Vicki Rulli was lying in bed late one night last week, anxious about how the COVID-19 virus was going to affect Itinerant Studio, the business-to-business photography production and decor accent pieces company she co-owns with her husband, Tom.
As a former wedding photographer and small business owner who sells photographic mixed media prints to retailers and designers in the wholesale trade industries, many customers last week began canceling orders. And her largest revenue source — the March High Point Market trade show in North Carolina — has been postponed until June.
Additionally, Rulli points out that with Itinerant Studio’s business slowing down she is no longer frequenting the local businesses she relies on to produce and ship her works — places like Frame Haven Art Gallery, Polymershapes, Thomas Tape & Supply, Garrigans, and Brain Lumber — further affecting Springfield’s economy.
Rulli began thinking about how restaurants have turned to takeout and delivery to keep their businesses going and came up with her own alternative for Itinerant Studio. Within a week, she and Tom came up with a plan to start making prints for people who may be stuck at home and biding the time by sorting through old photos of family gatherings, weddings, and children growing up.
“I’m a realist, but an optimist, and I always say those two are conflicting emotions,” Rulli says. “At times like this you become clever, open your mind, really expand your brain.”
Rulli, Tom, and her assistant Liz put their heads together and subsequently launched Itinerant Prints, a consumer version of Itinerant Studios in which customers can have their photographs transformed into pieces of art.
“We see it as we’re all in this together, the three of us,” she says. “At the same time, we can help people stay in their homes and bring a little bit of lightness and love in their lives. That would be awesome.”
Rulli will mount the photos on a choice of birch wood; recycled aluminum; matte or clear acrylic; or engineered wood in 14 print sizes ranging from 8”x12” all the way up to 45”x45.” The cost ranges from $40 to $600.
Customers can upload their photos directly to the Itinerant Prints site, and Rulli will then drop the completed project off on their front porches, in keeping with social distancing recommendations. For customers who want to send prints outside of Springfield, Rulli will ship them and pass the shipping costs on to the customer.
And, after Security National Bank offered to work with Itinerant Studio on the mortgage and loan payments Rulli owes on the five-story warehouse space and photo equipment, Rulli began thinking about how she could also support other small businesses in the region.
Rulli says she hopes wedding and portrait photographers who may see a lull in new business, or interior designers who can help their clients remotely, can offer Itinerant’s prints to customers and earn some extra money.
“In times like this we are all doing what we can to support each other — as neighbors, as friends, as community members,” she wrote in a Facebook post announcing these new services.
To illustrate her support, for every sale made through Itinerant Prints, Rulli has committed to make a small contribution to Frank Lloyd Wright's Westcott House (which was also forced to close because of the COVID-19 virus).