Variations on an Original Signboard - General Store Sign

Here is a sign that I have made several times. We aren’t talking about a sign that was hanging during the days of ole George Washington, but probably something quite familiar in the mid-late 19th century time frame. It’s a ‘general store’ sign, meant to garner the attention of the local townspeople living near the store upon which it was proudly displayed.

No two general store signs were alike, as each proclaimed its unique array of goods that were sold in its vicinity. As such, I have taken my own liberties to customize this particular version. The source of inspiration was found in an online auction (courtesy of Garth’s Auctioneers and Appraisers). The image included here reflects the basic idea of the original sign and the subtle variations that were made in my efforts. The biggest change exists in the way of the color scheme used, but several items were omitted and / or replaced, as I wished to place my own ‘spin’ on it.


This sign is open to orders and can be found listed within my Reproduction Signs section.

Summer is waning and Fall is just around the corner

This is my “oh crud” blog post, wherein I begin to come to grips with the fact that my time is limited. Isn’t this the case for everyone?! However, what I mean is that my school year will be greeting me much sooner than I ever expect and the ability for me to work consistently on my sign commissions will be rather… shall I say “complicated”.

Change is inevitable and certainly something we all need in our daily lives, but I’m just throwing this out there - I will be limiting my commissions come fall. Well, let me rephrase that by stating that the rate with which I am able to complete my commissions may be a bit more prolonged. Those of you who know me and have been loyal patrons of my work certainly understand this and are quite familiar with the “good things… in due time, yadda-yadda” adage.

With such change in mind, I felt the need to post a few more images of a few select pieces of work. These are pieces that, in no particular order, have (at one point or another) been resident to my studio easel, workshop table, kitchen table (and yes, this does happen), or even my lap. At the time of creation, these signs inhabit every fiber of my life. If inanimate signs had a vocal capacity, each of mine could tell a story that is unique. While no two stories would be the same, they would all be quite interesting and full of rich character.

Each sign is a part of my life… my family for a brief time and there comes a point in time when I do have to let them go. This is the part when my story ends with the sign and your story begins! So, here are a few non-professional photographic images of some of my most recent gems… I hope you enjoy:) -Andy

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Newtown Library  Sign (Authentic Reproduction); Private client. The original sign was painted by esteemed American artist Edward Hicks.

Newtown Library Sign (Authentic Reproduction); Private client. The original sign was painted by esteemed American artist Edward Hicks.

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Summer 2019 update

Here are some odds and ends of my work, most done within the past year or so.

^Well, as I’m about to publish this, the reason why I don’t update my webpage (blog) often was reaffirmed. My MacBook 2008, which was used when I purchased it, has been chugging along for quite some time. Tonight, it is an understatement to say that it sounds as though I’ve strung it along far too long… the fan is running in full effect and the delays - oh THE DELAYS in my keystrokes and commands… well, it’s just enough to send me over the edge! I’m quite confident that there are very few things in life that are more annoying and aggravating to me.

Sorry for ranting, but I felt the need to explain just how pithy my website attention has been and, (case in point), just how ridiculous this particular blog post is. *I do have plenty more images that I would love to share with you right now, but my patience is waning quickly. I promise to find a remedy and provide you with a more respectful update of my work as of late.

Thanks in advance for your patience!

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Well, not sure if my blog is even followed by anyone - but in the interest of entertaining even a single soul who might subscribe... here is proof that I am indeed alive :)

Not being one for glossing up my website and maintaining a regular blog, those who know me "best" certainly understand that I'd much rather succumb to the gritty, rubber-meets-the-road side of the business. Essentially, this means that I have been up to my elbows in paint and sawdust - deeply engrossed in the production side of the sign business.

While the workshop /studio dimension is absolutely vital, it is also important - I suppose - to take a bit of time, now and then, in order to reflect and explain to the vast audience of our free world what the heck I have been up to. Being a true sucker for overdoing a given task, I will not fall victim to lighting this humble blog post up in any way... Rather, I am going to dump a potpourri of images that reflect, in some small way, the fruits of my labor. Some of the pics are older than others and in no way is the collection a comprehensive account of my activity since the last update.

In the spirit of brevity, I'll end my words now. Thanks for reading! My hope is that the visual language of pictures serves as a sufficient means for such an update.


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Here is a picture provided from a loyal customer; The  A Phelps' Lion  sign was a new addition to their display and seems to make good company with the  Starbuck's Tavern Whale .

