September 29, 2004
Special Process Gives Store an Edge
Business Ready to Expand
By Heather Johnson Durocher
Special to the Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY – Michael Desforges constantly mulls new ideas to run his business more efficiently or to create something not yet seen in the marketplace. “I do what I do by genetic predisposition,” said Desforges, whose research chemist father was an inventor. Desforges, 57, is owner of The Wooden Gallery in Traverse City. The business is more than a store downtown; it encompasses a trademarked process – “The Wooden Gallery Process” – he created. With this process, prints are saturated and mounted using an acrylic emulsion. The final coats are hand-applied and textured. “This process allows the print or photo to be framed without glass,” said Desforges, who has operated the business at 116 E. Front St. for 22 years. “Consequently, there is no glare, reflection or breakage.” About 12 galleries carry the product and there are at least a half-dozen Wooden Gallery stores pending across the country. Desforges said only recently has he been ready to expand operations beyond his small two-story space at the back of a hallway shared with Sundance Soccer and The Camera Shop.
Born just outside Paris, Desforges learned about acrylic emulsions as a young man while teaching French at the University of Toledo. During his summer break he worked for a business that used an emulsion process for decals. “I became so fascinated,” said Desforges, who during a nine-month break from teaching developed the emulsion that led to his present product. He began experimenting with acrylic emulsions as a way to preserve prints and photos. The whole concept was to create a product where the image and not the framing was the point of focus, presenting in the highest esteem what the artist or photographer created,” he said.
The business sells thousands of its products each year. Customers may purchase finished prints at the shop or bring photographs or prints to be custom. Several nationally known artists have their limited edition prints finished with the process for their customers. Kathy and Mike potter have about 20 Wooden Gallery prints in their home and their two Potter’s Bakery shops in Traverse City. Kathy Potter was impressed with how Desforges transformed aging photographs of the bakery’s earliest days into beautiful images. “What he did for us was take these old pictures of ours that were ripped and tattered,” she said. “But now you wouldn’t know it.”