Art print publisher devastated by arson attack overnight

We were absolutely shocked to learn that local art print publisher Image Vault was the victim of an arson attack in the early hours of this morning.  The current owners had only purchased the business back in July of this year.  Christchurch businesses have been through a lot over the past five years, and this event is yet another of those unpredictable "black swans",  but also one that couldn't come at a worse time of year for a business that supplies the Xmas gift market and are at the height of their print production schedule.  We are heartened by the fact Carl and Nicola are reported as saying they were fully insured and able to start printing again at temporary premises and our staff will be offering every assistance to them in the coming days.

The first thing my mother said when she heard of this was to text me that this was the same time of year as our "factory fire".  This reminded me of one of my earliest memories - which is of the fire that gutted our family's picture moulding factory back in the late 1970s. Not arson, this was caused by thinners spontaneously igniting in the dangerous goods store and the intense heat was such that it melted the steel girders of our building in Carlisle St. I remember being lifted up to look into the cab of the fire engine and the smell of the fire.  This was the second time Avon Fine Prints (as New Zealand Fine Prints was known as back then) had been hit by fire, their office above the National Party headquarters in Christchurch had also caught fire when my parents were on an overseas trip in the late 1960s, they returned home to find that their staff had relocated back to the sitting room of their house!

I hope that our business's experience of recovering from similarly devastating fires a long time ago means that the path back to normality for Image Vault will not as long or as hard as it must seem from the vantage point of today for Carl, Nicola, Jen, Amanda and Tony at Image Vault today.

Print on demand and hopefully cloud storage of their catalogue of files that they need to print canvas art prints will mean technically they can be back in business quite quickly, but the framing side of Image Vault's business may take longer to recover due to the loss of equipment and supplies - we may not be able to offer the standard box framing on their titles for at least a few weeks.  We are also concerned that because their back stock of off-set prints will have been lost many of their older titles from artists like Grahame Sydney, Diana Adams, Barry Ross Smith, Jason Kelly etc may not be able to be re-printed on demand as the contracts with the artists last only as long as physical stock was on hand.  NZ Fine Prints hold a few months worth of stock of most of these titles but this may mean some popular prints may be deleted well before the editions would have sold out naturally.

The earthquakes were incredibly disruptive but print buyers were overwhelmingly supportive and understanding of delays as we all juggled frantically behind the scenes to get their orders shipped. In the weeks following the Feb 22nd quake we had just one customer cancel their print order. This is another of those times that we will do our very best to let you know immediately if there will be a delay in shipping your order and in return ask for a bit of leeway if your print is delivered outside our normal delivery guidelines due to this devastating fire at one of our favourite suppliers.  

NZ Artists celebrate rugby, our national sport

"Rise Up" print by Barry Ross Smith
With the final of the 2015 rugby world cup this weekend today we are featuring prints for sale of artworks by NZ artists that feature our national sport.  This time there has been no commissioned art by the world cup, unlike the 2011 rugby world cup in New Zealand when Dick Frizzell was commissioned by the organisers to produce a series of limited edition screenprints (the unsold prints were purchased by a couple of ex- All Blacks and will no doubt resurface shortly if NZ wins the 2015 tournament).

One of our favourite pieces of NZ sporting art is "Rise Up" by Barry Ross Smith.  He's not a dispassionate observer of the game like British born but NZ resident artist David John with his now venerable "changing room" series, Smith is a passionate supporter of rugby.  His painting depicts the haka as performed by bull like rugby players, simultaneously referencing Greek legend, our most famous team and NZ's farming heritage that features so strongly in his work.

Now just about sold out - so I won't add a link to the print on our website - is a nice historical print of NZ's first game of rugby, between this writer's old school - Nelson College and a team of non-school players from Nelson in Paul Wilding's "The College vs Town".

NZ's First Game of Rugby - Artist Paul Wilding
Issues around licensing mean that artists can't depict actual players or official New Zealand team playing strips, in a series published by Christchurch art print publisher Image Vault Julia Drake valiantly attempted to depict a rugby match without breaching the All Blacks ferociously enforced copyright.

