The Lost Industry of Sign Painters


16th Apr, 2013

Sometimes I wonder about things like, who’s going to know how to make a piano in twenty years? Which skills will go extinct when the last generations of craftsmen and artisans can’t pass on the legacy of their trade? Forbes recently reported that despite a stubbornly high unemployment rate, skilled trades top the list of the most difficult jobs to fill in America for the third consecutive year.

I’ve found some comfort however, in a new documentary following an unlikely renaissance of the lost and invisible trade of sign painting. Filmakers, photographers and now writers,  Faythe Levine and Sam Macon teamed up to write a book and produce a documentary movie all about the lost art, profiling sign painters young and old, who actually use a brush, paint, tools, and old-school techniques to create beautiful shop signs, sky high murals and generally produce some of the most stunning typographic art in the world…

Here is an overview of the project:

There was a time, as recently as the 1980s, when storefronts, murals, banners, barn signs, billboards, and even street signs were all hand-lettered with brush and paint. But, like many skilled trades, the sign industry has been overrun by the techno-fueled promise of quicker and cheaper. The resulting proliferation of computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering and inkjet printers has ushered a creeping sameness into our landscape. Fortunately, there is a growing trend to seek out traditional sign painters and a renaissance in the trade.

Now let’s check out the trailer, full of fantastic visuals:

The documentary will be touring indie theatres all Spring and Summer, check here to see if your city is on the list. And if you’re a typography lover, I suggest you make the book your latest addition to the coffee table!

via The Jealous Curator




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