Here is a picture provided from a loyal customer; The A Phelps' Lion sign was a new addition to their display and seems to make good company with the Starbuck's Tavern Whale.

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Here is another image reflecting one of my signs on display, in a patron's house. This was a rather large sign (actually, scaled to the dimension of the original), yet in such an expansive living space, it appears quite modest. What a terrific setting, though!

Here is another image reflecting one of my signs on display, in a patron's house. This was a rather large sign (actually, scaled to the dimension of the original), yet in such an expansive living space, it appears quite modest. What a terrific setting, though!

Something rather hidden, unless you have purchased one of my signs, is the special attention I provided to the reverse sides of my work. Of course - the front of a single-sided sign is 'where it's at'; however, I feel that it is crucial that the back side is finished off with the appropriate degree of completeness also. Personally, I enjoy the richness of character offered in the old wood used to make my signs.

Something rather hidden, unless you have purchased one of my signs, is the special attention I provided to the reverse sides of my work. Of course - the front of a single-sided sign is 'where it's at'; however, I feel that it is crucial that the back side is finished off with the appropriate degree of completeness also. Personally, I enjoy the richness of character offered in the old wood used to make my signs.

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Fine art prints of my tavern signs

This summer has proven to be yet another enjoyable chapter in the novel that is my life. While I certainly found time to relish special moments with my family, the clarion call to create signs for my loyal customers was certainly strong. As I look ahead, the fall season appears to be very promising - undoubtedly full of new opportunities to work with both my loyal customer base and anyone else desiring to own one of my hand-painted signs. Establishing the acquaintance of new customers has always been a part of my business that I hold very dear to my heart. Each client becomes yet another treasured page in my story.

Well, here is something new. I have finally decided to create a slightly different aspect to my offerings. While I certainly have no intention of altering the manner in which I hand-paint each of my wooden signs, I intend to address what has been both a silent ambition maintained throughout the past decade as well as an intermittent request initiated by several customers throughout my tavern-sign-reproduction journey. Yes, I am now offering small edition fine art giclee prints of a select number of my tavern signs.

Practically speaking, some of you do not need to own a large wooden sign. Furthermore, many of us do not have the wall space required for some of my signs. In each of our houses, we know that there exists that prominent, yet modest, sliver of wall space that screams for attention; yet, nothing truly seems to fulfill its demand. The good news is that maybe - just maybe - one of my modestly-scaled prints would solve this home decor hurdle.

I have priced the prints to a very modest margin and feel that, given the upcoming holidays, my customers will find them to be desirable for family gifts. My plan is to feature a rotation of prints as time goes on. As this kicks off, I will hand select approximately 5 images for a period of time. As the season transitions, I will switch these out and replace the offerings with 5 fresh choices.

Check out the initial print collection here and feel free to comment or email me with any questions. I would love to hear from you as well, in terms of your thoughts on my decision to offer my work in the way of fine art prints. Just to reiterate, in no way do I intend on replacing or undermining the true nature of my business with these prints... Nothing comes close to rivaling the unique qualities offered by the 'real deal' - a physical hand-painted wooden sign, full of character, patina and texture. However, I do hope that my prints will satisfy a worthy niche that certainly exists in the world of those great people who possess a passion for historic tavern signage.

A busy summer ahead!

Tavern Signs are in demand!

Summer is here

Well, we are now fully immersed in the month of June, with the Independence Day close in our sights. In effort to provide a mere update, I will provide you with some pictures of my most recent signboard reproduction - this one being the faithful old lion that Arah Phelps decided would best reflect his tavern's character, many years ago.

Follow either of the following links to learn more about the history of the original sign:

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More pictures of this sign

Here are some further pictures of this sign, as one picture can hardly convey the sheer brute gravity that this embodies, when viewed in person. The molding used was custom made, of course. But, when I milled the wood for this sign, I chose to mirror the decorative profile for both the front and reverse side. Although this sign (as are most all of my orders) is a single-sided reproduction, the original signboard would have sported both of its surfaces with equal visibility. The original signboard's reverse (side 2) contains an equally mighty eagle and would have been displayed in a manner conducive to equal visibility from either side [see visuals below].

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I am going to attempt to insert a short video (below). If all goes well, you will be able to click it and view some footage of me trying to capture more than what I feel one picture frame is capable. Nothing beats viewing any work of art in person, but maybe this will help bridge the gap in the meantime.

