Im constantly looking at new products and offerings for my clients. Albums and books are one of the biggest sellers here at Michael McNett Photography because in addition to my photographic background Im also a Graphic Designer and Illustrator. As such Im always looking for products that can complement the next big idea. In addition Im always looking for low cost as well as higher cost items since my clients can range in budgets that we have to work with. So I was very interested in Artisan State.
Some of the most popular albums I offer are Flush Mount Albums. A flush mount album is one where the pages are printed on actual photo media and then mounted to either side of a piece of harder, thicker substrate. These albums are then trimmed so the photograph runs flush all the way to the edge. They are great albums, the photographic quality is amazing, the pages lay flat with no gutter so that one page flows right onto the next one.
Flush mount albums can be labor intensive and higher in cost from a materials standpoint, so when I looked up the pricing from Artisan State… My jaw dropped. Immediately I sent out an album to see the build quality and how it compared to my current flush mount company. (Whom I have been using for the past 13 years, Graphi Studios in Italy)
Right off the bat I ordered a 7×5 “Little Black Book” (Metallic – Fuji Pearl paper) with 90 pages. I ordered 2/22/14 and right away I got a confirmation email stating that I could expect delivery 3/5 – 3/11/14, so just over 2 weeks not bad my other flush mount company has a 4-8 week lead time on delivery. So when 4/1/14 rolls around (about 1 month past the stated eta) Im thinking hmmmmm.
I called the company and left a message (with a tone of urgency… if this was a clients book, 1 month late would make for an angry customer) and some days pass with no reply. So I decide to call again and Im surprised when my call is answered by a very nice but very frazzled lady whom told me she got my message and was sorry she didn’t call. Make a long story short Artisan State doesn’t print and make the books they are made by a company in China and they will get it out asap they hadn’t started the book yet… Any new company that has a spurt in growth will easily find themselves in a state of growing pains so Im not sweating it.
1 week later the album arrives.
Immediately Im excited I open the box but Im shocked when I flip the book over to see a big mis-cut in the book. (picture on the upper right) it looks like the trimming of the book was done in 2 cuts rather than 1 so that it looks like a big nick was taken out of it (you can see the darker portion) This would not be deliverable to a customer.
In the middle picture you can see the edge of the cover. This would be the second item that would make the product undeliverable. Even before it was used the cover is already peeling off. Most higher end or middle of the road in cost albums have flush mount inside the book but a wrap around cover. And in most cases the cover is slightly larger than the book. This helps protect the pages and keeps the cover from peeling off. In a matter of months this albums cover will be peeled off through normal use.
The other point to note is in the upper left is that there is no durable backing covering where the pages meet and more of a concern is that there is no durable backing on the spine of the cover, the only thing stopping the book from splitting all open is that thin piece of photograph that is already peeling up as the cover. My guess it that the lack of materials here will have this book unusable in a year or so.
Ok onto the inside of the album… The print quality is rather good. My other album company uses the same Metallic Fuji paper and the print quality is comparable. In flipping through the book I saw no major issues
Any flush mount book has whats called a trim, this is the area that gets trimmed off when they cut the book down to size. Sometimes a design can not design correctly for trim and you will have areas trimmed that shouldn’t be. In this case Artisan has its own software that you design the book in so when using their software you would expect no issues with trim since it is hard wired into the software.
You can see the inconstancies by looking at the right hand side of the page. The upper left shows where not enough trim was trimmed (the thick black edge) , The upper center shows how the trim should look (a normal sized black boarder) and the upper right shows where the trim trimmed too much leaving no black boarder)
Inconsistencies are to be expected but this is beyond what the norm is, if you were to use Artisan you would have to design so that nothing important was anywhere near the edge.
SOOOO…. maybe this is a aberration and not the norm in terms of product I decided to send it back and see if this is the norm or if I just caught them on a bad day.
The replacement album took a little over a week and I was even more disappointed the spine that I already had concerns about came really creased and damaged and there was glue all over it. Like it was rushed through production.
Im also now having concern for how they bind the albums the spine is signifigantly larger than the end side. Having a book that isnt even will cause for mis-wear over time. Books are at thier best when everything is level and even.
SO AT THIS POINT…
Im not sending it back it is what it is. And what it is is not something I would sell to a customer with out a huge HUGE disclaimer to the customer. The books are cheap and you are definitely getting what you paid for. Its also bothersome to me that I have to deal with a middle man, If I could call the people making the books in China and get the issues resolved Id be a little more on board, but confidence in your suppliers is HUGE, if you can’t have that confidence then it makes for a bad relationship.
VERDICT: This is not a book for a wedding, not at all. I feel that through normal use this album will need to be replaced in a matter of years. Wedding albums are best when enjoyed though out the ages. with your spouse, with eventual children and then maybe even grand kids. There will be some customers or jobs that this may be appropriate for but in that case as more of a proofing album rather than a finished product.