Old Rugby Boots - Dick Frizzell Limited Edition Print
Haka Actions (Kia Kaha Kid)
There is no reason why our sporting success can't be celebrated in art, earlier in the year we called for more, not less, sporting art but only Dick Frizzell seems to be open to respond-ing to the obvious market demand for prints of rugby - win or lose in the cup final this weekend this is one subject that will be on NZ's walls for as long as we are selling art prints to New Zealanders.  From both ends of the pricing spectrum here is "Kiha Kaha Kid" - the actions of the New Zealand rugby team's haka performed by Dick's character of the same name ($49.95) and his $1050 screenprint of a pair of rugby boots (Old Boots) treated with all the seriousness of a painting of the high Renaissance.

Printmaking Process - Screenprinting with NZ artist Tony Ogle

In this very short video you can watch the successive colours being added to a new screenprint by NZ printmaker Tony Ogle.   We put together a slide show of photographs taken in his studio over the past month. Each colour is hand-mixed then added layer by layer.  The print he is working on is his latest limited edition screenprint "Harotaonga" released in September 2015.

Vintage Maps of NZ - new ranges of prints

New Zealand by Captain James Cook
The recent acquisition of the entire range of reproduction prints of some of NZ's most famous antique maps from Wellington publisher Thorndon Fine Prints is not the only news on the map front here at New Zealand Fine Prints. Although the decorative antique maps based on the charts of Captain Cook are consistently among the top selling prints in New Zealand we knew that there is another rich vein of highly decorative vintage maps in official government publications and commercially produced atlases.

Maps have been framed as wall art for hundreds of years, although the original maps are very expensive due to their rarity and age superb quality reproduction prints can be re-printed where the original maps are in good condition.

The decision of whether to clean up the wear and tear of the antique maps is one that each publisher wrestles with, our view is that reproducing the fold lines on an original map does not detract from its decorative appeal on the wall - the patina of age does in fact add interest and authenticity (without pretending to be an actual original antique map of course!).

The new print in stock from Thorndon Fine Prints of the highly decorative chart of NZ drawn by Cassini (shown here) is a great example of an exact replica/facsimile that reproduces folds, foxing and of course the unique hand colouring of the original map.

Vintage Wall Chart Style Maps on Canvas

The wall chart style vintage maps that have been printed on canvas are an interesting new product.
Vintage NZ Map, Wall Chart Style
Customers appreciate purchasing a map that is ready to hang - and the old school aged wooden hangers and rope together with the just the right shade of canvas colour works really well.  We like the fact that because we can still roll these vintage maps on canvas up to place in our standard mailing tubes we can deliver them at our standard delivery charge ($6 NZ, $15 worldwide) rather than the framed print shipping cost of $20!

However as with all new products our catalogue manager's enthusiasm for the category may not be matched by actual sales (this writer is looking at all those vintage letterpress posters). We have sold a couple of dozen of the wall chart style vintage maps in the past couple of weeks so we are hopeful that this is a good start that will build as more people see the maps in real life hanging on the walls of homes and offices.

Our complete collection of vintage maps, prints of antique maps and of course a modern day NZ map poster that we have for sale can be viewed here in our map collection.

Thorndon Fine Prints - Publisher of Early NZ Maps & Evelyn Page Prints

We were sad to hear of the recent death of Sebastian Page.  The founder of Wellington's Thorndon Fine Prints had let us know that he was selling the business due to ill-health a few months ago.  In my role as the catalogue manager for NZ Fine Prints I have been purchasing from Thorndon from the time I first graduated from Otago and joined our family's business.  Seb was a great person to deal with, always packaging the prints with care and getting them to us on time.  In later years I would always get a phone call letting me know when he and Marcia (of Page Blackie Gallery) were heading off on their winter holiday so I could make sure we had enough of the ever popular Thorndon "Cook's Map of NZ" on hand until their return.  Oh how envious I was as we headed into another Christchurch winter!
Map of NZ and the Pacific by Zatta based on Cook's charts

