I love to look at records. I have a framed copy of the U.S. pressing of The Who Sings My Generation hanging a few feet from where I’m now writing to prove it. But framing records is expensive; plus, in doing so, you consign an LP to the status of display item. And what good is Goats Head Soup preserved in amber? Still, it’s always frustrated me that the artwork of my record collection is stowed away on shelves and in crates, largely hidden from view.
Geoffrey Blakely, a record collector and seller from Chapel Hill, knew the feeling. One weekend morning, while contemplating second-hand picture frames at a flea market, he hit upon the idea of filling an entire wall of his apartment with cool-looking record sleeves, perhaps in these funky old frames. But at $20 each, the wall would be too costly.
Many of us would shrug and walk away, maybe settling for a frame or two and leaving it at that. But Blakely got serious and bought a pair of 3-D printers. He has a design background and currently works for his father, using AutoCAD. So he knew his way around the technology, and he had a mission.
Blakely began work on a clip-like bracket that would secure a record sleeve to a flat surface without incurring any damage or obscuring the all-important album art. An early version was too weak for the job. After nearly two dozen iterations, he settled on a design that was strong and minimal enough to meet his specifications.
The design is quite spare: Each triangular plastic clip is fitted with an old-school flat-topped thumbtack; one simply slides a record cover’s corner into each of four clips at and then affixes it to a wall with the push of the four pins.
“I started lining up records all across my apartment,” he says. “And they were all perfectly laid out. I thought, ‘Man, this is pretty cool. Maybe somebody’d wanna buy it.’”
He settled on the name “Record Tacks” and decided he would sell 16 per box—or enough to hang four covers—for $9.99 each. Blakely worked up packaging and a display case and visited Schoolkids Records’ Stephen Judge. “I said ‘Just take it, I don’t want any money,’” Blakely says. Judge soon wanted a display for his other store location.
It’s still early, and there have been some growing pains. His two printers broke down recently, and they’re now being repaired. Meanwhile, he’s just purchased two new ones, which can now be had for as little as $500, much cheaper than $3,000 he paid for his first MakerBot. Once he has four working machines, Blakely figures he’ll have enough 3-D power to start supplying all the region’s record shops. And while he’d love to turn a profit on Record Tacks, that’s not his major aim.
“It’s not like I’m trying to make a bunch of money and get rich,” he says. “I just want to make everybody happy and have some fun with putting records on the wall.”
It’s a noble goal. When I got home from Schoolkids, I unsheathed my vinyl purchase (Hot Chip’s Why Make Sense—great!), busted open my Record Tacks and chose some LPs to post. My first tetraptych consists of the Feelies’ gorgeously blue Crazy Rhythms; 801’s Listen Now with its bulbous-headed whisperer painted by the great fantasy artist Frank Kelly Freas; the stately portraiture of Pretenders II and the Chi-Lites’ (For God’s Sake) Give More Power the People.
I’m now ready to add another row below these four. Next time I’m out record shopping, I’ll remember to buy more than one box. This is going to be fun.