Here (below), you can see the reverse of this signboard. The planks have originally been connected by domino joints. Although is was not entirely necessary, the reverse perimeter has been reinforced with wooden strips. This did allow for additional surface area for attaching the perimeter molding and also provided a nice structure on which the hanging hardware could be secured.

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For those of you who may be considering a custom order, I recommend that you touch base with me asap; I am looking down the pike and can see that I will be extremely busy in the upcoming months. Feel free to browse the "available now" signs, as these are ready for immediate dispatch.

What ever happened to Customer Service? (Part 1 - CS Series)

A word or two on Customer Service...

As a consumer, I find “customer service” to be an essential ingredient within my personal consumer formula. Countless times, my decisions (some of them quite momentous, I might add) have hinged on the subtle experiences relating to the service experience in which I am confronted. Honesty, transparency and a willingness on the part of an establishment’s service members seems to be something of a lost art… speaking from my own, personal perspective, of course.

Certainly, it’s not hard to find a customer service representative at any given establishment who is oozing with zealous energy, but I often question the motives behind many such smiling faces. For example, what motivates this man or woman? Is it a commission that can be gained from a sale made on my behalf? A step closer to a promotion? Might this individual actually have nothing more to gain from me than the personal satisfaction that their eager help will increase my life through my newfound interaction with their product / service?

Is it really a lost art, in such a short period of time?

Smart, conscious consumers must wonder about these things. I mean – when I was a young kid accompanying my parents on their ritual errand runs, I never questioned the quality customer service that I witnessed all around me. Whether it be seen in the eyes of a restaurant waitress, the knowledgeable words offered by an employee at Sears, or in the helpful hands of the customer service representatives who combed the expansive aisles of the local lumber yard in search of facilitating the experience of the typical weekend warrior – I simply cannot recall any negative feeling about our consumer experiences.  I hate to swallow the feeling that “customer service is a lost art”. That said, I cannot help but say that – because I rarely witness the same care today (in relation to what I recall as a child), when I am met with what I consider to be ‘quality customer service’, it most certainly possesses overwhelming power. This power compels me to feelings of great respect and, quite honestly, the results are most certainly quite favorable for the service representative. Okay – I suppose that I’m a sucker for good service. Call me whatever you like, I have a substantial weakness here.

More than a sign

It is with this sentiment that I can only hope that those with whom I have done business regard my sign business. I have always maintained that my customers, though their goal is obviously attaining a finished product from my hand, receive much more from me. The process of any given commission has as much to do with the “experience” as it does the “product”. To this thought, I feel it important to state that it’s the diversity of experiences encountered with my customers that makes me want to continue doing what I do. Who on earth would ever want to reproduce a limited number of museum quality signs, over and over? While I do indeed enjoy a degree of the inevitable monotony that accompanies this gig, it is the colorful people who commission work from me who make the work exciting and rewarding.

Why my work is different than other "sign painters"

1. Communication

Some of the things that I do to ensure that my customers a positive experience have to do with communication. Especially with custom work, it is critical that I communicate via email or phone – in order to establish a common understanding of the desires and expectation for a given job. Throughout the process of sign creation, I find it helpful to provide regular progress updates – many times in a visual form. Technology certainly makes this effort much more efficient and effective.

Maintaining a healthy dialogue throughout the process is essential to providing my customers with a work of art that is not only satisfactory, but exemplary with respect to their original expectations. Sometimes a batch of pictures will more clearly illustrate my progress; Other times, a short video clip taken with my handy-dandy iPhone will serve to convey the status of a particular job. Ultimately, the last thing I would want to happen is for a customer to anxiously walk their package into their home, open it up and remain surprised by something that was less than impressive and / or something that was not reflective of the commission they called for.

Stay tuned for a second edition to this series on "Customer Service". In the next post, I will reveal the second point which I feel distinguishes my work from any other sign painters.

Nostalgia, reflection & my very first sign?

My very first sign?

As the 2016 year mysteriously (I mean, like - wasn't it just March!?) comes to a close, I find it appropriate to reflect - not only on this year, but 'in general'.

A few months ago, my dad told me he had something very interesting to show me. He alluded that it somehow related to my present endeavor in sign-making, but wanted to surprise me.  Being an appreciator of mystery and suspense, I eagerly anticipated what this enigma might be. When my dad ultimately revealed this item to me, my face instantly lit up. My face wore a large grin - the kind that can only be rendered by a great wave of nostalgia. Before my eyes, I witnessed what may possibly represent my "very first signboard". This rather small object powerfully time-warped me to my early adolescence. All but three decades were vaporized by the mere sight of it.

