Artisan Spotlight: Wink Gaines

Artisan Spotlight: Wink Gaines

DESIGNERS TODAY: Where has your work appeared?

GAINES: I have participated in five prestigious juried art programs and have won berths in each one including the annual Naples, Fla. Art Show; Salons at Market Square for the High Point Furniture Market; Chicago Casual Market (my AluminArte Collection was noted as a top-10 most innovative outdoor product); and Americas Mart Atlanta Decor | Light & Lifestyle. I currently maintain seasonal showrooms in High Point and Atlanta with permanent space in Dallas beginning in May.
I am a working wildlife photographer first and foremost! Most of my awards and acknowledgements have been presented by lauded bird and wildlife conservation groups such as the National Audubon Society in association with Natures Best Photography, the National Wildlife Federation, and Carolinas Nature Photographers Association. 

DT: With the advent of the iPhone, many photographers have found it more challenging to market their work. But you’re not only doing it, you are succeeding in a tough industry. What makes your work so compelling? What do you bring to the marketplace that wasn’t there before?

GAINES: I photograph animals and birds because I have to. The beauty found in Nature is mysterious, unexplainable at times and often ignored. I had to answer this question for myself, “What can I do to benefit what I like and what I love?” with my camera. If I can prompt people to see the beauty in each animal and to become aware of our shared responsibility in sustaining them, then I have done something to benefit the natural world.
My lifestyle drove my need for photographic and decor innovation.  I practically live in outdoor spaces! Six years ago, I had a need for artwork and decor that was durable, sustainable, and outdoor capable. I found resin-coated or acrylic prints, but they chip, peel, fade, and yellow after one season in the sun.  Polymers also yellow and metal wall hangings rust.  No product manufacturer could offer outdoor art that was comparable to art purchased for luxe indoor design.  
Research in photographic print mediums led me to an inventor and fellow North Carolinian who developed an exclusive metal print process primarily for use in large-format commercial and trade-show images. Early on, other photographers picked up on the high-definition look, sustainability and functionality of printing on aluminum, but none had ever translated this process for use in the high-end outdoor living market. That’s how Wink Gaines Photographer and the AluminArte Collection came to be.  
I am bringing new technology plus an innovative, beautiful, and sustainable image “product” directly to the design marketplace through a mutually agreeable business liaison with Roger Laudy, the inventor of metal prints, and his company, Image Wizards of Lexington, N.C. It is not often that technology, sustainability, and high design meet, but with AluminArte, my wildlife conservation and protection mission statement can be mirrored in the sustainable print process and materials that I use.  Plus, outdoor fine-art pieces are now readily available to individuals, design professionals, commercial design teams, and hospitality design professionals through my company.

DT: Collectors understand original art as an investment. In your opinion, what delineates everyday photography from imagery worth an investment?

GAINES: A good photographer tries to bridge the gap between ordinary moments and a moment of sublime beauty.  
Since I specialize in wildlife photography, my personal sublime moments come when I know that I have captured the essence of my subject through their sharply-focused eyes. I connect to and thrive on an unexplainable connection to my wildlife subjects.  Investing in fine art images is a completely personal choice.  When I ask my clients why they chose to buy a certain wildlife portrait, each one has told me that they are drawn by the animal’s eyes and the spirit of dignity that manifests in each subject. It has to do with the need to connect to the wonders of Nature, which we are all a part of. 

DT: How does photography fit with consumer lifestyle preferences with regard to interior décor?

GAINES: People love to surround themselves with what they have a connection to. Since I do commissioned and bespoke photography, clients have asked me to come to their homes, clubs, farms and business properties to document and produce fine-art AluminArte prints of the animals, plants and landscapes in their chosen surroundings. Photography can provide any number of real or stylized images to suit the lifestyle and decor preferences of any client.  

DT: What is the retail price range for your work? Where is it currently available?

Gaines: From $989 to $3200 retail. To-the trade prices are less — gallery prices or commissioned work, more. It is available on my website, (retail prices) on Steelyard (on-line design only resource and marketplace) or directly from me during High Point markets, Atlanta markets and, beginning in May, the Dallas Interior Home and Design Center.

DT: What is your process for working with interior designers?
Gaines: Very simple. Call me or my business partner, Julia Wittenberg, give us your preference for images, custom measurements for the piece, finish choice (four finishes), frame choice (six colors). If I have already proofed the image, the finished art piece is shipped in two weeks directly to the specified address in a protective wooden crate. Very hands on but very simple. 

For more information on Wink Gaines and her
work, visit