A Tale of Two Textiles: Copper Palate Press Prints on It

A handful of the artists behind Copper Palate Press: (L-R) Mike Marcinek, John Andrews, Brian Taylor, Emilee Dziuk, Dave Boogert and Cameron Bentley. Photo: Patiri Photography

Create a design, apply photo emulsifier onto a screen, attach the design, shoot super-powered light at it, rinse the screen off and start applying paint through the holes the photo emulsifier made: that’s the most basic story of screen printing. But there’s more to the tale for a local woodcut and screenprint artists’ studio:

“The goal of art, with all of us, is to communicate with an audience and to make an impression on people,” Cameron Bentley says. Bentley, along with an ever-expanding group of other professionally trained print artists, including Dave Boogert, Chad Tolley, John Andrews, Colin Ledbetter, coagulate into a studio known as Copper Palate Press (CPP). Note the distinction between the speaking and spelling of “palate.” “Palate,” as in “a person’s appreciation of taste and flavor” versus the traditional color “palette” that you‘d think a place dealing in color spectra would delineate in their name. The devil is in the details, and precision in a name is a must for the type of people who spend several hours carving out slivers in a woodcut utilizing Japanese printmaking tools or designing screens for printing onto textiles.

CPP sits behind FICE and Este pizza on 200 South in Salt Lake City and is a burgeoning beehive of energy focused on making art, both wearable and hang-able. The year-old commune has become known as an amazing place to stop every third Friday for music and live screen printing during Gallery Stroll. CPP decided to increase exposure of their fellow artists by selling prints at these monthly showings and note increasing numbers of guests through their doors since. Past guests artists include Sri Whipple, Meg Charlier (of the Vile Blue Shades), Mary Toscano and out-of-towners The Drive By Press, just a small selection of artists who’ve had their art transferred onto shirts. CPP wanted the experience to be unique and become clothing several shades away from Wal-mart wear.  “It’s not sitting on somebody’s wall. It’s a lot more live than that,” Bentley says. “Why does any business print t-shirts?” CPP artist Brian Taylor asks. “It’s exposure, it’s marketing, it’s advertising. But when you get to see it printed and you get to wear it? It’s a dope shirt.”

Proceeds from events pay the guest artists, cover materials expenses and help keep the lights on so these artists can freely practice the art many of them learned at the University of Utah from a shop mentor. “Justin Diggle is our professor and he’s amazing,” Taylor says. “He will have taught every person in here as soon as he teaches Mike [Marcinek],” Bentley adds. The trio of gents who sat down for SLUG (Bentley, Marcinek and Taylor) all moved to Salt Lake City in the early 2000s from differing locales, partly inspired by local artist Leia Bell. From Taylor’s journey out of the wilds of Pennsylvania, Marcinek’s escape from New York via California to Utah, and Bentley’s sojourn to the big city from Moab, most of CPP artists’ byways led to SLC and then Copper Palate Press via the U’s Fine Arts program. 

CPP has been featured using skills they spent years paying for and perfecting by executing live print work at many community events. At KRCL (90.9 FM and KRCL.org) events they print logos on bags and t-shirts. CPP was on hand at June’s Asian Expo printing Asian-inspired art. The collective will continue to be out and about throughout the summer, including at this year’s second annual Craft Lake City (presented by SLUG at the Gallivan Center on August 14, 2010). But that exposure only helps pay bills. These people aren’t a business. They’re a studio, and with that distinction comes a lot of freedom you won’t find at other print shops—the ability for local art fans to get paper prints on the cheap. “We don’t charge much for our prints,” Taylor says. “You buy stuff from us? It goes into [artists’] pockets. You’re helping us out by purchasing prints from us. You go to a gallery? It’s 50/50.”

“If we have our friends showing their work, if they sell anything it’s going all to them,” Marcinek says. “It helps them out … those guys work their asses off and they’re scraping by like the rest of us.”

“We understand that,” Taylor says. “That’s why we’re charging five bucks a shirt. I would like to make enough to pay for my rent here. Sometimes I do, some months more than others. I know times are hard, but we keep our prices lower than average for sure.” These guys have regular day jobs and have felt the squeeze of the declining economy, but that doesn’t stop their desire to create affordable, sharable art. “None of us count on income from this,” Bentley says. “We’re just trying to show everybody in the city how much good art is out there in Salt Lake.” Taylor adds: “And just produce, keep making art. It’ll get better and better each fucking month,”

See what these new and existing SLC residents make when artists Evan Memmott and Ben Dougal have their works screen printed live at Copper Palate Press headquarters July 16th, 2010 (160 E. 200 South). Buy a shirt there for $10 or pay $5 to have designs printed on any textile you bring in.

A handful of the artists behind Copper Palate Press: (L-R) Mike Marcinek, John Andrews, Brian Taylor, Emilee Dziuk, Dave Boogert and Cameron Bentley. Photo: Patiri Photography