Posted // 2010-10-05 - Over on 2nd South, down a short alleyway tucked behind FICE and Este Pizza you'll find a small independent collective of print artists focused on perfecting their craft. Which you probably would have guessed at first glance from the photo below as they've taken their skills to the sides of the building. But the home for Copper Palate Press isn't just a shop of friends working on their art, its become a hive of activity ever since its inception. The artists within have become frequent guests at artistic gatherings and festivals, creating single-color t-shirt prints for cheap and selling their various experimental works, making them a popular feature and some of their exclusive material a must-have. Take for example, the recent design of an Alaskan half-governor adorned with the phrase "Crazy Retarded", which became a favorite from the last Poor Yorick showing. I got a chance to chat with the main man behind the collective, Cameron Bentley, about his career so far and starting up the studio, plus his thoughts on local art. Along with some pictures of the place and their most recent showing.
Cameron, first thing, tell us a bit about yourself.
just finished school, I was a printmaking student in the fine arts
program up at the U. I was born and raised in Moab, went to high
school in Evanston, but then came to college here in Salt Lake and
I’ve been here for the past ten years.
did you first take an interest in screen printing and what motivated
you to pursue it?
when I first started art school I decided I wanted to be a sculpture
student. But then I just kinda lost interest in it during the first
year. I started looking around some and really liked the print making
material I saw, really heavy graphical works and poster images and
whatnot. I really got interested in that so that’s when I decided
got your BFA from the U in Printmaking. What made you choose the U,
and how was it for you going through their program?
actually chose the U when I was pre-architecture, so I didn’t
really choose the U for printmaking, I just kept going there after I
changed majors. But I enjoyed the art program up there, had a good
experience, I would choose it again if I could go back.
did the idea come about for Copper Palate Press, and where did the
name come from?
name is actually one that’s been in my head for a couple of years.
For a while I thought I might open up a bar and call it Copper Palate
as a whiskey reference, which is why it isn’t spelled like “color
palette”. So I just liked bringing that name over when I started
this, it seemed appropriate. But I had made a lot of good
relationships with people all through school, the printmaking
department is kind of like family, its always twenty people or less
so its everybody’s situation all the time, we’re really close
friends. And then my friend Chet Toley was having a baby and had to
take down his press to get the chemicals out of his house, so he
offered it up to me where I made payment to him over the last year
and a half. That press is really what started it, once I had that I
called all my buddies to see if they were interested in hopping on,
which they were. Then we spent the next year building the space and
getting it fixed up, so now we’ve been settled in the last two
months to where we can work that much.
made you decide to make it an artist collective as opposed to a
guess its because I really don’t want to run a business, I just
want to work on my artwork all day, and I just like it where its
independent artists doing their independent thing. We do these
printshows and t-shirt printings to raise money for equipment, but
other than that everybody’s on their own projects all the time, and
its less maintenance for me.
the collective that it is, how do you decide on who to bring in as
part of the studio?
its all just friends of mine that I’ve invited personally for now,
so we haven’t done any kind of portfolio reviews or anything, its
all been people I’m familiar with already. In the beginning the
very first people I talked to about it were people who had some kind
of building experience or technical work in printmaking where they’d
have the knowledge to build everything. That was the first motivating
factor was finding people with carpenter skills and such. But its
just friends who were looking for space who could get into what we’re
are some of the other artists currently a part of CPP, and what's it
like working with various tastes and skills?
in printmaking you get really used to that environment early because
there are always community shops where nobody has their own press or
acid room and all this other stuff that’s required for it.
Printmaking you’re always sharing space with others, its not like
painting where they have their own studio and hang everything on the
walls, you get very used to putting your stuff away and having to
work around people while being respectful of everybody’s space. So
its kind of bred into us to work like that. Some of the other artists
we have here are Brian Taylor who is a relief printer, Dave Bogart
and Clyde Ashby, all three of those guys I met in the art department
when they were all 1-3 years ahead of me. Then we got John Andrews
who was a year behind me. We also have a couple photo people, but
that hasn’t been as developed as the print side here, but we have
Mike Marsnick and Ian Ramsen which I’m really excited about. I
think they’ll do a lot of cool stuff down here. We also got Emilee
Dziuk, she’s a year or two behind me in print. I think that’s
did you come across the space on 2ndSouth and how is it for you
having that as your hub?
soon as I got the press I had been looking for a place for a couple
of months, and then I just found this on Craigslist one day. I tried
to get a few other places that were already rented and weren’t in
as good an area, but when I came down here it was all empty except
for the utilities sink in the back. There was no toilet, no
blackroom, no anything, just an empty shell and a sink. But I liked
how its tucked away back here with the parking out front kinda has a
little social gathering area. But this space was a lot of work, it
was really run down and still kinda is. I had to call in a lot of
favors from buddies.
roofers where we had seven leaks in the ceiling and took it as few
visits, which was vital because if it gets too humid in here it
messes with all the processes we do. And the floor, it took ages
because we could do anything that resembled a print shop, I spent
five weeks straight just trying to clean the floor of up to three
inches of just dirt and oil that was caked on and just sitting here
for thirty years. So I sat here with an ice pick and a shovel and
broom, scrubbing with gasoline to get the grub up, and then finally
put the dealer on the floor to where it looks much nicer now than it
once had. We had to do all the plumbing, all the electrical except
for the lights, but everything was on one circuit. Just a mess all
over the place. But now we’re just building printmaking equipment,
which takes a lot of time and material with more money than we have.