Our gallery has now purchased the remaining stock of fine art prints, maps and charts published by Thorndon Fine Prints.  Alongside all the titles we have promoted previously (like this map of the Pacific by Zatta) there are some additional prints that we now have for sale for the first time - in a couple of cases these are duplicates of images published previously by Avon Fine Prints such as the Cassini map based on Captain Cook's charts that we hadn't seen the need to double up on previously - but there are also some really well priced smaller prints from Buller's "Birds of NZ" and a couple of fine NZ botanical prints such as this print of Pohutukawa (historically interesting as it has an earlier spelling of Pohutukawa and is titled Metrosideros Tomentosa rather than the modern nomenclature of Metrosideros Excelsa) by 19th century NZ botancial artist Sarah Featon.

The story of Thorndon Fine Prints was detailed in some of the brochures that we received with the prints and worth recounting to make sure Seb Page's contribution to art print publishing in NZ is long remembered.

"In 1990, inspired by an awakening of interest in historical New Zealand, and particularly in the era of exploration and discovery, Thorndon Fine Prints issued two fine replicas of the most collectable of antique New Zealand maps, Cook's Chart of New Zealand, originally published in 1772, and the map of colonial settlement published in 1845.  Subsequently the range has been extended to include the most popular maps and prints relating to New Zealand and Pacific history, including some of the most decorative images of discovery, settlement and natural history, by the acclaimed artists of the time.  All reproductions are printed on the finest quality papers and presented with well-researched documentation."

Evelyn Page Prints from Thorndon Fine Prints

Seb Page was the son of artist Evelyn Page.  One of NZ's most celebrated artists Evelyn Page's
Evelyn Page on the
cover of "Art New Zealand"
vibrant paintings of nudes and still-life are among the most memorable images in New Zealand art of the twentieth century.  Thorndon Fine Prints began their publishing relationship with the Evelyn Page Estate in 2002 with their limited edition print release "Why Go To the Riveria? - Oriental Bay, Wellington".  The unprecedented success of this inaugural publication led to the inclusion of two more images by Evelyn Page in the Thorndon Fine Prints portfolio the following year.   Exclusive to Thorndon Fine Prints they were reproduced on the finest quality paper using UV resistant inks.

We are delighted to stock the three prints exclusively available from Thorndon alongside the Christchurch Art Gallery published print of Summer Morn (their edition of the every popular "Pohutukawa Rina" is unfortunately currently out of print while the gallery is closed).

Image Vault News

The news that we reported on our Facebook page and Twitter feed three weeks ago concerning the pending sale of NZ art print publisher Image Vault has today been officially confirmed via email to all their stockists today.

"Dear All,

As most of you will already know, from July 1st Image Vault will be under new ownership. 
Due to an unfortunate glitch in our system, we were unaware that this formal notification had not been made, so we apologise profusely if this news had not already reached you!

The new owners are Nicola and Carl Church - and they are so excited to be embarking upon this new adventure! They bring fresh energy and ideas, and are hoping to meet with you at the Auckland Gift Fair in August. 

Many of you have been our loyal customers for many years, even dating back to our start in the top floor of Windsor Gallery! We want to acknowledge and express our gratitude for your support - it is your encouragement and feedback that allowed Image Vault to grow into the company it is today. Jane and Nathan will continue their association with IV by advising on product development and design, and Hamish will be on hand to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

Again, a huge thank you to you all.

Nathan Secker, Jane Secker, Hamish Bayly"

NZ Fine Prints was the customer they referred to in the email, this writer used to walk around to their High St gallery
Early Image Vault print - Coastal Breeze by Diana Adams
from our building in Hereford St to collect the first bundles of prints.  Image Vault had a great run with prints by artists such as Grahame Sydney and Diana Adams, riding the kiwiana art boom with prints like the Sweet As series by Jason Kelly whilst making the transition from offset printing to print on demand.

We wish the new owners the best of luck and look forward to promoting all the new artists and artworks they will publish in the future.