So, what exactly was this object? Well, it was a sign that I had made for my dad... one that was created a very long time ago. The sign itself had been forgotten (at least the details of it), yet its presence triggered a boatload of nostalgia for me. Somewhere in this nostalgia, I may have pinpointed an early seed that affirms my present efforts in 'sign making'. If I have your interest, please read on...

As a young boy, my dad maintained a part-time / side business (much like the sign business here) that was run from a small, detached cement-block building located a mere stone's-throw from our family house. When he wasn't tinkering, my dad spent his time repairing radiators in this building. The business was aptly named Jim's Radiator Service and its humble headquarters represented, for me, a sheer wonderland for my own imagination. To this day, I would hold my dad's work ethic up to anyone who proclaims to be a 'hard worker'.  His full-time factory job demanded great energy from him. To boot, most weeks were overflowing in overtime hours, of which he took full advantage. Despite this, my dad spent considerable time in his small unassuming garage space - engaging in the gritty pursuit of radiator repair.

Like most good kids my age, I delighted in offering my dad a helping hand (<<< Not always, but most times). Not one to engage in the specialty tasks that would be performed in this small space (such as: welding, grinding, or soldering), I oftentimes reached for the broom and dustpan - making small strides each session to reveal the hidden cement floor that lied beneath the layers of debris and dust. Great pride was taken in my "garage-beautification" efforts, as the words and facial expressions from my dad's face were more than affirming to me - his loyal helper. Sometimes, I would reach the point in my organizational activity where I felt that 'everything that can possibly be done had thoroughly been done';  While I would love to go back in time to observe whether or not I was indeed correct in such assessments (haha), I am happy to say that such milestones would permit me the opportunity to engage in hands-on creation of my own.

Such creation fell into one of two activities - using a wood-burning tool to make marks on wood or grinding into wood with an electric Dremel tool. Yes, employing the good ol' Dremel tool would ironically contradict the clean-up efforts that, most likely, preceded this. But, this point merely confirms my mom's all too familiar statement of me - that "There is nothing more enticing to you than a clean room." Yes, I absolutely love to begin a new hands-on activities in a clean environment, but I regress... :)

Most of the time, I would make various types of signs with these tools, much like the cool CNC-routered specimens I would casually admire at places like the Ocean City boardwalk, various trade shows and the annual York County Fair. I recall making signs stating words and expressions like "Open" and "Jim's Radiator Service", but also remember a few depicting scenes of whitetail deer and game fish. Wearing my safety goggles, I would hack away at my creations - most times within a veil of secrecy. You see - it was my intention to unveil these masterpieces to my dad or other family members as surprises.

Finally cutting to my point, the following example represents one such creation. In my mind's eye, this sign was much more fabulous and grandiose. My dad explained just how much this sign meant to him, especially way back then - when I initially presented him with what I considered the manifestation of my artistic genius. I recall the feeling vividly... it was as if my soul was smiling and bubbling with joy over the satisfaction that met the shock of this well-calculated surprise. To this day, I still thrive on the creation of such emotional well-springs. There are few more authentic indicators of satisfaction to an artist / craftsman than the positive reaction on the part of a person receiving a work in hand.

To this end, it is my hope that my efforts in creating continue to bring joy to my customers. While I'm no longer a small kid working away in the corner of a small cinder block radiator shop, but my goal remains the same - to bring a special element of surprise and great pleasure to whomever rests at the receiving end of my creation.


The Bell-in-Hand-Tavern (Boston, MA)

In keeping with my thoughts about creating tavern signs for establishments that once existed (the approach I have called "historical fiction"), I have forged ahead with yet another historical treasure. This time, I attempted to breath life into what has been called "America's first tavern". The Bell-in-Hand Tavern in Boston claims to have poured the first draft of cold beer in the year 1795.

Serving as a busy hub for printers and politicians, sailors and students, in no time at all, this New England watering hole established itself as the most prominent alehouse in Boston. The first owner of this famous establishment was Jimmy Wilson. The name sounds quite common to our modern ears, and in the streets of Revolutionary Boston, it was one that, more than likely, every Bostonian knew very well.