It’s a battle. Every thing is a battle. But pretty much everything
in here was build by ourselves with the exception of two or three
it feel more like a studio now or do you wish it were more
definitely feels more like a studio. We have some organizational
issues we’re working on that I’d like to see go away. But when
you’re sharing a space with this many people its hard to remember
every little thing that you leave out and it just gets cluttered up
in a hurry. But its getting better. Gavin:Equipment
wise, what kind of setup do you have for both the shirts and
really just set up for fine art prints on paper, we do the t-shirts
in a really low-tech way where we just have clamps and a table, we
don’t have a flash dryer or anything t-shirt shops do. So pretty
much everything we do are one-color images. But mainly we’re set up
for paper works for people to practice their art and establish their
gone out and done a lot of events like the Poor Yorick shows and
Craft Lake City. How's the public reaction to the prints you
think its been really strong, actually. KRCL seem to enjoy having us
around a lot, we’ve established a really good relationship with
them and they’ve talked a lot about how it really makes their
event. But we like it, everybody seems to have a good time with it,
everybody seems to like watching t-shirts be made. The city response
ahs been really positive for us, we’ve been featured in a lot of
things and people have responded well to what we do here. Its very
that many people may not know is that you keep the prices for prints
and shirts relatively low for people to buy. What made you decide to
keep those prices so low, and what's the affect like for you guys of
living off of that lowered income?
we’re all just barely out of school. We sell things sometimes but
we’re nowhere near paying our bills on our artwork. My thinking
behind it all was to do our artwork and have fun, establish ourselves
and communicate with people. The communication as the basic goal, it
didn’t matter if we put food on the table with it, it just matters
that we’re giving people something interesting, you
outreach is more important than the monetary.
And everybody seems to be poor right now so we might as well. We’re
doing this for as cheap as we can right now, we just raised our
printing price to $10 from $5. With the $5 price we’d end up with
maybe $20 at the end of the show so that we’d be able to buy
supplies with. It really wasn’t cutting it at all, but people still
seem to be happy with the $10 price.
made you decide to start up guest artist nights on Gallery Stroll
nights, and how have those gone over each month?
ever since I found this space I decided that since we were only a
block away from it all that it might be fun to do shows. I never
really thought that I’d run a gallery or organizing art events like
this, but we found the space and the timing was perfect. I tried one
in June 2009 where I called up a bunch of friends of mine and just
asked them if they’d bring some work down, just to kind of show
Salt Lake what people are probably going to be involved down the
road. We covered all the walls with it and only five people showed
up, but we got an Arty for the show with Cara Despain hooking us up.
But after the first one it seems kinda fun and gave me a new insight
on the art world and what I might wanna do as an artist. So I decided
to keep it up for a while and its gotten stronger and stronger, so
I’ll probably be doing it for a long time.
been around about a year and a half now, what's your take on being
around so far and having the impact you've had in the art
seems our impact on the art community has been really positive. All
the feedback we’ve gotten from everybody has been great, they’ve
been really supportive. I think we’re incredibly lucky to have been
received this well so fast. When I think back on the past year and a
half it just seems like its really flown by. Our first three shows
were slow but after that it really took off, people started talking
about us more and more to where now we’ve got this momentum going
that hasn’t seemed to stop yet. The city’s been really good to
local, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and
Cameron:I think we have a great art
scene here, we have a lot of really great artists here. I wish there
were more places like ours, where you just start up on your own as
ambitious people without any money who just want to make something
happen. I wish there was a whole network of that kind of stuff going
on. That’s about the only thing I would change, but I really like
the artists who work here.
anything you believe could be done to make it more
Cameron:I think more events. Not
as much gallery shows but interactive events or gatherings. Which it
seems to be going more that way a little bit. There’s been a lot
more street festival stuff at Gallery Stroll.
are your relationships with other print artists in Utah? Does it feel
like they're rivals or fellow encouraging artists?
like I was saying earlier, its really like a family type of
community. The thing I’ve always run into as a printmaker is that
nobody really has any idea what I do. They ask me what I do and they
have no clue what that means, they don’t know if I work at Kinkos
or if I do digital reproductions or what. They don’t seem to
realize that its all original work by the artist. So I think print
makers already have a bond just because they’re not quite
understood. But I’ve never met a print maker who wasn’t super
friendly to me, they’re always looking out for each other it seems
Gavin:What can we expect from you and
the rest of the CPP artists over the rest of the year?
biggest thing you can expect from us is our artwork. Up until now
we’ve been showing friends of mine who aren’t members of the
space because we haven’t had much time to create work due to
building the space and whatnot. So now we’ve had a good 6-8 months
of working time to where now we’ll have three shows in a row
featuring Copper Palate members. My show is on November 19thwhich
will be the first of those shows, then Brian Taylor on December
3rdand then January 21stwe have John Andrews. And then we
should have more after that along with guests, but you’ll see a lot
more artwork from us. Still t-shirts but more focus on our
Gavin:Aside the obvious, is there
anything you'd like to plug or promote?
do have a show October 15thfeaturing Claire Taylor, her stuff
is awesome. Along with music by Electric Space Gihad, which I’ve
talked to him now about doing it every time because he’s definitely
my favorite DJ to have. He’s probably going to be our permanent DJ,