The 10th Annual Roadworks: Steamroller Printing Festival wil be held on Sunday, September 29, 2013, 11:00am-4:00pm on Rhode Island Street in Potrero Hill between 16th and 17th Streets.
History of the San Francisco Center for the Book Roadworks Steamroller Printing Festival
In 2004, the idea of a Steamroller Printing Festival was first presented to the San Francisco Center for the Book by co-founder Mary Austin, who had heard of a similar event in New England. Board Member Nancy Coopersmith enthusiastically took on researching and developing the project for SFCB, and on Saturday, October 30, 2004, Roadworks was born. Over 500 people attended the inaugural event, held in the middle of Carolina Street between 15th and 16th Streets. The Center devoted four tables to printing “side shows,” including SFCB’s home team of Austin and Burch as the Original Printed Ladies of San Francisco, handing out typographic tattoos and the occasional kiss. Each steamroller print pulled off the street was accompanied by musical fanfare by the (clothed and costumed) Burning Band from Burning Man.
The idea behind the festival was to bring the community closer to the printing process by allowing all ages to witness, enjoy and participate in the power of printing on a grand scale. Despite the wind tunnel effect on Carolina Street that threatened to make each print take flight, the event stuck. Past board member Thacher Hurd even said it was the best day of his life!
Each artist printed three copies of their print: one for their sponsor, one for the auction later that same night, and one to keep. Some of the work from the first year created lasting impressions: Mike Bartalos’s 29 Degrees North, designed as a book in three panels, later became SFCB’s first Imprint Edition
The second year, the event was moved to September with its more predictable weather and the printer pool grew to fifteen artists. Katherine Case, the Center’s Studio Manager, was featured in Bill Russell’s illustrated column in the San Francisco Chronicle. Roadworks 2005 featured a blind embossed “print” as well as the first multi-color print.
By 2007, Roadworks moved closer to home on De Haro Street. For the San Francisco Center for the Book’s tenth anniversary in 2007, artists were asked to incorporate the number ten into their imagery. Midway through the event, disaster hit when the key to the steamroller broke off in the ignition. Until a new steamroller was brought in a few hours later, necessity was indeed the mother of invention with a (much lighter weight) Prius substituting for the steamroller, and the printing process, augmented by hand-burnishers using metal spoons borrowed from Sally’s Restaurant at nearby 300 De Haro Street. Several weeks later, at the fundraising auction and gala dinner, Rik Olson’s steamroller print raised over $2000!
In 2009, Roadworks whittled down the roster of participating artists and moved to pleasant and nearly windless Rhode Island Street – where the San Francisco Center for the Book is now located (as of 2013) – there the event really took wings, attracting over 5,000 attendees.
Roadworks has a way of cementing friendships and forging new acquaintances. In addition to artists involved, more than sixty book arts vendors have plied their wares to thousands of attendees. Although other communities host steamroller printing events, the San Francisco Center for the Book is the only organization that pulls off making gallery-quality steamroller prints. This is due to the superb artists who participate coupled with the expertise of the SFCB Staff. Master printmaker Brad Robinson and longtime SFCB board member J. Curtiss Taylor have both hit the streets with us every year, along with fifty print production volunteers (divided into clean-hands and inky-hands). A special thanks goes to Cindy Shamban of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for awarding our permit and re-routing the MUNI buses for us every year.
To date, over sixty different images have been printed by steamrollers in the Potrero Hill streets surrounding San Francisco Center for the Book. Press on!