What was it about his tavern that made his name so familiar to everyone in Boston? Well, for Jimmy Wilson, such "fame" (as we refer to it today) derived initially from the fact that he, for some fifty years, had served as the town crier to his beloved neighbors. Being the bearer of news (good, bad or indifferent), Wilson had established himself within the hearts and minds of his city's populous. When he retired from his long-tenured post, he decided to open a bar. It would only seem fitting that his choice in naming this tavern be "The Bell-in-Hand".

So, what was so interesting about Jimmy Wilson's tavern? Well, this tavern not only insisted in the exclusive serving of ale (as opposed to the litany of standard liquors popular at the time), each drink order was served in two mugs. Apparently, one mug was used for the ale; the other held its frothy byproduct. As thick as the news Wilson had, for so many years, dispensed to his fellow citizenry, so too was the elixir served from his tap.

To this day, this tavern is in full operation - 45 Union Street, Boston, MA. Obviously, the establishment has changed substantially in both appearance and tradition. I mean, surely Jimmy Wilson would appear puzzled to learn that the Bell-in-Hand rocks a Facebook page! The menu offerings have inevitably grown to meet the needs of Boston's thirsty inhabitants and visitors. Within the rapid pace of Boston's daily life (considered a 'rat-race' to many), the cacophony resulting from the hustle and bustle can easily find its way from the streets into establishments like the Bell-in-Hand, attempting to distract us from enjoying a small piece of mind whilst in the company of our good friends and a cool beverage.

Despite this, I'll wager that - if one stops to listen very hard (even during happy hour) - they just might hear the sound of a singular bell ringing, finding its way through the thick crowd of this glorious alehouse... an echo which began in the wake of the Revolution; one that today reminds us of our American spirit and the need to unite with our fellow man / woman over a cold mug of ale.

My thought process

So, after my digging and learning about this amazing tavern, I located a very interesting panel that once rested inside a shutter, possibly a door. The physical surface was perfect for this venture, as I proceeded to apply layers and layers of paint, in hopes to create the appearance of a substrate that had bore witness to years and years of experience amidst a tavern environment - the smoke, soot, changes in temperature, sunlight, occasional repair / repainting, cleaning, and the possible slight alteration here and there to the sign's design.

My aim was to create something that would have functioned as a secondary sign, not the main exterior billboard that would have graced the exterior. This sign would have rested above the fireplace mantel, possibly behind the bar... in either case, a product of pride in the establishment; one that reminded the customers within that they were indeed, even if for a small time, a true part of this environment. The color choices - red and teal/green - might appear strange at first. However, by integrating this scheme within multiple layers of varnish and washes, the results are harmonious. I particularly enjoy seeing the highly saturated versions of the red and green poke through here and there, even though they are present in small and subtle measure. The gravy-brown tonality serves to unify the entire sign, holding the visual aesthetic together.

As of today, this sign is available for purchase. This is an original work and rather exclusive, so I encourage you to act swiftly. I may or may not choose to make more like this, but am certain that there will not be two alike... the panel used for this sign was a true maverick, hiding deep within my stockpile of surfaces. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to see additional photos of this piece. Thank you for reading!


The finished sign, available for purchase.

The finished sign, available for purchase.


Bookbinders Seafood House - UPDATE!


Check out my previous blog "A Philadelphia Treasure, Bookbinder's Seafood House" to view my update. The sign has been painted and is included for your viewing pleasure. I will be placing it for sale in the upcoming day or so, featuring it on my "Available Now" page. This is a one-of-a-kind sign and certainly something that any dyed-in-the-wool Philadelphia-history-lover would be glad to have in their collection.

Here is another picture of this custom sign - taken 'straight-on'.

Here is another picture of this custom sign - taken 'straight-on'.


Link to previous blog entry:

A Philadelphia Treasure, Bookbinder's Seafood House

In the spirit of the upcoming July 4th holiday, a time in which all good Americans pause to celebrate the remarkable independence that so powerfully set our nation apart from our European motherland. Such independence is felt no stronger than in the aptly-deemed "city of brotherly love". Yes, the great city of Philadelphia - "Olde City, Philadelphia" to be rather specific - resonates with the echoes of our founding fathers.

Olde City, Philadelphia

Olde City, Philadelphia

If you haven't visited Olde City, you are really missing out. Just stop and take a moment to observe. The internal energy one experiences in this great city seems to reaffirm the suspicion that these great citizens are still heeding Benjamin Franklin's encouragement and hope for the American citizenry... To apply oneself towards the pursuit of happiness.

