A Look Back: A Brush with Letterheads
Since I retired from the Young Sign Company a few years ago, I still like to stop in the shop to visit the children and grandchildren. Each time I stop I learn something new about the sign business. This week I went through a stack of sign magazines and one of them caught my eye named “Signs and Digital Graphics." As I thumbed through this magazine I noticed an article about “The Letterheads” which were a group of sign painters still active in Colorado. Their purpose is to teach younger sign painters the craft of hand lettering, as it is becoming a lost art.
The Letterheads started about 1982 in Denver by seven talented sign painters and the movement spread nationwide. My first experience with this was a meeting in Kansas City, Missouri and continued to meet with area sign artists in various locations including our own sign shop in Leavenworth. We had very informal meetings. There was no set time or place for these meetings, the sign painters just got together and talked about the business. This was before computers and each sign painter used lettering brushes. Each had his own style and technique and after a while they could be recognized by their individuality.
I was fortunate enough to attend a class in our area that had invited Mike Jackson who was known as the best layout artist in the country. He was from Jackson Hole, Wyo., and this was about 25 years ago. He has since passed away and was quite a great teacher. We had to pay to have him come and he invited each of us in for a personal interview. His statement was “if you cannot take criticism, I don’t want you in my class." His reasoning was, you had to be able to find fault with your own work or you would never improve. The students were a combination of pin stripers and sign painters.
Today, almost all signs are created by talented designers on computers and printers.