The Final Buzzer or an Intermission?

Empty space where my photo printer used to be.

Back when I decided to hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) I knew it would involve getting rid of my photo printer. It couldn’t be put in storage for several months and I wasn’t going to ask anybody to keep it at their place and use it every few days to make sure nozzles didn’t get clogged. That was definitely one of the big cons of doing the hike when I made the decision. I wasn’t sure, after getting rid of that, if I would ever get back into printing photos. 

As the end of 2020 approached I decided I would try to make a bunch of prints before I sold the printer to use up remaining paper and matting supplies. This would also give me a stockpile of prints I could use for art shows later on even if I didn’t have a printer. After selling the printer I would terminate my business registration in Texas and Missouri, but keep my business registration in Oklahoma (where I had originally registered it). Although keeping it in tact would involve some monthly expenses and renewing my insurance, I wanted to keep it in tact in case some sort of opportunity came up quickly after finishing my hike. I had also put a lot of work into getting it set up, so I wanted to keep it going if I could, at least until I figured some things out after the hike. 

Then January and February happened. My printer started having a problem with clogged nozzles on a particular color. I couldn’t get the problem to go away, so I ended up having a technician stop by a couple different times to fix it, which cost me around $1,000, and neither attempt fixed the problem. After the second attempt, he suggested running a bunch of ink through. In the meantime, I purchased several ink cartridges with the intention of replacing a few expired cartridges that were in the printer prior to selling it. With all the nozzle cleaning, I ended up needing some additional ink cartridges. At roughly $90 each, this was another good chunk of money spent. Between the repairs and the ink cartridges, I had spent about as much money as I was likely going to get from selling the printer. I had all sorts of issues with the ink cartridges being out of stock or getting delayed in shipping. After two months of trying to get the problem fixed I still hadn’t made any progress. I was to the point that I didn’t want to put any more time or money into trying to fix it. The cost of the only other fix the technician had mentioned was about as much as purchasing a brand new printer. So in early March I finally decided to just give the printer away. Another artist picked up the printer shortly after that. 

January and February brought me to the realization that the chances of giving it another go anytime soon are probably pretty small. A printer is a big investment, and I will be hesitant to buy one unless I feel confident I can reliably make sales. I need to make enough sales to keep enough ink moving through the printer so that cartridges don’t expire, and that is quite a bit of prints. Another option would be to use a lab, but I don’t want to do that. It almost feels like cheating, and that it’s not fully my piece of art. With that realization I have decided to completely “close up shop” prior to starting the CDT. I have already started filling out and filing the paperwork for Texas and Missouri. I’ll start with the Oklahoma paperwork before too much longer. 

Although there have been some frustrating moments with the printer, and it ended on a very sour note, overall I have enjoyed learning the process and making prints of my photos over the last two years. It is much more satisfying seeing a beautiful print of one of my photos as opposed to just seeing it on a computer monitor. I also feel much more pride behind the prints when they come from my printer as opposed to from a lab. I absolutely loved to see my tent all set up for a show. For the most part I enjoyed traveling to and participating in the few art shows I got to do. I enjoy road trips and seeing new places, and the art shows were a great way to do that. Not having much of a social life, the shows were a great way to get out, socialize, meet other artists, and see lots of great art. I have several pieces of art from other artists hanging on my walls that I likely never would have found had it not been for getting into the art shows. It also gave me the opportunity to get some fire hydrant pictures in places I may not have otherwise visited. 

However, while there have been some enjoyable parts of trying to sell my art, the last two years have been disappointing to say the least. There has been no shortage of positive feedback and comments about my art wherever I have been, but sales have been a different story. I haven’t sold a single limited edition print over the two years. I never came close to breaking even on any of the art shows I participated in. I never sold a single print in the three times I had my art on display in a gallery in Paseo (the art district in OKC). While I enjoyed the shows, I often came home depressed about the sales. I will admit a lot of this likely had to do with my initial limited edition prices being too high, and by the time I got them down to where they probably should have started COVID hit and I only got a couple opportunities to try to sell them at that price. I also should have done better at offering/advertising non-framed limited editions. Despite not making many sales, the printer still had to get used to keep ink moving, so I had to decide whether to stockpile prints or waste ink by printing on plain paper, so the printer became more of a burden. I started to have issues with ink cartridges expiring before I went through them. As mentioned above, January and February were particularly frustrating. 

So, at this point, I’m actually kind of looking forward to closing up shop. I can put the money I was going to spend keeping the business in tact towards storing all the stuff. I’m hoping I can use it as more of a reset button than a complete shutdown. I would like to give it a go again at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later. Despite not making near as many prints in January and February as I had hoped, I still have a fairly large stockpile of prints that I would rather not trash or just give away. There have been lots of lessons and skills learned over the last two years that would help out with another attempt.

I’ll still keep most of the tools and supplies for the time being in case I do decide to give it another try at some point down the road. I’ll still be out taking pictures. I’ll still have my website where I post/display my photos. I’ll keep my Facebook and Instagram pages going. I will be stopping my monthly newsletter but I will keep my blog. So I won’t be going completely away, but the official business will cease to exist. To all of you who purchased one of my prints, thank you so much. You definitely helped make this short adventure worth it, and I love knowing I have a few prints out there in the world. Hopefully this is an intermission instead of the end, but we’ll see what life has in store. 

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