#engraving #public art #video

October 5, 2021

Grace Ebert

In a neighborhood of tech giants and startups, the San Francisco Center for the Book is decidedly analog. The nonprofit has been a printmaking and book arts hub for creators in the Bay Area since it opened 25 years ago, offering approximately 300 workshops and classes in papermaking, typography , bookbinding techniques and a range of other processes reach thousands of students each year.

Beyond wanting to provide a space for local artists and those interested in the practice, one of the centre’s tenets is community engagement, a commitment that manifests itself in the spectacular one-day Roadworks festival. The annual event, which was scaled back in 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions, began in 2004 as a way to expand the organization’s footprint beyond its own walls, but that’s only ‘in 2013 that it became the dramatic opportunity that it is today. Roadworks celebrated its 18th birthday in September and brought back its popular business of printing dozens of linocuts with a 1924 Buffalo Springfield steamroller.

All images are courtesy of Roadworks, shared with permission

Each year, the center uses Roots of Motive Power’s seven-ton machine to produce a series of 42-inch square prints in the middle of the streets of San Francisco. The process is as monumental as the event, requiring dozens of volunteers and quick hands to create successful works in the midday sun and wind. “It’s an interesting burning challenge as long as you practice once a year,” says Chad Johnson, the center director and resident instructor who has been at the helm of Roadworks for the past few years. “There is no replication of all conditions except when you do. “

The current process uses the street as the base of the press, with an insulating rubber mat on top to counteract debris. A piece of MDF particle board – the team prefers this material over plywood because it has no grain and can distribute pressure evenly – marked with a taped recording system sits on top. Once Johnson has inked the plaque with the road-specific yellow and purple tint pigments, he needs to quickly position it on the ground and have two other people cover it with paper. “The only other trick is to keep the plate moist for up to two minutes beforehand. There isn’t any amount of ink I can put on it that doesn’t dry in the wind and the sun, ”he says.

After that, the rest is similar to the engraving press, although it happens on a much larger scale. The team lay a plastic tablecloth to prevent steam leaking onto the paper, then a woolen blanket, and finally a thick mat that serves as insulation for the massive machine. After two rolls, the team peels off the layers and reveals the finished prints. Roadworks “has the ability to expand the range of reach just because it’s a steamroller,” Johnson shares, sometimes printing “Godzilla, sometimes a tree, sometimes a plant.” In most years, the group produced between 30 and 35 pieces in a matter of hours, although 2021 saw their largest collection of 38.

In addition to the larger prints created by a trio of artists selected by the committee, the festival also sells pre-event linocut kits that allow community members to sculpt their own works and see them made the same day. “The idea was to get people excited about large-scale printing, and I think for me it’s still really an amazing and powerful thing,” Johnson says, noting that these projects are also raising funding. essential for the nonprofit organization.

Although this year’s prints are sold out, the center sells bags containing a 2004 steamroller by Rik Olson, a local artist who has participated in the festival for nearly two decades. You can see more photos from Roadworks 2021 and watch information about next year’s event on Instagram.

#engraving #public art #video

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