By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterNovember 29, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 29, 2012) -- With so many stores and gifts to choose from this holiday season, gift buying for friends and loved ones may seem like a daunting task, but officials at the Fort Rucker Arts and Craft Center can make gift purchasing a pleasant and easygoing experience.
Two relatively new ways to personalize gifts have been introduced to the ACC and are now available to customers, according to Heather Norris, operations assistant at the center.
"We can now embroider and adhere photos and digital images to physical merchandise using sublimation," she said.
Sublimation is where a photograph or design that has been printed with special gel ink is heated and put on an item such as fabric, stone, ceramics or wood.
"The products have to be polyester or polyester coated. So it's better for people to buy what we have here or what we can order from our catalog," said Norris.
Some of the items that people have to choose from are coasters, blankets, wallets, yard flags, tree ornaments, keepsake boxes, slate, cutting boards, clocks, a large variety of coffee and travel mugs, electronic cases, puzzles, luggage tags and anything that is polyester .
"Roughly mugs and T-shirts cost around $10 and coasters cost around $7, but the more a customer adds to the design the more expensive it will be," said Norris.
It takes a week for orders to be completed if a customer chooses something the center has in its inventory, but can take up to two weeks if they choose something out of the catalog.
"If people choose something that is out of the catalog [people] need to expect two weeks for it to be completed. If the customer does not mind bearing the shipping cost themselves then we can get it here and done in about a week," she said.
Sublimated items make for good Christmas gifts because they are detailed, according to Norris.
"These items are much more personal and people can use the items too. You can put a Family photo on a purse, beach bag or towel. It's a way to brag about your Family in a practical way," she said.
Some of the materials are more delicate than others.
"The fabrics can be put in the washer and dryer, but just like normal clothes will wear and tear. The cups on the other hand are fragile and the dishwasher is never gentle, so hand wash them to keep the image safe," she said.
Customers wishing to take a personal image and have it sublimated onto an item must bring the image and design on a disc to the arts and craft center. The better quality photo people bring in the better it is going to look, according to Norris.
"These images will last forever as long as people treat the gift right," she said.
Supporting the local military community is one reason to purchase gifts from the arts and craft center, said Norris.
"The money that we make goes back into the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation community, which helps keep our programs and special events running," she said, adding that the center is also nearby for convenience.
Beth O`Neill, framing and embroidery assistant at the arts and craft center, also said that gifts purchased from the center show the gift receiver that they are cared about.
"These products make for great gifts because it shows the gift receiver that you took the time to specifically think about them. The fact that you planned ahead shows that you literally and symbolically personalized the gift. I think that, more than anything, shows a person that you care about them," she said.
The embroidery department at the art center charges a set-up fee, unlike the sublimation department.
"There is a standard stitching cost of $1.50 per 1,000 stitches, but we have a set-up fee. The set-up fees depend on how long it takes for me to set up the design. The fee is $10 an hour for me to do the conversions from the computer.
The better the graphic I am given, the less time I will spend in converting it. The more complicated the design or pattern, the more expensive a piece will be," said O`Neill.
Unlike sublimation purchases, people need to bring in their own merchandise.
"It can be anything from hats to towels; guidons to uniforms, we can embroider anything that is a good quality material that can stand to be punctured with a needle hundreds or thousands of times," said O`Neill.
A disc with the desired design should be brought to the center a week before the product is needed.
"I need a week, sometimes it can be shorter, but with the holidays approaching we need a week to make sure we have enough time," said O`Neill.
The center can embroider digital art, cartoons, graphics, lettering, logos or clip art onto fabrics and there are over 50 colors to choose from.
Norris and O`Neill suggest that if people want to place an order and have it in time for Christmas exodus to place their orders now.
"If you wait until the second week in December we can try our best to get it done. We are open the two weeks before Christmas if you want to place an order that late, but I do not recommend that at all," said Norris.