Urban Craft: Print Shops and Big Ideas

BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
August 23, 2010

levis

The Levi's Workshop on Valencia Street [Photo Credit: flickr user thepostfamily]

Nestled among artisan manufacturers and freshly ground coffee, the Levi's Workshop at 580 Valencia Street continues the Mission's tradition of craft through a community print shop. This bold artistic enclave merges the pop appeal of the storefront with the patience of the printmaker. The wide windows and old signs from a past laundromat make the shop feel accessible to the general public. However, the workshop also exudes a level of intimacy because of the printing studio set-up, traditionally a place for artists to perform their craft in solace in order to achieve a certain degree of precision required in printmaking. With the Levi's print shop, the social and individual identities of the creative process merge together in this space, creating an inspiring place for a range of artists.

The Valencia pop-up shop houses classic letterpress machinery, screen-printing design and setting type, encouraging respect for the artisan and craftsman, while also providing a crucial service and education for artists in San Francisco. The term "craft" can sometimes be associated with a kitschy aesthetic, invalidating the art instead of recognizing it as an indication of a practiced skill. This was most notably exemplified when the former CA College of Arts and Crafts updated its name in 2003 to the CA College of the Arts. Part of the name change of this well-respected art school was the concern that a school for "arts & crafts" would not be taken seriously (craftsmen not being as valued as they once were during the Industrial Revolution and Arts and Crafts Movement). The Levi's Workshop restores the positive definition of the artisan through a shop that caters both to the experienced printmaker, but also to the wanderer who happens to walk by.

In line with Levi's current ad campaign, creation merges with community through a series of events and workshops hosted at the print shop. The workshop has laid out a series of collaborations with local businesses and community groups to create original artwork and inspire design. On August 20 in conjunction with Alice Waters and Future Farms, the Levi's Workshop launched a second Edible Schoolyard event to launch their book Farming 2050. This space creates a community, while also preserving the artisan printmaker and aiding those businesses that are looking to support local printing.

This print shop is just one of many artisan shops in San Francisco that promote community, while also establishing small businesses that keep this city vibrant. The time is ripe for a return to the roots of meaningful communication and respect for the process of production. Roll up your sleeves, get to work and press on.