It’s time to pull back the curtain and reveal what makes Poppy Bee Surfaces (hint: Joe is pretty amazing). It’s not easy and it’s not simple, but the results are exceptional and worthy of clients like you who rely on us. Great photography requires both careful planning and the agility to flex when needed. These habits have come in handy as we’ve worked to perfect our method of creating these surfaces for you. Here’s a peek at what goes into making a surface.
For a long time our plan was to outsource all our printing. Clare had always been happy with the vinyl backgrounds she purchased from other companies, and so we modeled our business after a similar process. We went through five different printers-- all over the country-- and the prints came out looking nothing like the original files. On top of that, all of the companies fired us because we were deemed too picky. (What can we say?? We have high standards, just like you!)
At the very beginning of 2020, we had no idea what we were going to do. Luckily, in late February we were introduced to a friend of a friend in the print world who encouraged us to do the printing ourselves. He sent us a couple of samples of what we could do if we invested in our own printer and the results blew our mind. Finally, the prints represented the original artwork we created.
To show you the difference, below is an un-doctored photo of our Bella Surface. On the left is a print from the last company we worked with and on the right is our print. Keep in mind, this is the EXACT SAME FILE.
After that, there was no turning back. The print quality and detail far exceeded anything we had ever seen previously in a vinyl surface and we knew that we would have to print ourselves. The problem was that the print material was also far more fragile and susceptible to scratching, and that issue needed to be addressed. So, being the problem-solver that he is, Joe developed a process of hand applying matte laminate to each print to increase their durability.
Let us walk you through the process from start to finish:
Joe creates an original piece of art based on what we think would work well for photography-- except for the stone ones, which are prints of actual (crazy heavy) stone.
Clare photographs the image, processes it for consistency and quality (and possibly tweaks a few things in Photoshop) and then we print this on our printer.
The print has to sit for 24 hours to make sure the ink is completely set. Then we apply (painstakingly, precisely, preciously) a matte laminate by hand.
The print dries, gets lightly sanded and then more laminate is applied. This more than a little tedious but Joe is a painter so he's used to suffering for his art.
The print sits for another 24 hours, and then Joe examines each one, rubbing it lovingly with a soft cloth to take the roughness out. He's such a good dad.
After another quality check, the print goes into the tube for delivery. (NOTE: we roll our surfaces with the design on the OUTSIDE, which is what helps them lay flat.)
And that's how it's done!
It's funny-- we originally envisioned this as a pretty straight forward, print-on-demand business. People would place their order and a third party would fill it within a day or two. Easy peasy. We never envisioned we would be making a handmade product, all in-house. But now we can't imagine it any other way.
Despite the complicated process involved in making our surfaces, they are actually very easy to care for:
First, you’ll want to either store your surfaces lying flat OR rolled in the tube with printed side on the OUTSIDE. The surfaces can get crimped so you’ll want to be mindful. Second, be careful of heat around vinyl. One of Clare’s surfaces got ruined the day her food stylist used the heat gun on a dish that was sitting on the vinyl. So, be careful. Third, treat your surface with care. Certain things do have the potential to stain (turmeric, vanilla extract and pomegranate juice come to mind) or scratch the printed part of your vinyl, so please be aware of that-- don't cut things directly on the vinyl, don't use a Brillo pad on it, etc. Just be smart. :)