C all him an artist, woodworker or craftsman: Jack Sandeen is a true Renaissance men.
Sandeen, 80, put his latest creations — a pair of one-of-a-kind printing presses assembled from repurposed antique washing machine parts — in a collaborative show that was one of the more unique displays in this year’s Art Walk in downtown Hastings Oct. 9.
His gathering of artists at his pop-up studio “All-Eclectic” at 709 W. First St. included more than dozen creative minds representing various mediums, with prints and other works of art on sale as part of the strolling art show that spanned numerous storefronts in the downtown area.
An accomplished printmaker, Sandeen assembled the first of his two eclectic presses for his friend, Kris Allphin, a local batik artist interested in learning the process. That it ended up being made from antique washing machine parts was simply signature Sandeen, Allphin said.
“I asked Jack for some printmaking tips and he said, ‘Come on over,’ ” Allphin recalled. “I told him, ‘I need to buy a press,’ and he said, ‘Oh, I can make you one.’ ”
That’s when Sandeen began to toy with the idea of making the press from repurposed washing machine parts. But why?
“Amy (his daughter) says I have a weird mind,” Sandeen said, laughing. “That’s the best answer. There are articles on the internet about people making printing presses out of all kinds of different things, but I haven’t seen one exactly like this. It’s just physics. And it was worth a try.”
That the finished product turned out to be a functional press seemed almost secondary to Allphin, who considers both presses works of art unto themselves. That they are able to crank out works of art is merely a bonus, she said.
“They are phenomenal,” Allphin said. “First, we started looking for wringer washers online. Then I went to an antique store and found five of them. He rushed over and picked one up and said, ‘I think this will work.’ ”
Her machine includes a table base assembled from leftover wood from another Sandeen project that serves as the landing for prints as they come off the press.
“When he brought back that table for me, I said, ‘You have to sign this. It’s a work of art!’” she said. “Then we tried it (the press) and it worked.
“I think he should build a whole bunch of these. Every printer in the Midwest is going to want one.”
Even Sandeen was impressed by how well the project turned out. His second press, a much larger machine, is fashioned from a mangle, a mechanical laundry aid consisting of two rollers in a sturdy frame connected by cogs and powered by a hand crank.
In its day, the machine was used to press or flatten sheets, table cloths, kitchen towels, clothing and other laundry.
“It was so exciting that a $50 wringer, some scrap wood that I had laying around, and a set of donated legs and a couple hours of time made it work,” he said.
Sandeen has been working his wood-crafting magic for nearly 20 years. It is his second calling after retiring from a 20-year career at Thermo King.
In addition to his numerous woodworking projects for clients around town, he has paired up with other artists from various mediums on a number of creative art projects. Formed as a result of having additional free time during the pandemic, Sandeen’s venture, Artists Unanchored, featured artists Allphin — a batik artist — and Chris Hochstetler, watercolor artist and CEO of Stuhr Museum in Grand Island.
The trio’s unique artwork project has drawn national attention in the media and will be featured in a show tentatively scheduled to open at Wayne State College in November.
Hochstetler, who was unable to participate in the Art Walk event because of his commitments at the museum, said he never ceases to be amazed by the creative ingenuity shown by his workworking collaborator.
“Jack has an ability to find things and repurpose them, and not just for use: They look spectacular,” he said. “He’s been able to do that all along.
“Usually when you get to be an octogenarian, many of us are in shutdown mode. Jack seems to be in start-up mode and continues to create and innovate. In that sense, I think it keeps him very young.”
Friends of Sandeen and their friends were among those who joined in Saturday’s gathering at All-Eclectic. Like good art itself, Allphin said, the word-of-mouth event had a truly organic vibe to it.
“We invited some friends and said, ‘Let’s all go and try out these presses and try to do some cool artwork,’ ” she said. “Word spread, and it’s been a busy place today.
“Jack was in the driver’s seat with it. I’m just honored to be able to go along for the ride and do what I can do to help.”