Within the junction of 5th & Market Streets, one can peer through the glass encasement in their efforts to capture a glimpse of the famous Liberty Bell. Just across Market Street, a priceless, unobstructed front-on view of Independence Hall can be appreciated. This ancient building remains one of the greatest icons associated with the birth of our great nation - its symmetry reminding us of the objectivity and equality of mind in which our Constitution's framers aimed to maintain, despite such tumultuous circumstances and uncertain times facing them.

The  Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

In our modern day, few working cities maintain such a pure, uncompromising agenda for reflecting their Colonial aesthetic. Olde City, despite the inevitable dash of neon and intermittent office high rise sprinkled here and there, leaves very little to our imaginations as to, say, what Ben Franklin may have seen in his day. Yes, there is that awkward sound caused by wide, rubber tires traversing the rough and irregular surface of these gorgeous cobblestone streets; However, the sound of a horse and carriage clip-clapping through a nearby side street easily cancels this out... and, with minimal effort, we can transport ourselves back to the earlier version of this amazing, historically-rich city.

So, what does all of this have to do with my sign business? Great question. I'm proud of your reading this far! Well, as I mention in my last post, the idea of creating historical-looking signs for establishments which no longer exist really excites me. For my first example, I decided to pursue what was once a true landmark within the construct of Philadelphia restaurants - Bookbinder's Seafood House, Inc., located in Olde City at the junction of Walnut & 2nd Streets. While this is the original location, a second location was later opened in Center City (15th Street). You can learn more about the history of this restaurant here [Wikipedia entry].

The very first time I stepped foot in Philadelphia, I recall walking past this restaurant. Posted to the front of the aesthetically charming facade of this establishment was a sign, indicating it was anything but 'open for business'. Interestingly, the past decade has bore witness to several attempts to reopen the restaurant - the most recent attempt appearing to be quite substantial.

While the reopening of Bookbinder's  (A Retro Restaurant Re-imaged [Phillymag]) is a very exciting prospect for both visitors and nearby residents, my focus centers on the long legacy of the establishment - from 1865 until my first experience with this gloriously defunct facade that I recall filling me simultaneously with both nostalgia and deep sadness.

The origin of my venture began when I noticed a cool wooden panel that was propped up against a wall adjacent my easel. Recognizing its rich potential as a sign substrate, it had been recently relocated from my storage stash to the more immediate proximity within my home. A recent glance gave way to my decision to forge ahead with my idea, the one in which I would create an original tribute to what I then considered an unfortunate 'defunction' of a once glorious establishment. I was going to create a hypothetical historical sign for the Bookbinder's Seafood House... & what better time than now?!

Modest research rendered substantial amounts of visual fodder, much of which fell under the category of graphics and advertisements. Menus, newspaper flyers, matchbooks and various memorabilia... all revealed a decent degree of visual unity. Subtle variations existed within these graphics, but the bold typography, the lobster silhouette / motif, and the affinity towards the salmon / red colors punctuated by black and white accents remained quite consistent. The numerous photographs found in my quest enriched the visual experience, most of which reflected the notion that this restaurant was endeared by both blue collar and the more affluent patrons. Many of the photographs tend to feature the decades of the 70s and 80s... the result, a true "vintage" aesthetic in the truest sense of the word.

My visual fodder - garnered from my visual research

My visual fodder - garnered from my visual research

My goal was to take the best from my visual fodder and synthesize them into a harmonious composition. After importing the picture of my wooden panel into Photoshop, I began building the composition over top. The central panel motif seemed perfect for the red lobster silhouette, common to almost all Bookbinder graphic material. Historically speaking - simple, large, bold motifs have traditionally found their way into the sign compositions of most establishments, serving their timeless role as a concise, democratic beacon to any and all who set gaze their way. In this case, there is no mistaking the probability that this big red lobster would indicate something other than hot, fresh, delicious seafood.

The bold typography for the upper and lower horizontal frame / molding was garnered from two different matchbox designs. The framework surrounding the inner panel's perimeter was inspired by a photograph depicting the restaurant's exterior window structure and design - the beautiful intermingling of both teal and salmon pinstripes. The ivy sprigs which flank the upper left and right corners of the sign have their origins in an illustrated graphic that depicts the restaurant's facade. In this illustration, a large, horizontal sign is shown secured in an overhead position, within the structure of the restaurant's bump-out / entryway. A close examination of this illustrated sign reveals these ivy sprigs, elements that I haven't found elsewhere in "Bookbinder-world".

