Brent Bond on the Future of Printmaking and the Restoration of His 1960 Vandercook Press

For close to a decade, mice inside a Flagstaff barn owned by legendary artist James Turrell spent their filthy days colonizing a 1960 Vandercook printing press.

They were living inside of printmaking history -- a machine once owned and operated by California publishing house, Black Sparrow Press

The Vandercook Universal I was just one of Turrell's semi-retired presses that he hoped to restore. In fact a few years ago, the artist built a studio to house his collection. The problem, not enough space.

The solution, Scottsdale printmaker Brent Bond.

"James, man, unless you have a professional type shop, you're never going to have both those Vandercooks running," Bond says he mentioned while helping Turrell restore a few presses at his Flagstaff property. "You have more presses than you have space."

He was right, and Turrell agreed. The next day when Bond mentioned he'd been looking for a Vandercook of his own, Turrell offered one of his.

"I got it for a week's worth of labor," says Bond, who owns Santo Press, a printmaking studio at the Cattle Track Compound in Scottsdale. The master printer spent more than two years restoring the machine, and admits it's not even fully completed.

"There's a metal plate that goes on the back that I've yet to sand and paint. I wanted to get the press up and running because there're some adjustments you may need to make, and you have to take that plate off to do it. I didn't want to put the plate on before I knew everything was running fine."

Like printmaking, the restoration process is a lot of DIY-type work.  

"Unfortunately, while I have taught myself quite a few things from YouTube videos, restoring press is not a big category on that site," says Bond. "I'm mechanically inclined, and I was blessed with the fact that I did have a manual--didn't have full schematics, but it had about 75-percent of the schematics."

Spending an average of 5 to 10-hours a week, Bond transformed a one-car garage into press restoration headquarters. If he hit a speed bump, his friends and colleagues were always willing to help complete the project. Printmakers are incredibly collaborative by nature.

"[The work] is often on trade," Bond says, and admits passion trumps profits.

"I definitely don't do it to pay my bills; I do it out of love. A lot of my editions aren't in profit, and may never be in profit. But I still think they're great images, and it was a good experience."

Because printmaking -- particularly type press -- is a communicative tool, Bond says there will always be a demand for future printmakers (think business cards, concert fliers, wedding invitations, etc.).

"The press will easily outlive me if I just give it a little oil, and take care of it from time to time. Hopefully my sons will find some interest in the future to take it on after I pass on."

Visit Brent Bond's Santo Press and La Pequeña located "in the barn" of the Cattle Track Compound at 6105 Cattle Track, Scottsdale; (480) 242-1592.

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