It's a sign! Why I'm learning about traditional signwriting this June

"Under the Rivington Street bridge in Shoreditch, London- awesome work by Eine." Photo By Martin Senyszak

Signwriting course

In June I have signed up for a traditional signwriting course with Joby Carter from Carters Steam Fair.

My hope is not to become a traditional signwriter but to get a better understanding of the skill to bring into both my art practice and my day job as a graphic designer and sign maker at Art Machine.

Overcoming roadblocks

I know it's a career that takes years to perfect and in some sense, I've left it too late to become an expert in the field. It will be a difficult skill to learn, and it could be I only scratch the surface. These are decisions for self development I have made only in the last few weeks, I'm wondering how I haven't noticed it untill now? The picture above is me surrounded by typographic street art, and having lived in Bristol, I was right in the middle of some opportunities I may have missed out on. I do feel like signwriting is having a bit of a come back moment, maybe I'm jumping on the bandwagon? Welcome to my internal monolouge.

Setting that aside, there is some solid reasoning and sparks forming in my brain:

Hopes and aspirations

Perhaps I can start to bring in some of the traditional skills to my practice and day job, but this shouldn't be the aim or motivation. There is a worry that shifting my focus to something like signwriting would take away from my overall goal to further develop the interactive aspect in my work, but what I'm trying to find is a connection between everything I do. The idea solves the struggle to how I think an interactive print or mural will look - it could be purely typographical.

Recently I've been asking myself "What am I trying to say with my artwork?" Signwriting could be the answer. Just thinking about Pinball Playable Prints, these visually latched on to the retro / nostalgic pinball machines but had digital elements embedded. Maybe with signwriting, there's a way to include digital elements that bring the sign to life. It sort of zooms out rather than focussing on a niche - the vintage, hand-made aesthetics of signwriting is the thing to latch on to.


The artist, designer, sign painter, Jeff Canham has a similar feel to how I imagine signwriting impacting my practice.

Jeff comes to signwriting from a Graphic Design background, as a way of bringing the two fields together to create art. The idea that these aren't exactly functional signs (in terms of advertising) hits true to how I feel I might use the skills in my work.

Taking the traditional skills and mixing them with modern techniques is the key.

"I guess I was more interested in learning the techniques and applying them to other things."

- Jeff Canham in Sign Painters documentary (from 30m40s)

Signwriting resources