References to the two locations have been incorporated into the sign, as are both the "PHILAD-A." and the business's date of establishment, 1865. Here is this digital composition, as it stands today (below). Bear in mind that this digital sketch is rough and merely serves the purpose of getting a sense of what works and what doesn't work, visually.

I will be revisiting the composition and tweaking things here and there. Then, once I am content with how it looks from this "sketch form", I will proceed to execute the "real sign" using paint. These updates will be included, so stay tuned!


My digital comp / sketch, to date

My digital comp / sketch, to date

Update: Saturday, July 16

I have managed to squeeze in some small sessions on this, here and there - in between my present commissions. Not one to articulate every step (for fear of keeping some of my trade secrets safe), I have snapped a few process pictures involved with the actual creation of this sign.

As you can see here, the digital composition established was printed out and used to mark-out the general elements on the physical substrate. These serve as reference marks (guides) for me during the painting process.

Once I am satisfied with the overall layout in pencil, my attention is turned to the medium of paint. For this particular signboard, I felt it extremely important to honor the existing surface patina of the panel. In order to maintain the beauty of what only time could produce, I applied the paint in a very light-handed manner. Had I laid the paint on thickly and then later relied on subtractive measures, such as sanding or chipping to create an aged finish, the results would have (more than likely) caused irreparable collateral changes to the existing surface surrounding the lettering and images.

I'll provide one trade secret - used on some occasions and only employed when it fits. It fit here. In order to gain a time-eroded finish, I applied a "tacky masking agent" to specific areas of the painted surface. As long as the paint had thoroughly dried, this technique worked wonderfully. By applying various degrees of pressure to this "mask", and then lifting (again, to various degrees and angles), I was able to subtract subtle pieces of the painted design.

The result is reflective of a physical surface that has been susceptible to the gentle chipping, flaking and fading that accompanies the test of time.  Yet, it is important to understand that the overall integrity of the image remaining is stable. The trick here is to apply this masking technique as timely as possible. For example, attempting to lift-off of the same sign a couple of days after it had been painted would not yield the same results; The paint would have created a solid bond to the surface and to its neighboring paint molecules.


Links for further exploration:

Google search – “Bookbinders Seafood Philadelphia”

This link explains the second Bookbinder’s venue, opened on 15th Street
Philaphilia (blog) - Old-Ass Building of the Week, November 14th (2011)


Historical fiction? thoughts of a new direction

Good evening. I thought I'd take this opportunity to get some of my thoughts out in a written form. Pardon my casual style and what will surely be a reflection lacking a true organized structure. I had toyed with a similar idea in years past, but within the recent week or so, the notion of paving a unique path reintroduced itself to me. Being someone who never lacks curiosity or desire for exploring new creative avenues, my trouble has been quelling these geysers that boil within me. Why change, when things are going just fine, right?

Honestly, I must admit that things are going quite fine and I enjoy creating museum-quality reproduction signs for my customers. That said, I really do desire to extend my efforts in a more novel manner. Operating within the genre of 'hand-painted signboards', I want to forge a path that is unique... to offer my customers something that is not typically offered or easily found. What is this uniqueness of which I speak?

Well, here it is... How cool would it be to create a fresh line of hand-painted tavern signs for establishments that no longer exist?! Those of you reading this far into my post will surely (and correctly, I might add) retort with the question / proclamation: "Well, aren't the respective buildings that once featured your reproduction signs long gone?" I would affirm your question; the physical buildings of such signs are made known to us only through what we call provenance.

Provenance is founded research / documentation that attests to an art object's 'life story', prior to its present home - on the wall of a museum, private residence or existence on an auction block. So, until now, my work has been based creating authentic reproductions of actual originals - objects that still exist and can be experienced on a physical level. Most all of these signs possess a wealth of interesting provenance, gathered through the years.

But, what about the establishments that no longer exist... Some such establishments boast some rich provenance, yet lack any concrete visual manifestation of what their building's signboard may have looked. As an artist, I feel great sympathy for these buildings and both my imagination and my humanitarianism begin to slowly stir deep within me. They fuel my desire to consider what once existed... what may have been lost...

The reality is: For some taverns, very little documentation exists. We might find evidence / mention of a tavern's name. For example, a Philadelphia gazette published in the 18th Century may have cited or referred to a tavern by, say, the name of "The Green Dragon". Let's say that this casual mention is all we have; that little or no evidence may exist - testifying to its exact location with the city or anything else. What should be we do with this information - dismiss it on the basis of its scantiness or indulge our imaginations with the great possibilities as to its appearance, its role in Early America, its colors, sights, smells and sounds?

