Art

It’s a Sign! New Bohemia’s Hand-Painted Signs Reflect SF’s DIY Obsession
By Chloe Roth

It’s an age-old story: Boy visits San Francisco at age 13, develops a “youthful fascination with California,” relocates from Maryland at 21, finishes art school, scoops ice cream, gets a job on the stock exchange for five years because he happens to be a math whiz, and becomes the foremost sign-painter in town.

“I wandered the Earth for half a year and came back resolved to get myself into some kind of creative work ethic,” says Damon Styer, 41, sole proprietor of New Bohemia Signs—San Francisco’s longest-established shop for hand-painted signs—founded in 1993 by Steve Karbo. In June 1999, Styer landed a $7/hour apprenticeship. By September he was manager, and in December, he bought the company. New Bohemia started on 16th and Guerrero in the dilapidated back room of Jack’s Elixir Bar, and after a series of moves, it ended up at its current home on Ninth Street in SoMa, where it employs Styer, manager Scott Thiessen and a rotating menagerie of painters.

If you think you are unfamiliar with New Bohemia’s work, then think again. There is evidence of the company’s brushwork all over the city. Take, for example, the signs—designed by

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This article was published:
Art & Design Issue - Released July 2012
Issue 11 / Version 2 | Buy print copy here
Issue 11
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