Christchurch Artist Hamish Allan's New Prints

ChCh Artist Hamish Allan
"Santa Barbara" - 500 x 500mm Art Print $64.95
Leaving out unnecessary imagery creates a sense of space and
serenity in the artwork of Christchurch painter Hamish Allan.   Composing a scene that is stripped back to the essential image means not making an exact copy of messy reality from a particular viewpoint. Because of this these new prints in stock here at NZ Fine Prints Christchurch Prints collection are clearly Canterbury landscapes and buildings but also distill from them a sense of place that is more of distillation of essential New Zealandness.

Allan's prints are contemporary artworks that give a sense of place with an accessible hook to draw the viewer in, Allan's love of classic cars and buildings viewed, as he says, "through rose tinted glasses at times gone by".   Look closer and the viewer begins to notice that Allan's paintings are also full of sly references to other things, for instance the road cone in "Santa Barbara" lets us know that this painting is post-earthquake.  We also enjoy the way Hamish pays tribute to famous NZ artists - for instance by hanging Don Binney's "Pacific Frigate Bird" print from the Barry Lett Gallery multiples on the wall of the upstairs room in "Blue HQ".  There are now over 20 Hamish Allan prints available, on both fine art paper and canvas.

Dick Frizzell Recipe Prints

Lisa's Afghans
Hot Buttered

From 2007 to 2009 Dick Frizzell created a series of screenprints based on the Frizzell family's favourite recipes. These silkscreen limited editions sold, ahem, like hot cakes, and several years later we were still being asked for "Coco's Pikelets" and especially "Lisa's Afghans".  Although the limited editions are long sold out Dick has made open edition (and unsigned) reproduction prints of the original artworks that he holds in his personal collection.  These are very well priced at just $NZ49.95 per print unframed.
Coco's Pikelets

Although this series is nearly a decade old Dick's stark colour palette cleverly anticipated the black and white revival in interior design today.  The recipe series distinctively "Frizzellian" handwriting and the fact that he used kiwi favourite foods (and the recipes actually work) make these prints perfect for kiwi kitchens, and we are delighted to list three new prints from Dick Frizzell's recipe series in our culinary prints and posters collection - food & drink this afternoon.

New Blood Pop launches NZ Fine Prints' urban art collection.

Princess 1.1 by NBP (aka Brad Novak)
Not all contemporary non fine art is street art.  But there is a subtle change afoot when artists who have moved from Pop to Street to Urban Art like Brad Novak bring out new prints that have built on this progressive foundation to create something new.  Brad's new series under the moniker "New Blood Pop" takes iconography familiar to New Zealanders but not exclusive to us and shows these historical and cultural figures in a new light.

This is what Brad has to say about his remix of pop in a more urban art direction. “New Blood Pop is concerned with how we experience life itself, the 21st century issues we face such as inequalities in wealth and health, sustainability and globalization. I’m also interested in the idea of escapism especially through science fiction and the superhero franchise. Of the things we choose to believe, what’s real, and what’s not? These works are global, flagrant, iconic and ironic.

I endeavour to create powerful multi-layered works, with an emblazoned foreground overlaying a “veiled” background, to show that many of us are living life through a distorting veil, clouding our perception. Our awareness tainted by biases and judgments – a fantasy that we’ve created for ourselves – the practice of mindfulness promises salvation.”

We stock the new series of prints under Brad's moniker “New Blood Pop”, or “NBP76”,  all these new prints are hand-collaged and stencil-spray-painted artworks which involve the layering of popular imagery like the Princess Leia portrait shown here which is for sale at $695, available in an edition of just 35 signed and numbered screenprints.

