Signwriting: revival everywhere

Back in June I posted a brief item about signwriting based on a photo of a couple of guys I noticed hard at work in my  town here in Australia (see here)Gilpin signwriting

I was delighted last night to catch on the local news a brief item about the work of a signwriter down in Newcastle, Australia by the name of Brett Piva. Check out this documentary movie. (You may also like to check out some of my past blogs on the subject.)

The reason give for the renewed interest in signwriting? It’s a reaction against: the non-creativity  of laser/vinyl printing etc; the desire to see the human touch and spirit; the  movement against conformity and sameness everywhere. This feeds into any kind of lettering – be in stone or on paper.

I’m greatly encouraged. Indeed Edward Catich, were he alive today, would have been delighted, since he  started off as a Chicago signwriter before he pursued research on Roman inscriptions that led to his marvellous and, still relevant, The Origin of the Serif.

Note – the illustration is taken from Lewery, A.J. (1989). Signwritten Art. David and Charles, London and shows the work of a Cumbrian (UK) tradesman.


Literature and lettering and signwriting

Possibly a rich resource, as yet untapped. Prompted by this paragraph in VS Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas, the eponymous ‘hero’ cast as a sign-writer.

‘So Mr Biswas became a sign-writer…He had been used to designing letters with pen and pencil and was afraid that he would not be able to control a brush with paint. But he found that the brush, though flattening out disconcertingly at first could be made to respond to the gentlest pressure; strokes were cleaner, curves truer. “Just turn the brush slowly in your fingers when you come to the curve,” Alec said; and curves had fewer problems after that. After IDLERS KEEP OUT BY ORDER he did more signs with Alec; his hands became surer, his strokes bolder, his feeling for letters finer. He thought R and S the most beautiful of Roman letters; no letter could express so many moods as R, without losing its beauty; and what could compare with the swing and rhythm of S?”

[A House for Mr Biswas, first published 1962. This edition, 1995, Everyman’s Library, p.72-73.]

Sounds as though Naipaul himself had been a sign-writer at one stage, or at least had spent time with one. Appreciate any similar from your readings.

[Illustrations taken from Signwork: A craftsman’s manual by Bill Stewart, 1984, Granada Technical Books, London; Signwritten Art by AJ Lewery, 1989, David & Charles, Newton Abbot.]