February 2017

by Cassie Stephens/ Art Teacher Johnson Elementary

Growing up, we didn’t have art class in my school. So, during the summer months, I made a point to seek out every Vacation Bible School I could find. It didn’t matter what denomination it was, I just needed to know would there be arts and crafts and would there be barrel drink (if you grew up in the 80s, you know the amazing colored sugar water served in the plastic barrels of which I speak). While I have swapped my barrel drink for grape- flavored adult drink, I find that I still seek out art classes even now. It was at one such printmaking class at the Frist that I met Chris Cheney and Nieves Uhl, the combined forces that make up Sawtooth Print Shop.

Chris Cheney and Nieves Uhl in their Sawtooth Print Shop studio

These two are not only incredible artists and printmakers, but super fun folk to hang out with. Even though our class at the Frist was a couple of years ago, I made a point to stay in contact with these two (some call it stalking; I call it “awkward friend-making”). When I recently started creating Field Trip videos for my students, which take them on virtual trips to the studios of creatives, I knew I wanted to visit Chris and Nieves at Sawtooth Print Shop.

Located at a newly renovated facility in Berry Hill, in a building bustling with other creatives, I found Chris and Nieves along with a handful of employees and interns. Their business is unlike any other locally as they work with their customers to create custom wood-carved printing plates. These designs are combined with their huge collection of antique type (one particular cabinet of type was thrown from a barn during a tornado!) and their antique printing press from the 1920s.

Visiting their studio was a blast, mostly because Chris and Nieves are a hilariously fun and creative duo. After meeting at Hatch Show Print, they eventually became neighbors and business partners. In 2012, they opened Sawtooth and the rest is history.

Show Poster for Shovels and Rope, Letterpress printed woodcut, 16.5” x 12”

Filming their process was enlightening. My students are going to learn about woodcarving, letterpress, working with clients, and the math that goes into such precise printmaking work. This kind of creating is not one that can simply be explained to understand, but must be witnessed. I’m so lucky that Chris and Nieves have allowed me to take my students on a virtual field trip to their art-making world.

To find out more about Sawtooth, be sure to visit their website at www.sawtoothprintshop.com. To view the virtual field trip to their shop, visit my channel, Cassie Stephens, on YouTube.

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