On the other hand, there are some taverns with which we have an abundance of documentation. Yet, in such cases, no true example of its signage exist. In many cases, we can find written accounts, in which someone describes (in their own words) how a given tavern's signboard appeared.

In any case, my idea is this... to provide an artistic interpretation (hypothetical, though it may be) as to what these lost establishments' signs may have looked like. Call my effort "lending an artistic voice to America's lost past," or "re-visualizing the past by filling in the gaps"; However you state it, I feel called to explore this approach.

For example:

NYC's  Old Town Bar (Restaurant)

NYC's Old Town Bar (Restaurant)

In New York City, the Old Town Bar ( on 18th Street (ca. 1892) still maintains a rich traditional appearance, despite its presence within a contemporary metropolis, bustling with electricity and modern spirit. Its iconic neon sign still graces the passersby - an amazing extension of the magnificent building - hovering above the sidewalk in gesture of warm invitation. Who doesn't love neon lights?! But, how might have the original sign appeared? Do you think it resembled its neon successor in any way(s)?

Another example:

La Closerie des Lilas  (Paris, France)

La Closerie des Lilas (Paris, France)

Although not an American example, La Closerie des Lilas ( opened its doors in 1847 to a Paris bustling with modern, creative energies. For reasons that are somewhat elusive, it has always been a preferred spot and draw card for both literati and artists - beginning with late 19th-century French greats such as Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine. Both Romantic poets penned some of their tortured verses at tables here. Later, at the turn of the twentieth century it was favored as a watering hole and literary salon for the likes of poet Guillaume Apollinaire.

In the 1920's, American expatriate artists and writers hobnobbed here and affectionately wrote about La Closerie, including Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and John Dos Passos. Mostly seen as a quaint tribute to its past glories today, La Closerie continues to attract prominent French writers, as well as aspiring Americans who can only hope that the nostalgic ambiance will, in some magical way, help them produce the next great epic novel.

La Closerie des Lilas  (Paris, France); Image taken from  La Closerie des Lilas  webpage, featuring its rich historical roots.

La Closerie des Lilas (Paris, France); Image taken from La Closerie des Lilas webpage, featuring its rich historical roots.

In the image above, we capture a glimpse of one of the original signs that adorned the exterior of the building. But, one cannot help but wonder what other signs may have belonged to this establishment's family of signage. Most certainly, La Closerie would have held a host of interior signs, employing the written word to gently direct, guide and inform its clientele of its subtle facets and offerings. Did such modest interior signs look similar to its exterior parent? One can only wander.

Learning curve, or is it a "curb"?

Well, I'm continuing to make headway on this expedition that I call a "website overhaul". Please continue to check things out, as I'm discovering that the digital fluency maintained in my twenties has been drastically undermined by the otherwise new technologies and modalities available to us. Basically, I'm saying that my old 'expertise' is, well.... just that... old. Quite irrelevant, one might say.

That said, I'm fighting the good fight - learning how the new web-based interfaces and networks behave. While my website will probably never be something 'sensational', that is not my primary goal. My goal is to create an online presence that features my work to potential customers in a clear and concise manner.

As time permits, I may attempt to integrate some in-progress pictures here and there. As a teacher of art, I understand the value that exists in the process of art-making. I have also learned that people gain a deeper appreciation for any given work of art when they are able to understand the thinking, trial-and-error, human toil and various techniques underlying its creation. Stay tuned for this.

Again - thanks for your patience, as we strive to make this site better for you.

-Andy and Angie

What fuels me?

My provincial business is the result of my love and appreciation for art, antiques, and Americana in general. From a very young age, my family's quaint but cozy Pennsylvania home reflected my mother's warm taste of primitive Americana. As I grew, so too did my understanding of these beautiful, hand-wrought pieces that surrounded me.

I can recall the uniqueness of many of these works, as each season and subsequent year exposed me to a new wave of visual enjoyment. The colors, patinas, shapes and textures of her collections form the basis for much of my childhood memories - a rich tapestry woven in love and family tradition.

My own affinity for this genre, coupled with my fond memories have fueled my passion, well into my adulthood. I suppose that this business is, in some small way, an attempt to extend my love and experience to others. Maybe this is my own attempt to contribute a verse or two to what I consider to be one of the greatest stories ever told - our story, the story of the American people.