Home Sign Gallery

From time to  time, one of our customers will send us a picture of their sign by a door, swinging from a rustic wooden post, or above a mantelpiece. Although we see and handle every sign as it takes shape in our shop, there’s a certain satisfaction and poetic feeling of completeness in seeing our work “at home” –  in homes, on farms, cafes & antique shops, in downtown New York & Outback New South Wales, and a good number of other places too.

Everything comes in waves, and over the past two weeks, many such photographs have come in, mainly from all corners of the United States:

Slack Tide House Sign

Copper Fox Lodge Sign

The Fire Escape Bar & Grill

70 Little Mill Road Sign

Larsons Tavern & Inn Sign

Just Between Friends Sign

Mermaid Manor Sign

Murray House Sign

Sapphire Skies Sign

Pond's End Sign

I think The Fire Escape Bar & Grill is my favourite. What a unique slogan for a restaurant – “Not trendy, just friendly”. It sounds like the perfect place for chewing the rag with the locals, over a Detroit Lager. I’ll have to stop in, next time I’m in Metamora.

If you happen to be the owner of one our signs, feel free to send us a nice picture of yours as well!

Sign Painters & Sign Carvers

If you happen to live in Asheville, Austin or Istanbul, or any of the other locations listed here, and – like me – you are fascinated by traditional sign-making, get a few like-minded friends together and go watch The Signpainters, a documentary about hand-lettering in America. It’s a movie by photographer Faythe Levine & filmmaker Sam Macon, that has been a few years in the making, but is now showing in a theatre near (or maybe not so near) you.

Faythe Levine

Faythe Levine

Recently, I had the chance to chat with Faythe about the project. I asked her where the idea of the Sign Painters movie came from.

I had a group of friends who started hanging out in a sign shop in Minneapolis back in the 90’s. It was through them I discovered that being a “sign painter” was actually a job. Now, 15 years later all those friends have full time sign shops and are all involved in some part of this project.

Was one of them our good friend Mike Meyer of Mike Meyer Signs?

No….but Mike is great, we were so glad to have him involved with the final project.

Will the movie help keep the lettering craft alive?

I think our movie will provide an accessible go-to for helping people understand the importance of the role sign painters have played and will continue to play in our lives.

Does she see a revival of traditional sign-making techniques?

There has definitely been a boom of interest from a younger design motivated audience over the course  of our production.

Would she ever make a sequel?



Poster fo Sign Painters Movie

Hand-painted (well, duh.) poster by Jeff Canham

As with all good things, there’s also a book version:

Sign Painters Book Cover

Cover for the Sign Painters Book

Having said all of that, I must add we’ve done precious little hand-lettering at our shop. That’s because we’re primarily a carving shop. Our signs are three-dimensional. If the sign painters in this movie are fighting the vinyl cutter, we sign-carvers are rebelling against the CNC router. I hope the sign-carving craft gets a documentary too, some day!

Hand-Lettered Sign for Cafe Legato

This is the one of the few signs we’ve made with authentic hand-lettered type. The words “Cafe Legato” just didn’t want to be restricted by a paint mask. The sign hangs in San José, California. Cafe owner Rodelio said “Wow! you guys did a good job…Thank you so much and I will surely recommend you to my friends in business.”

Cafe Legato Hand-Lettered Logo

See what I mean?

And finally, to end with, a little lettering demonstration from Dan Madsen of Dusty’s Signs, (Minneapolis, Minnesota):

No that won’t be in the sign painter movie, that’s a short promo clip my friend Hunter Johnson made for me. – Dan


Dard Hunter Lives On

“Art is the Flower. Life is the Green Leaf. Let every artist strive to make his flower a beautiful living thing, something that will convince the world that there may be, there are, things more precious more beautiful – more lasting than life itself.” – Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Past blog posts have discussed Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and his influence on the world of art and architecture, as an influential  member of the Arts and Crafts Movement (an art and design movement of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth). Clover Signs produced more than a few Mackintosh-inspired signs, which were displayed on earlier blog posts. Maybe that’s why we received a request early last month from a customer in New Mexico, USA, who wanted an office sign in the Arts and Crafts style.

We first experimented with a font developed by Mackintosh himself, and later settled on P22 Arts and Crafts, developed by Mackintosh’s well-known contemporary Dard Hunter. Mackintosh was an architect from Glasgow, while Hunter was an expert on printing and traditional papermaking from Ohio, USA. The fact that two men in such diverse professions and locations  were both significant to the Arts and Crafts style, is tribute to the breadth and scope of the movement itself.

Arts and Crafts Book Cover Page

A Printed Page in the Arts & Cafts Style (image courtesy of Vamp & Tramp Booksellers)

The Arts and Crafts style gradually petered out around the time of the Second World War. But since the nineteen-seventies, there has been a noticeable revival of the style, especially in architecture & typography. Countless Arts-and-Crafts fonts continue to be designed and released, Canadian sign-maker Shane Durnford (and many other modern-day craftsmen) could be considered Arts-and-Crafts-inspired, and there will be a Dard Hunter Conference in St. Louis this October, sponsored by the Friends of Dard Hunter.

An Arts-and-Crafts-style house number sign by David Meddings

An “upcycled” Arts-and-Crafts-style house number sign by David Meddings

A Paper-Making Workshop by the Friends of Dard Hunter

A Paper-Making Workshop by the Friends of Dard Hunter

And what about the office sign?

Office Sign Revision 2

The Original Design

Office Sign Revision 3

With the new font & custom-design arrow to match

Office Sign Revision 6

The final design

Dard Hunter Inspired Sign

And the finished sign

So that’s our humble contribution to the Arts and Crafts Revival (hanging on an office door in New Mexico).

“The sign arrived today and I’m more than pleased with its design and quality – really beautiful work.  Thanks to you and your excellent staff! I’m also very impressed with your packaging.  It seems as close to “bulletproof” as one can achieve in a practical sense.” – Chris


A Growing Awareness of Signs & Type

“Signs are way-finding systems, but they are not just about navigation; they are about how we understand the environment. Signage is a component in our visual landscape, in the same way that architecture is, and industrial design. They are all parts of a very large system of how we read space and how we see ourselves.”

– Stephen Banham, Letterbox Design Studio

When signs make the news, it’s normally in an incidental sort of way – like when a truck hits one. Signage is everywhere but it is so omnipresent that most people hardly notice it. Of course, we signmakers are constantly stopping to inspect a fine hand-lettered specimen or a set of beautifully decaying metal letters – This habit sometimes annoys our friends – but for the unwashed masses, signs are occasionally read and very rarely admired.

However, there seems to be a gradual shift towards greater awareness of signage and typography. Recently, I saw an article entitled “Signposts point to a Font of Knowledge”, not in Signcraft Magazine, but in a mainstream newspaper (The Australian), interviewing Stephen Banham and Nadine Chahine about signs and type in Melbourne. Known as Australia’s “Cultural Capital”, Melbourne has probably a higher level of design awareness than most cities. After all, it even has a café named after a typeface (Helvetica). But the growing number of type- and signage-related websites and blogs reveal that signs are starting to be regarded as an art form (rather than just boring, functional “information boards”) in every quarter, not just the Garden City.

After all, we can’t let Melbourne have all the fun! Here’s a few pictures of classic metal letters (of which this area has a rich tradition), all within three minute’s walk of our shop:

Wrought Iron Gate Letters

A Gate on Brae Street

Metal Letters on a Gate

Metal numerals slowly shedding their paint

Wrought Iron Lettering

And finally, the pièce de résistance, a wrought iron gem on Wade Street. Once rectangular, this sign has now developed a stylish curve. I’ll admit, I flipped this image, so I could capture the sunset light behind, without mirror-writing.