Reviving the Tradition of Hand-Painted Signs

Once upon a time, every new business hired a professional artist to design their signs, decorate their windows, and even cover the sides of their buildings. The sign painter was not only an artist, but a designer, typographer, marketing director, editor, and contractor. The remnants of their work from decades ago are pleasing to the eye even today. What happened to sign painters? They were replaced by technology and the do-it-yourself culture. Print shops, then mass-produced sign companies, then home computers all made custom signs faster and cheaper -not necessarily better.

But artisanal sign painters aren't extinct, just rare. Collectors Weekly talked to filmmaker Faythe Levine, who, along with Sam Macon, produced a film and book about sign painters, their craft, and how it's experiencing a sort of modern revival.  

Collectors Weekly: Is the revival of hand-painted signs part of this larger trend for artisan, hand-crafted culture?

Levine: Personally, I would say yes. I think that today more people want to know where their eggs come from. People are interested in their jeans being manufactured within the same region as where they buy them. I think hand-painted signs are part of this larger change, but I also think that there’s another audience that’s into design-related things. I think when people like designers and typographers have access to the history of hand paint, they just eat it up.

They talk about the history of hand-painted signs, the craftsmanship involved, and the different kinds of artisanal signage in the interview at Collectors Weekly

(Image courtesy of Faythe Levine and Sam Macon)


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