DIY with Inkodye

Lumi takes photography out of the dark room and into sunny backyards

Traditionally photographers had to develop film in dark rooms filled with chemicals, some still do. Others prefer the digital option that new technology provides. Lumi is a company that turns photography printing up side down, combines newest technology with long-known processes of the trade and uses the sun as a developer.

When Jesse Genet was in high school she found out about a particular type of dye developed in the 1960s that allows you to print fabric with the help of sunlight. She was immediately interested and began to dig deeper into what seemed to be a lost opportunity.

A couple of years later she went to study at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena where she met her future co-founder, Stephan Angoulvant. Both studied Product Design and spent a lot of time doing homework together.

“One of those times I told him about Lumi and I told him about this project I’ve been working on and he was like – ‘that sounds amazing’- and so we started playing with it together.”

Finally in 2009, Stephan discovered something that would change Lumi forever – Kickstarter. “That was really a turning point.” At the time the crowd-funding platform was relatively new and an invite was required to campaign a project. Lumi got an invitation, more than doubled it’s funding goal and soon became one of Kickstarter’s biggest projects, which resulted in a lot of attention for Jesse Genet’s ‘hobby’.

Now, four years later, Incodye is available in three different colours and shipped wherever it needs to go but it was not all a cosy walk in the sun. The chemist, who developed the initial formula for the dyes, was very hard to track down and even harder to convince that Miss Genet’s vision was not just an impulse of youthful naivety. “He thought it was ridiculous, he thought I could never make any money doing this. He had no interest in doing business with me. He’d rather I just leave him alone.”

Persistence prevailed and eventually Lumi bought all the left over inventory from the retired chemist along with the dye’s formula. The team put a good deal of resources into modernising the formula and making it manufacturable, which turned the antique thing they used as a starting plate into something new and of their own.

Printing fabric using Lumi’s Incodye is something of an experience but thanks to the founder’s effort, it is simple and fun. Any image can be used as a template and Lumi’s iPhone app makes it possible to phototype your design, turn it into a negative, preview colours and overlay it on different clothes to see what it will look like. The desired negative can be printed off any inkjet printer at home or ordered directly from the company.

“We are trying to push the boundaries between digital technology and physical making. That’s really the next frontier for us because they should be part of one lifestyle not two separate things.”

Once the fabric is covered in dye, the negative is put on top and together it goes into the sun, where the areas that are touched by light will take on colour. Lumi also provides customers with a special detergent that will wash off the excess dye and… voilà the canvas has been painted.

Professionals from the printing and photography world are torn when it comes to sunshine printing, some don’t understand why someone would go through this DIY process when they could just use digital printers, others consider it a pretty neat idea to use photography in this way and on an uncommon medium.

“I can tell you one thing for sure, when someone sees the reaction happening with their own two eyes, they are so happy. I love watching new people watching the reaction.”

Further Lumi is not trying to overtake the commercial printing process but rather offer a creative alternative for people who would like to enjoy themselves trying something different.

Upcoming offers from Lumi will include more creative tools that “make people feel powerful and magical” and continue to simplify the process, as it is now, to get people, who would never think they could create their own designs, to feel the magic and for those, still unsure of their inner artist Miss Genet offers workshops and advice on Skillshare.

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