Life surprises you when you allow it to.
Fine Balance Imaging Studios started as a leap of faith out of a real desire to do good. After a number of life-changing events sent Nancy on a path to create a new way of life, she enrolled her mother Pat and her son Joe in opening an art gallery in the quiet little seaside town of Langley on Whidbey Island. Joe had his own share of life-altering circumstances after the dot-com crash changed his assumptions about his career path, and the three of them banded together – reestablishing a long-separated sense of family, while creating a brand new business together.
The Isle of Art Gallery (inspired by Joe’s joke after seeing the oft-used Whidbey Island license plate frames stating “Isle of View”; if you don’t get it, say it out loud) reached out to local island artists, along with a few from the family friends at the Kirsten Gallery in Seattle, to establish a venue where emerging artists with a passionate and inspirational vision could exhibit their works and debut in a locale where art was paramount and highly respected. Within a year of the gallery opening, Nancy and Joe saw a need not being met by local resources – artists were sharing their tales of going off-island (a time-consuming and sometimes expensive endeavor) to several different businesses to pull together the resources they needed to get their basic needs met to make a living doing art. The most obvious need was that of getting fine art reproductions made in the form of giclée prints or canvas gallery wraps. With Joe’s background in the arts as well as digital imaging, the family pulled together resources from the remaining stocks and retirement funds to purchase the basic equipment needed to start printing for gallery’s artists.
Isle of Art Studio evolves into Fine Balance Imaging
A year later the printing business was establishing itself as a great resource for local artists, growing by word-of-mouth alone – and still to this day, most clients find us because of a conversation with another artist. Joe and Nancy saw the need to expand and moved from a little back room behind the Langley Clock Shop next door to the Isle of Art Gallery into their own space where the old Knox Photo shop had been – a fitting evolution for the space. What began as the Isle of Art Studio shifted into Fine Balance Imaging Studios – a name based off of an early email address Joe had, “findingbalance@…” – an attempt to find a balance in life between doing work he loved and making time in life for all those things the corporate lifestyle had forced him to put aside during the dot-com days. Creating a business working with art and artists every day was the solution to finding balance…and Joe and Nancy realized that rather than always seeking to find balance, perhaps the answer was in setting an intention with their business that they already had it – a Fine Balance. This would be the foundation for the quality of work they would provide for artists as well, as every fine art print requires a fine balance of color correction, subtle adjustments, the right choice of papers, along with other precise variables in order to re-create a museum-quality giclée fine art reproduction.
Responsive Services for Artists & Businesses
Over the last decade, Nancy and Joe have added more services – every time based on what artists, small businesses and local non-profit organizations are asking for – including graphic design, business basics such as business cards, brochures, flyers and posters, as well as larger scale displays like wall murals.
In 2014, Joe & Rhiannon Fisher made strides toward establishing a new kind of business as a complementary addition to the printing studio by forming the retail boutique Feather & Fox. Finding independent artists and crafters around the northwest and across the country, Rhiannon has honed a particular aesthetic that seemed to be missing on Whidbey Island. Adding to the collection of unique finds, Rhiannon & Joe put their creative energies together to design and produce a wide variety of custom offerings, all made utilizing the capabilities of the printing studio. This makes for a great showcase of possibilities for artists and customers to ponder when browsing the shop, knowing that the ability to create their own products is close at hand.
2016 saw another giant leap of faith and massive business expansion for Fine Balance Imaging. Upon hearing a local business owner’s desire to move on to other plans in life, the team at Fine Balance began planning for the largest move yet by acquiring a local copy center, Whidbey Island Printing & Office Supply (formerly known as Boomerang). Once they found a suitable location to consolidate services, the real work began with a full remodel of the space formerly occupied by Lind’s Jewelry on First Street in Langley. Fine Balance upgraded all of the copy and printing equipment during the transition and added a number of new capabilities in the process.
Transitions and Expansion…now with Lasers!
In 2017, Rhiannon and Joe welcomed their baby girl Maevyn Nox Fisher-Menth into the world. While Rhiannon took some time at home with the new family addition, Joe and Nancy focused on settling in to the new flow of running a fine art printing studio, copy center and retail gift shop all under one roof. By the middle of 2018, Rhiannon came back to work with baby in tow, and Maevyn has become a joyous little local attraction for all of the studio and gift shop patrons.
The end of 2018 saw the retirement of Nancy from the family business. Rhiannon and Joe fully operate all aspects of the business together, with the occasional help of daughter Lily.
New service offerings in 2018 included the fun and versatile addition of a Glowforge laser cutting and engraving machine, allowing the studio and its clients to experiment with a wide variety of mediums, including wood, leather, acrylic and more. So far, the laser cutter has helped produce projects as varied as engraved wood photo portraits, rubber stamps, embossing seals, folded wooden boxes, votive candle holders, a leather clutch, and various kinds of wood and acrylic jewelry.
Fine Balance Imaging Studios hopes to network with local artists, designers, crafters and makers, as well as complementary businesses and organizations to be a hub for creatives to find their inspiration and fulfill their needs as working artists.
Love in the Time of Coronavirus
So here we are in 2020, quite literally the strangest and most challenging set of events anyone in our generation has experienced.
The beginning of the year was odd enough, as our small town of Langley had blocked the streets in front of the studio for over a month, reducing business to a trickle. As soon as the road cleared, COVID19 took over, and Fine Balance/Feather & Fox shut down for the better part of four months.
As I write this in July, the business is going through some further adaptation. Since Feather & Fox came out of the love between Rhiannon and Joe, it is a fitting evolution that the name Fine Balance Imaging is let go for good, and a new coherence and clarity of purpose emerges as the re-branded Feather & Fox Print Co.
Our plans moving forward will continue to go with the flow of whatever the new normal ends up being. For now, our wide range of printing services continues to expand, with the addition in 2019 of a DTG (Direct to Garment) printer, allowing us to create print-on-demand one-off full-color t-shirts and tote bags on 100% cotton fabrics. It’s already a big hit, and we plan to create many exciting designs with the new capacity.
Our website and social media presence is in the midst of an overhaul, after launching our new site in late 2019, and adding a new offset printing service portal (through one of our trusted wholesale vendors) at YourPrintStudio.com.
Further additions in 2020 will include our personal wholesale portal for retailers nationwide to purchase printed products not only from our own designs, but also from local artists we represent. We’ll be adding a full range of print-on-demand products in our online shop, so we can continue providing our creations in this new world of social distancing.