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:

tavern sign_colonial american sign company
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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].

lion tavern sign_walker_a phelps inn

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.

tavern sign_stamping_walker
colonial american sign company_tavern sign_tag_logo

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: