The Dead Pixels Society podcast

Art, Design, Photography and Technology, with Ginger Hartford, ARTISTREE

March 09, 2022 Gary Pageau/Ginger Hartford Season 3 Episode 69
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
Art, Design, Photography and Technology, with Ginger Hartford, ARTISTREE
Show Notes Transcript

Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Ginger Hartford. enterprise account manager, ARTISTREE, a Michaels Company.  Hartford shares her expertise on design trends, partnerships,  sustainable output, trends in wall decor, and the role of digital technology in new forms like NFTs.

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Erin Manning  
Welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau.

Gary Pageau  
The Dead Pixels Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclp, Photo Finale, and Advertek Printing. Hello again, and welcome to the Dead Pixels Society Podcast. Today we're joined by Ginger Hartford, the enterprise account manager of ARTISTREE at the Michaels company. Hi, Ginger, how are you today?

Ginger Hartford  
Great to be with you all. Thank you.

Gary Pageau  
Many of our listeners and readers will be familiar with you because you've been in in out of the photo industry for a while in framing and custom decor. And you actually spoke at one of our events back in 2019. Thank you so much. And now you're with a company that is doing some really interesting things in the wall decor category in the maker category. Can you talk a little bit about what the ARTISTREE segment does within Michaels?

Ginger Hartford  
Sure, sure. Well, it's a great complement to my background in the in the business of Art and Design and strategic partnerships, but ARTISTREE as the b2b Division of the Michael's companies, we work on strategic partnerships really filling a service, full scale, fulfillment services, print, high velocity framing and manufacturing. So it's, it's an opportunity to leverage North Carolina taxes and Canada footprint for manufacturing and fulfillment facilities. So we serve a number of partners in the photos space, the commerce space, online aggregators. It's just it's a really growing market to the train different retailers that are looking to build out art programs, photo to product print and framing programs to

Gary Pageau  
well, you did mention manufacturing. And that's something I wanted to touch on. Because you mentioned before we started that Michaels, in addition to being probably the largest craft retailer among the largest craft retailers in North America, you're also a manufacturer, what kind of things do you make here in the United States?

Ginger Hartford  
Well, it's it's interesting as relates to the photo and industry as well, because we manufacture molding in manufacture and specialize in manufactured hardwoods, and also MDF profiles that are really suitable for digital products. And in for E commerce providers, or wall decor, very competitive, but having a domestic solution in these times are issues and supply chain issues, is a real real advantage. So incredible design and manufacturing on the molding side here in the US.

Gary Pageau  
And that's your vertically integrated, right, are you you're not reselling those other people. This is your own product, your own design your own moldings. Right.

Ginger Hartford  
Yes. And, and as applies for our partner programs to

Gary Pageau  
really the reason why I wanted to talk with you specifically was about design trends that are happening in the photo wall decor space, because that's something you've been intimately familiar with, what are some of the trends that are happening because from what we're seeing, on our end, there was a big boom in 2020, with people they were sitting home and not much to do. And they started printing a bunch of photos. And they started redecorating their houses. And that kind of actually, from what I've been hearing in the industry, it's it kind of tailed off in 2021 People ran out of pictures, basically. Are they another wall? So did you or did the company experienced a similar trough and it's coming out? Or what do you think is happening in the wall decor space in general?

Ginger Hartford  
Well, it's it's interesting because I think it's still it's a growing category. It's just buying and, you know, canvases in photo to Canvas is so so incredibly strong, but we're seeing more large format pieces, we're seeing more creative specialty prints, if you will, treatments to the photographs, I mean, we live in a digital and, and a graphic design inspired world and so much creativity happening and creations that are now being transferred out across photo to product as well. So on the wall decor side, we're also seeing a lot of acrylic, a lot of acrylic and wood based substrates, which are perfect. In fact, recently the the Arts Awards happened, which was sort of the Oscars of the art and design

Gary Pageau  
industry. I saw your post on LinkedIn and one of

Ginger Hartford  
the categories was wall decor. So you had your companies like Paragon and itinerate studio and Howard Elliott that had diversified wall decor, and the company that designs A company that won the war, the award for wall decor was itinerate studio. And I believe that their focus on sustainability in products, photography, large format drove quite an impression. And so they they earned that that Arts Award for wall decor. So that was that was telling on the trend side?

Gary Pageau  
Well, I think one of the things that you've hit on, which is kind of interesting is the sustainability piece because especially with substrates like bamboo, and things like that, where you can still print in an environmentally responsible way. How do you think the industry should be conveying that message? Now, granted, an acrylic probably isn't the most environmentally sound substrate on the planet? I don't know if that breaks down over time or not. But certainly law, the wood base substrates are

Ginger Hartford  
right, it's a great point, I think calling attention to it, the demographics and younger demographics, they really leaning into that. And they education and it's almost becoming a bit of a requirement, if you will, like you doing as a vendor or supplier or purse that has some kind of sustainability or certification or just commitment to to higher standards and sourcing and reproduction. So I think to your question about what do we do to shine a light on it a little bit more, it's just better positioning, and more of a highlight on the sourcing and the product and why sustainable matters,

Gary Pageau  
or that it's even happening? I think that's part of what what's what's missing is the message that it's even happening, that, you know, a lot of the labs that I talked to are, you know, reducing their carbon footprint, their buying offsets there, they've got their waist down to negligible levels, if at all, and they're now getting into, you know, or putting in solar power, so they don't consume as much energy, fossil fuel. So I think as an industry there, there could be more that is this something Michaels corporately, also champions?

Ginger Hartford  
Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Sustainability is, is a is a key is key for us, of course, we have a huge footprint, huge retail footprint. So the one thing that impresses me about the organization is just their commitment to operations, commitment to process and people. And so so that that is very well regarded and thought through. And you talk a lot about wall decor.

Gary Pageau  
But the other piece of part of the you're into is sort of the the maker world right? Now that's traditionally been more crafty, right? If you will, and in my in my uninformed perspective of not being a crafter, that it's primarily, you know, fabric or fiber, or textiles or things like that did How is photo coming into that space?

Ginger Hartford  
Well, I It's really exciting, actually, it's a really interesting time, because when we think of the maker, space maker can be very artisan, very handcrafted, very intentional, with materials, whether it's, it's painting or fabrics or jewelry or anything, but but that artisan approach is happening in digital, and it's also happening in art. So recently, I attended Art Basel, for example, in my recent international art fair, hundreds of 1000s of attendees looking at hundreds and hundreds of galleries and artists on preview, but the maker space is you know, for photo, it's creativity is fuel, I think by digital so and and in photo we have we have more and more design tools to create, we have more and more platforms to present. And so when you find that maker that that there's an entrepreneurial spirit that's really really supportive, huge support for for artists and photographers. And I think that's translating as a business in the photo industry because you're seeing more platforms support digital arts and product photo to product, you're seeing more services feature artists and digital artists as well. And so you've got companies like we transfer and and really understanding that art and photography is that matters. And they're they're putting together platforms for artists and photographers like we present and I think the photo industry is is has a boon happening with the entrepreneurial and creative spirit happening right now.

Gary Pageau  
One more thing that is happening in the digital world is NF T's. That's something that again, professing my ignorance, I just don't understand. I mean, I understand Limited Edition I understand physical products being sold. But an NFT Can you explain to someone who is new to this idea why this is a interesting investment as an art opportunity?

Ginger Hartford  
Well, it is an interesting time and people sort of crashed the yard with with his his groundbreaking sale of his first 5000 in his his NF T but, but essentially it's, it's, it's sort of moving forward, it's giving artists a digital platform to create experiences, and an art collectors are really responding. In fact, at Art Basel, there are a number of contemporary galleries that not only had traditional fine art or sculpture on display, but they had more experiential ways of of exhibiting the ease. And so being that it's a, you also have so many art platforms beyond Christie's and Sotheby's that are, are really investing in ways to promote and to sell and to serve that market. I've worked with artists as well that have created their own first time and, and started to sell and move towards platforms. So it's it's a whole new world digitally,

Gary Pageau  
but specifically when someone says NFT means non fungible token means one of a kind, essentially, right, what is what what is it? Or what could it be? Because it sounds to me like it could be almost anything that can't be copied,

Ginger Hartford  
right? Well, it's, it's almost it, I think of it as a digital experience. Okay. Laughter I'm buying a digital experience. That's one of a kind that's been curated or created. And, and the value is there. What's interesting is, I noted at Art Basel, a gallery was taking a subset of an NFT and doing a smaller curation and positioning it as a limited edition. Okay, so it's interesting how the the art market follows the art and photo market. With fine photography, they follow, it will move into the digital space to

Gary Pageau  
let me know, like I said, I understand that piece I just tried to figure out, okay, I mean, you're buying a chunk of data that will do something, or show you something or sound like something or what have you, and it's basically yours, and no one else can have it. So that's kind of cool. Now, like in the photo space, Shutterfly has done their version of NF T's for the holidays, they tried to do an experiment within it. I'm not sure the response was, but I, I think there is going to be some interest in photographers who have content like VR, like portrait photographers, people like that, who have maybe celebrity photographers, news photographers who can really you know, who have desirable content, who can go this route. So I think there's a future in it, I'm gonna just be interesting to see if it's a fad, or if it's a trend. And I that's where I'm kind of struggling.

Ginger Hartford  
I think that it is here to stay. It's growing in awareness and traction, and it's not going anywhere. In fact, Christie's last year invested in establishing an art and Tech Summit, where they really took an in depth look at NF T's and what was all the changing technologies and and what that was meaning for the art market and collectors. But it does, it does affect artists and photographers and senses. So Shutterfly that's very telling that they're leaning in to try to mind how best to create experiences for that,

Gary Pageau  
because I think it does definitely skew younger in the sense where younger folks tend to gravitate towards experiences. So I think it's definitely something that will appeal to that demographic.

