Road-roller printing? You can’t be serious?

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

By Aoife Barrett, Unit10 artist and Bristol Culture visitor assistant


© Ibolya Feher

In the run up to the road-roller print event at M Shed on 2 July, Unit10 and St. Mungo’s had been busy creating a series of large-scale relief prints.

These were themed on Bristol’s changing landscape and the participants’ general impressions of the city. The idea was to print these using a road roller. A lot of thought had gone into the planning, but even so, when it came to a three-tonne roller and a six-foot long block of lino, there was a fair bit of uncertainty about how things would turn out.

We should really admit that we were completely unsure of how the day would go. The event was set to take place at 11am, so it was reassuring to see the majority of volunteers and participants arriving a good hour or so earlier.


Inking up prior to printing © Ibolya Feher

Everyone seemed so enthusiastic, and there was a strong sense of anticipation, as our weeks of hard work were finally being put to the test. No one had seen what the prints would look like, and from experience, there’s a huge difference from a carved block of lino and what it looks like once it has been ‘inked up’.

To warm ourselves up (metaphorically speaking, as the weather was definitely on our side for once) we began by printing a text monoprint of the project’s title. And it printed! Not amazingly, but the first one never is. With stage 1 complete, we moved on to the real deal. At this point, a sizeable crowd had formed, so it was a nerve-racking moment.


Down on our hands and knees, working with tiny cutting tools

The wonderful group of volunteers, printmakers and participants from St. Mungo’s carefully hand-inked the long stretch of lino.

The design had been intricately formed by each person involved – it had very much been a team effort and a labour of love – at times, down on our hands and knees, working with tiny cutting tools.

But finally the moment of truth arrived – as the roller reversed we held our breath and the group lifted the paper off of the block. The crowd let out a cheer – it had worked! And it looked great. So we printed and we printed and we printed some more. We even got members of the public involved to print some large monoprints.


Road-roller printing in action at M Shed

To top off a fantastic day, M Shed volunteers organised a ride for all the participants on the steam train.  Everyone piled on, laughing loudly and making jokes together – it felt like a school trip!

As one of the artists involved, I’d like to thank everyone for making the whole event possible: Churngolds and CP Hire who provided us with a road roller at the last minute and a lovely driver; the M Shed staff and volunteers who gave us the venue; Spike Print Studio, Cass Art, UWE, Shepherds and Intaglio Printmakers who helped us with the materials; all the printers who came down for the event and made our day stress-free; and a special thanks to the participants at St. Mungo’s who really shone throughout.

The finished artworks can be seen at The Control Room on Redcliffe Bridge until 27 August when each piece will be auctioned off to raise money for St Mungo’s.


A few of the finished artworks © Ibolya Feher

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