2014 - Art Print Market Review

Year of the Bird in NZ Art

2014 was the year of the bird in NZ prints.  The re-issued Native Birds of New Zealand poster nearly outsold "Mickey to Tiki", re-printed colour plates from Buller's Birds sold briskly alongside a menagerie of avian art from contemporary NZ artists.  Tui are definitely the new Nikau! And by the end of the year another big trend was shaping up - the circular print.  Yes, round is going to be a thing in 2015 - there were even artists so on trend they combined both with round prints of birds!
Native Birds of NZ

Publication News

The other exciting new prints published over 2014 included the first new print of a classic abstract Koru painting by Gordon Walters for a decade, the ongoing re-release of NZ's most popular artist Dick Frizzell's back catalogue as open edition prints, the expansion of the number of re-prints of genuine vintage posters alongside a huge number of new limited editions by NZ artists, especially the stunning work of veteran artist Michael Smither.  We also saw new prints of paintings by blue chip NZ artists like Hammond, Hotere and McCahon.  In 2013's art market review we said that tiki were going to evolve further and they certainly have, it's such an exciting area of NZ art we have now created a tiki category that numbered just on fifty different prints by the end of 2014.


The word picture/bus blind/eye chart has collapsed into a custom printed word association game that shows off the customisation potential of digital printing - editions of one for Kev & Julie's Wedding etc - think of 10 words and make sure you spell the names right. There are some good business models for printers in this now but the mainstream publishers are all saying that the place names bus blind and eye chart style typographical print has run its course.

One other change we have noticed is how remixed vintage style images are replacing straight photographic souvenirs like postcards. And yes, we are still waiting for the great NZ photography range to replace the stalwart poster selection published by Craig Potton Publishing a very long time ago.

Street art went mainstream in 2014, the market for Banksy prints and posters was by the end of the year a free-for-all, even the Warehouse imported some particularly grainy posters to flog through their daily deals site using our high quality offset prints (at the not exactly exorbitant $39.95) as the "why pay this much" tag.  The answer is of course that you get what you pay for, good quality paper stock, long life ink and perfect colour fidelity.  And in the case of some prints we saw, no pixelation either!  Over the Xmas holidays this writer even spotted an already discarded derivative canvas graffiti art style print in a provincial second hand shop, cast off with the speed of a poster of last year's boy band.  Great for business if people turn over their artworks so quickly, but we genuinely think the best value is purchasing an artwork that you will love for decades, the cost per view is quite high even if it's a cheap print if you buy something that can't sustain your interest much beyond the initial viewing.

What's in Store for 2015?

We think one of the artists to watch in 2015 will be Glenn Jones, he's pushing kiwiana in new directions and has quickly built up good distribution for his artwork through stores.  Jason Kelly is now on the same production train as Dick Frizzell, it would be great to see his previous success revisited as his "Kiwi As" series struck a chord with nearly everyone without looking like "made for tourists" kiwiana.

Propaganda Poster
The 100th Anzac day could be the catalyst for sales of vintage war posters, recruitment posters and propaganda posters.  But whether they should be promoted beyond the walls of the social studies department is an interesting debate.

Custom printing of reproduction prints will be on the rise in 2015 but still faces issues around copyright, royalties, unit costs and complexity at the customer end. The expectation we hear from some of our customers is that the print retailer can simply print images off the internet, asking could they buy, for example Banksy's "Girl with Balloons" with the background wall on canvas one metre square. Although technically possible to print reproductions of art works on demand like this publishers still carry stock in standard sizes as the work involved in printing a single image still makes a print run of 10 more economically feasible because the set up times are averaged across more than one print.  In the case of the Banksy prints and posters we are still ordering physical stock from publishers in the UK that is air freighted to NZ at a price lower than custom printing here in NZ.

Large print runs done offset will continue to be a better value proposition than bespoke printing for reproductions for popular artists and famous paintings.  Local publishers using giclee or inkjet printing still backorder retail orders until they can print a batch of the same image and size if possible.

What we'd love to see in 2015? Some great new prints featuring NZ's favourite sports!  Like finding the perfect view of Christchurch (unlike Auckland with Rangitoto or Wellington's hillsides of wooden houses) this has been attempted a few times (for instance David John's "Changing Room" series of Julia Drake's "not quite the All Blacks" prints around the time of the 2008 World Cup).  But for a country passionate about sport we have pretty much had to make do with just alcohol sponsored free posters of rugby teams or those framed jerseys that end up in the back of the wardrobe after the school fundraiser for too long.   Our art should reflect what we care about and although sport resonates with New Zealanders there are simply not enough artworks that celebrate our sporting traditions to meet demand.