Ginger Hartford  
Yes, it was, it was interesting. We, I was part of a seminar last year in Dallas, where we talked about the future of Art and Design in today's digital world. And some of it was talking about graphic design trends and and you know, photo to product but some of the questions that were asked were very specific about NF T's and digital and you know, what is what does that mean? How can artists and photographers sell how can they present how can they really mind the opportunity, but it's a licensing play. I will say it's great licensing play for partnerships even in the photo to product and photo industry because its licensing is huge, so much so many properties and iconic properties. It's another way to present collectors and engagement.

Gary Pageau  
Now there's NFT does that actually describe a technology or a process? Or is it just sort of a catch all term for this idea of it's a digital product that can't be replicated unless you, you by a code of some sort? I mean, I mean, is there a, like Bitcoin has a certain technology base? Does NFT have that?

Ginger Hartford  
Yes, yes. And there, you know, it's, it's just, um, you know, between the data and, I mean, there's, there's so many terms that are related data, and blockchain and cryptocurrency and it does get confusing for some, but there's also a massive, massive community that's really focused in on on this and, you know, really understanding what the digital assets are and how to build identification for that, and how how they distinguished from from each other. You know, they're subject matter experts in in, in this case, I'm not a subject matter expert in NFT's. But I'm really leaning into to follow that. And here's another thing on the experience side, you know, the museum community was really leaving really leading and experiential ways to take art to the masses, and you had immersive exhibits, you had a ways to engage with the Mona Lisa in the loop. And those were partnerships that were happening between museums and digital agencies that could help build out experiences. That's all it's, it's where art design and tech collide. That's very real for the photo space, because photo is digital. So we're prime

Gary Pageau  
from your position, kind of being the, at the forefront of this, you've kind of have to look at, you know, where are the opportunities for Michael's who has a foot in the traditional space, actually, the brick and mortar space, which is about as traditional as it gets, all the way up the digital to the digital world to doing, you know, stores and online, e commerce and everything else? So interesting spot for you to be in?

Ginger Hartford  
Yes, yes. Well, I will say that, as an organization, Michael's isn't really focused in on NFT's right at this moment, right?

Gary Pageau  
You have to look at what's down the road. I mean, it is sometimes it does not always pay to be the first in line,

Ginger Hartford  
what what the focus is for industry and for the business is how to serve the the entrepreneurs, the major brands that have have platforms, you know, and there's different different tools coming up different platforms coming up, there's product, but there does seem to be a trend in more and more aggregators, or you know, your you have opportunities to serve different markets and grow different markets. And I was thinking that, you know, today it's more, it's more and more about partnerships, sure. it's ever been before. These are and are really not investing as much in manufacturing, they're outsourcing. Like we partner to serve greater markets, faster turnaround and, and high quality products. Right. So so that presents opportunities as well.

Gary Pageau  
Because I think that's one of the things that the digital role is kind of forced upon a lot of business coding those in the photo industry is figuring out what is it what is it that I'm really good at? Am I a good marketer? I'm a good customer service, am I good production facility. And if I'm not good at one of those three, I get rid of it or I outsource it. So I am I'm there's business in the photos right now who just do one piece of those things, right? They do, you know, they, and they're gonna be very successful because they don't have to worry about being experts in production and marketing and customer service and everything else. Right.

Ginger Hartford  
It's like with companies that acquire other companies. It's about, you know, the subject matter experts that have the the deep, deep well of knowledge, and resources and infrastructure. And, you know, it's just, it's a Partner Network these days.

Gary Pageau  
So hopefully, well as we move through 2022 and we emerge from our cocoons, hopefully this year. Are you optimistic about the coming year?

Ginger Hartford  
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I don't think we've even I don't even think we haven't scratched the surface. You know, there's there's great activity happening in the home furnishings industry and to the trade with the the markets lot activity at high points Las Vegas market coming up. And we just just had Dallas market as well. So it's great to see a lot of companies that serve industry and then also digitally online through through major brands. It's exciting to see evolution COVID And, and lifestyle and social trends. It's it's made an impact we do differently. A little better for that as well.

Gary Pageau  
Yeah, like I said, I think it's made a lot of people reassess, maybe some things and then that's initially a bad thing. So where can someone go online if they want to connect with you or learn more about what you do at Michaels?

Ginger Hartford  
Well, we have ARTISTREE division, so and we have so michaels.com and our b2b site, so we connect there and also through LinkedIn, as well. We have we have a team.

Gary Pageau  
Well, that sounds great. Well, thank you, ginger for your time and your expertise. It's always a pleasure to talk to you and hope to see you in person sometime in 2022.

Ginger Hartford  
Absolutely, absolutely. We need to connect people and for the next event, that's for sure. Thanks so much, Gary.

Erin Manning  
Thank you for listening to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at www the dead pixels society.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai