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.
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?
As with all good things, there’s also a book version:
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!
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.”
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