Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
A city is only as good as its signs.
Filmmakers Faythe Levine and Sam Macon tackle the world of the men and women who paint signs -- don't dare call them a dying breed -- in the documentary Sign Painters, which comes out later this year.
The world of sign painting has changed:
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 pendulum may be coming back the other way, though. The craft renaissance has put sign-painters on the upswing, as advertisers seek the luster of a hand-painted sign.
The trailer hints not only at some very beautiful craftsmanship and design, but also at some wonderful characters, people who say things like: "On my gravestone, it's going to say, 'He died for greater opacity.'"
There's a companion book, which was released in November by Princeton University Press, and contains a foreword by art world legend Ed Ruscha.
HT Laughing Squid.
Top image: screengrab from the Sign Painters trailer.