KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- I don't have a lot of space to display pictures around the house. So how can I show off my favorite photos of Grandma, the hubby and the dogs, other than posting them on Facebook? (Yawn.)
Apparently I'm not the only one looking for something fun and different to do with my digital photos. "We're seeing a big increase in people wanting to know how to take better pictures and what to do with their pictures," says professional photographer Shari Hartbauer of Digital Labrador.
She recently taught a workshop on how to use digital photos to customize gifts such as snow globes, notepads, playing cards and board games. You can have a photo reproduced on virtually anything. (Photo-customized cupcake wrappers? It makes them.) Or personalize blankets, serving trays, mouse pads, paperweights, candles, wall clocks, lamps and dog beds.
In Pittsburg, Kan., Mpix, a division of Miller's Professional Imaging, will print photos on puzzles, wall clings, calendars and statuettes. One home-decor item that caught my eye at www.mpix.com: Gallery Wraps, or photos printed on canvas and wrapped around wooden stretcher frames. Prices range from $55 for the smallest, 8 inches by 10 inches, to $170 for the largest, 24 inches by 36 inches.
One of Hartbauer's favorite resources is Photojojo.com, which has a free newsletter with do-it-yourself photo projects.
At Walgreens.com, get photo customization on more than 100 items, the most popular of which is a computer mouse pad.
"If you go to the website, you can shop by product and you'll see ... pillowcases, collages, fleece blankets, a clock, a keepsake box, pillow shams, place mats, throw blankets, posters. There is a lot of stuff for the home," says Mona Furlott Kelly in Chicago, general merchandise manager for photo and front-end services for Walgreens. It's not expensive, she says, noting that Walgreens can customize an apron with a photo for $14.99, and that a set of coasters is $24.99.
Hartbauer led her students to Light Affection (www.lightaffection.com). The company makes custom night-lights and lamps by carving images from photographs onto translucent material and illuminating them from behind. Prices start at $44.95.
She was also excited to discover Mykea, which develops artistic "skins" that adhere to plain Ikea furniture and make it more personal. You can upload your own photo or choose from artists' creations.
"We love the well-designed furniture. But we don't like the fact that we see the same Ikea interior everywhere around us," it says on www.thisismykea.com. The removable decals fit a handful of Ikea pieces. Prices range from $30 to $100.
Matt Keith's North Kansas City, Mo., company, Custom Color, prints photographs on bedspreads, pillow shams, comforters, pillows and wall murals for a home-decor company called VisionBedding (www.visionbedding.com). Among VisionBedding's personalized products: posters starting at $20, dog beds from $99 and baby blankets for $99.
Keith notes the growing number of websites that will turn photographs into wall art, like the 15-foot-wide mural of an F-16 fighter jet that he made for his son's bedroom. At www.designyourwall.com, for example, you can upload your own image for custom sheets of wallpaper on a variety of materials, including polyester and grass cloth. Prices range from $6.50 per foot for paper, $9.25 for Mylar or foil.
Go to www.personalthrows.com to turn a photo into a wall mural made of hand-painted canvas panels that can either resemble an actual photo or an oil painting. They come in four sizes, starting at $400 for a 32-inch-by-48-inch mural up to $1,300 for a 96-inch-square mural.
Now that I know what to do with all the pictures languishing on my phone, I'm resolved to turning my photos into functional and decorative home accessories this year. That's right. I'm putting the Shih Tzu on a cookie jar and Grandma on a night light.