Ingrid Banwell).
  5. A self-published artist changes their mind about having prints made.  When a visitor to an artist's studio likes a painting but doesn't actually want to buy it a polite way to say no is for the prospective purchaser to say "if only there was a print of it,  then I'd buy one of those instead".  A few people saying this does not mean that there is demand large enough to make a print run viable. An artist can produce a few (expensive due to the small print run) test prints and find that these do not sell as fast as they expected.  The price is too high and their work perhaps not well known for a visitor to NZ Fine Prints to search for them by name.  Unless the subject has a wide appeal a print can get lost amongst 2500+ titles in stock and the artist loses heart and doesn't continue beyond the few prints initially sold.  Not all artists are as downcast as one who asked us to withdraw stock in July (despite us still having a few prints to sell) and then delete his name from our catalogue as "I have had a hard time being an artist and I don't think I will go down that line too often now.  I am so sorry but it is art that does not like me."!
  6. The print is deleted by the publisher for unknown reasons.  This is frustrating for us, particularly if the print is a good seller.  For non-NZ artwork we can usually find another supplier eventually, for instance we are out of Durer's "Hare" and Breughel's "Tower of Babel" after our Italian publisher deleted these ever popular prints from their catalogue but we should be able to substitute these with the same image from a publisher in the UK shortly.   For a NZ artist this is usually the end of the road - however we will actually publish a print ourselves if we think that something should be available even if it is not a mainstream commercial print (eg C.F. Goldie's famous portrait "A Good Joke" or Colin McCahon's key work "Northland Panels").
  7. The print is no longer available in all formats.  This is becoming an issue, an
    Canvas art print no more - paper version only
    artist may withdraw a print on canvas, but keep a print on fine art paper in production.  For instance painter Graham Young's kiwiana scenes such as his popular print of Auckland's Garnet Rd Dairy will only be available on paper going forward (despite the canvas version selling 10 to 1 compared to the paper version). We wonder if this is due to artists whose original paintings do not sell for much more than a stretched canvas print finding the competition from virtually indistinguishable reproductions a tough sell - particularly if they work with acrylic paints as they are really hard to tell apart from a printed reproduction.

Here is the list of prints that have had to be added to our endangered gallery over July and August.  The number of prints available to buy is the quantity we had in stock at 24 August 2016.  Link now broken? The print has sold out.