Giclee Industry Standards
Despite several attempt to develop standards no universal standard exists for Giclee Prints. Attempts to form standards organizations have not survived. The first and probably the only the legitimate organization was the International Association of Fine Art Digital Printmakers which was formed in 1997 it was formed by a group of artists and printers dedicated to addressing concerns raised by the traditional visual arts community.
The GPA or Giclee Printers Association was formed in 2001 and apparently is now defunct. The last update to the GPA web site was done sometime before June 2007 The GPA used the term Tru Giclee and Tru Decor (both trademarks of the GPA) to identify its prints. In my opinion this type of organization gives the Giclee business a bad name. The "association" was not non-profit (or if it was on paper certainly did not act as one) or unbiased. In fact it was owed by Bulldog Products / Harvest Productions family. In order to join you need to pay them $200 and other company information including literature, a customer list and pricing. Given that the association is owned by Harvest Productions (a competitor) it is certainly a conflict of interest to hand over a list of your clients. That fact alone should be a warning flag to potential members. The only way you get certified is to use that company's products. Coincidentally shortly after sending in the fee a package of Bulldog Product samples arrives and the sales calls start.
How do I know so much about the GPA? I briefly was a member and I was even a moderator on the association's bulletin board. What I learned was disturbing. Requests to qualify materials and or printers other than those materials marketed by Bulldog were routinely denied. I personally thought there was a problem with using the materials recommended by the association and when I spoke up my password was revoked and my calls went unanswered. Today a major problem exists with many prints printed on Bulldog canvas or coated with their coatings.
The materials that the GPA required their members use to meet the Tru Giclee standards were:
GPA approved Inks
Equipoise (dye based)
Lyson FA II (dye based)
Pinnacle Gold (dye based)
Omi Tones (dye based)
Bulldog Ultra (pigmented)
Epson Ultra Chrome (pigmented)
Epson Archival (pigmented)
GPA approved Canvas
Bulldog Red Dot
Bulldog Black Dot
Bulldog Green Dot
Crane (various types)
Fredrix 901 (gloss)
GPA approved Coating
Bulldog Ultra (D400 Series)
We have seen many cracked canvas prints printed by GPA certified printers including Harvest. I do not have enough information to determine if the problem is canvas or coating related or a combination of both. I also do not know which specific Bulldog giclee canvas or giclee coating product lines were or are affected (there are many) or if the new Bulldog (see update below) continues to market any of those products. Given these facts, in my humble opinion the label Tru Giclee or Tru Decor in no way guarantees quality prints, it may in fact connote the opposite.
The following are the 9 standards for Tru Giclée™ printing:
1. The ability to exactly reproduce original artwork
2. The reproduction process bears no evidence of the technology used.
3. The printer adheres to archival standards consistent with that of a collectable fine art print.
4. The reproduction represents the highest quality product available to this culture, at this time.
5. The printer fully discloses the products used in his art reproduction.
6. The printer enjoys a generally recognized reputation for honesty and integrity amongst his customers and peers.
7. The artisan producing (or supervising the production of the work) has been certified as a Master Printer by the G.P.A.
8. The printing company participates in an on-going research and development effort to improve his craft and the G.P.A.
9. As a G.P.A member, I will actively educate my customers and the industry as to the meaning and value of a Tru Giclée™ . I will display the Tru Giclée™ logo at my business location, in advertising and at shows. I will encourage my customers to do the same.
Century Editions is proud of the fact that it refused to use Bulldog giclee materials and are not affected by quality control issues many other giclee printing companies are now facing. Given that virtually all dye based prints have significant issues with fading it is particularly egregious that the association had approved and even specified which dyes be used in reproductions. Clearly they were not the highest quality product if you considered print longevity as a quality issue. Most independent tests of dye based printing technologies show useful print lifetimes of under 30 years where most pigment based prints show longevities of over 100 years. Other giclee standards or trademarked monikers exist but are company specific and therefore do nothing to promote true industry standards.
UPDATE: Century Editions was informed (by the new owners of Bulldog) that Harvest sold the Bulldog portion of the business in January of 2008. Bulldog is now owned by Bulldog Digital Imaging Products with a DBA of Bulldog Products. I am not aware of who now has ownership of the GPA (Harvest or the "new" Bulldog Products or if either or both compsnies have disassociated themselves) or what the relationship between the two companies is, if any exists. As of the writing of this page there is a direct link to Bulldog from the Harvest Productions web site homepage. The question of potential product liability (i.e. if there is any and which entity could be liable) is a legal one which only an attorney can address. UCC laws do require that a company warrant products for a substantial amount of time (I believe it is 3 years) unless a limited warranty is included with the product. Many artists and galleries have been financially damaged by the failure of GPA member produced prints. Unfortunately membership was in the GPA was not a requirement to purchase Bulldog products.so the problem is found in prints reproduced by non GPA members too. Coincidentally we have been told that Harvest is discontinuing the production of dye based prints in 2010