Organization Spotlight | Visual Arts

Organization Profile: Saltgrass Printmakers

by Allen Bishop | Photos by Tami Baum

When printmakers Sandy Brunvand (MFA) and Stefanie Dykes (BFA) graduated from the University of Utah, they recognized a real need in the Wasatch Front art community, one I also felt after graduation years ago. Many art students revel in learning printmaking techniques on expensive equipment in college and university art departments, but no longer have access to that equipment after graduation. Realizing this need hatched an idea that in turn became the mother of Utah’s first non-profit cooperative printmaking studio.

Saltgrass Printmakers, located at 2126 South 1000 East in Salt Lake City, has assembled much of what printmakers need to continue their passion, and plans to acquire other equipment to make available to anyone interested in making (or learning to make) prints for a modest monthly membership fee or for an hourly rate (Open press times are Thursdays 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays 3 to 6 p.m., advance reservations required). The shop offers working spaces with presses, roller, brayers, and other materials needed for professional artists, students and the curious public to create a broad range of relief and intaglio prints. As the membership grows, Saltgrass may add lithography and screen printing to their arsenal of capabilities. On a regular rotating basis, classes and workshops in wood block, etching, collagraph and monotype printing are taught.

Facilities include 32”x60” and 28”x40” etching presses, etching facilities, a Vandercook letterpress, work areas, print gallery and other support for fine-art printmaking. Users are asked to provide their own paper, ink and image matrix; etchants, ink additives, hard and soft grounds, blotters, drying rack, scrim, newsprint, etc.are provided by Saltgrass Printmakers.

Brunvand and Dykes, who founded and run the Sugarhouse print shop, are both artist-printmakers who have a vision for Saltgrass Printmakers’ role in Utah’s visual arts community. Saltgrass Printmakers is “dedicated to the fine art of printmaking.” That vision extends beyond supporting artists and printmakers, by sponsoring “exhibits that increase the public’s appreciation and understanding of the printmakers’ art.” Saltgrass will continue to provide educational programs, and to establish a facility open to professional and beginning printmakers. Having opened their doors just over a year ago, however, Dykes and Brunvand say that Saltgrass Printmakers is, in some ways, still finding its voice — “what we are about.” Clientele has included professional artists, teachers, homemakers, writers, art students, etc. Although professional artists were originally targeted as primary users, the general public has since taken the lead, with many taking classes to explore the printmaking process.

Knowing that most students are brand new to printmaking, what is their teaching philosophy? While not wanting to overwhelm students with too much too fast, they give them just enough information to get them into the actual work as quickly as possible. Students are encouraged to bring ideas for their own prints. Some students come to class knowing just what they want to do and loaded with images. Instructors are more than happy to help others who are more tentative to develop their own ideas. But after getting started, many of these students soon find themselves collaborating over ideas and techniques, even teaching each other; and excitement builds for their newfound passion. “We often see students just take off into something they never dreamed of before.”

Many printmakers are excited by opportunities to trade editioned prints with other artists in a “print exchange.” Saltgrass has sponsored two print exchanges during the past year. The first one was by invitation for a Saltgrass Printmakers fundraiser last November. Twenty printers created an edition of prints for the “First Impressions” exchange. Each printer received a print from each edition in return for their participation and donated the additional prints to Saltgrass to help raise funds for equipment and materials. A current print exchange is open to all printmakers and all printmaking techniques. The theme, developed by Lisa Nichols, a member of the printshop, is “When Cultures Collide.” Details and deadlines are posted at Saltgrass Printmakers website. This exchange will be on display during the April Open House on April 29. For participating printers, this is a great way to build a print collection on a shoestring budget, and for everyone else it is a great way to enjoy the wide range of techniques and opinions that print exchanges offer.

Professional artists and art instructors have been very supportive. Often people will “just pop in” to find out what is going on or how they can get involved with Saltgrass. Teachers from the University of Utah and Westminster College have brought interested classes through to learn what is available locally in printmaking.

Saltgrass Printmakers also sponsors print exhibits in their modest sized gallery. I have been very intrigued with the wide variety of styles and approaches represented there.

I recently tried my own hand at Saltgrass by printing a collagraph combining flat and textured color areas in an abstract design requiring four runs through the press. I used two work rooms and both etching presses and found a clean, logical layout and easy accessibility of equipment and supplies that enhanced production efficiency. Definitely more so than when I have printed in my own studio with its usual clutter. Brunvand and Dykes were always helpful, interested and available if for any reason I could not find something (rare).

If you are a printmaker or have even a slight urge to learn about it or just mingle with artists passionate about their craft, you owe it to yourself to try Saltgrass. At least call or stop in to chat with Sandy Brunvand or Stefanie Dykes. You’ll be glad you did.

For further information see the Saltgrass website: http://www.saltgrassprintmakers.org or call 801.467-1080, or visit during open shop hours 11:00 am-3:00 pm weekdays.

This article originally appeared in the March 2005 edition of 15 Bytes


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