235: The print market dilemma

Thumbnails from TurningArt.com
showing four of my woodcuts and five paintings.

In the 90s a type of mechanical print became fashionable called giclee prints. They were mechanical reproductions printed by computer technology. Giclee prints were not hand-made like traditional fine art prints and were in no way limited–once you had a digital file you could print an unlimited amount of indistinguishable copies.

Unlike giclees each hand-printed woodcut has distinctly beautiful nuances. The giclee option confused fine art print collectors and the ability to sell fine art prints became increasingly difficult. Up to the late 90s most large cities had fine art print galleries that sold only hand-made prints. Today such galleries are extremely rare.

On the positive side hand-made prints are selling for prices never seen before. And highly collectible, multi-color woodcuts by artists such as Gustave Baumann are selling for record prices.

From time to time I’ve been approached by reproduction companies offering to sell my work. So far I’ve only agreed to one company, TurningArt, on one condition–that the reproductions have significant differences from the original woodcuts. This means that all my TurningArt offerings have been cropped in a way that differentiates them from the originals. Plus the originals have paper and ink texture that is impossible to reproduce in a mechanical reproduction further ensuring that each woodcut is a unique and inimitable piece of art.

Unlike the TurningArt reproductions I sign and number each woodcut and keep editions low (usually under 40). Every print is hand-deckled and hand-embossed on acid free paper following traditional techniques. With rare exceptions I cancel each block–preventing future editions.

I feel these efforts are necessary to preserve the line between mechanical reproductions–the only way some people can afford art–and the more rarified market of fine art prints, a market that is probably one of the smallest art markets in America.

Let me know about your experiences with the print market.

Brad Teare–June 2015

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Updated: 7th February 2023
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