Writing signs by hand might be considered anachronistic but Tinsmiths has had a wall waiting for the right writer for ten or so years. Last week, signwriter Hannah Whaler originally from Malvern, brought her brushes and brilliance to Tinsmiths Alley and enlivened the space. Her canvas, long and thin, stretched down the alleyway to Ledbury High Street providing passersby with a harbinger of what they could expect if they followed Hannah’s sign.
To see a short video of the finished sign click here. Tinsmiths Way In Sign.
Three days of painting and a creation – part fairground, almost steampunk but more than anything a celebration of type with convincing 3D drop shadows – was complete and clients absolutely thrilled with it. Before Hannah (23yrs) departed we asked her a few questions about her career to date.
How did you get interested in hand-painting signs?
I first became interested in hand painted signage when I was at university in Falmouth studying Illustration. We were taught how important it was to be able to understand and work with type, often with illustration your images end up responding to or accompanying text, with book covers and posters especially. Once I started looking into vintage lettering styles (all of which are designed and drawn/carved by hand) my obsession began. I moved from drawing letters to painting them, training myself to use a brush and understanding proportion and layouts.
What sustains your interest?
I’m really inspired by all the traditional cultures that surround and stem from sign painting – so the circus/fairground, canal boats, gypsy wagons… the folk art side of it really interests me. I do a lot of reading up on these things, looking at how the whole culture and way of life of these people feeds into the craft. As well, just the old examples of sign painting I see around me on the street, there are so many examples still standing as bold as ever tens of years after being painted, hidden away amongst the peeling vinyl! Nowadays there is more new stuff out there than there has been for a very long time, there’s an incredibly talented new generation of painters that are hitting the high street and bringing sign painting alive again. It’s so encouraging to see.
The best part is standing back and seeing something come together from what was just a sketch a day ago. I love how the client can watch that happen too, it’s like magic for them, because you kind of know all along what your plan is and how you want it to turn out, but when they see it form before their eyes it’s exciting stuff. I absolutely love working with small independent businesses, meeting people and creating a piece that will benefit them. The worst part is the cold if you’re working outdoors. You sort of paint with your whole body when working on a large scale, so being relaxed and focused is really important, and thats hard when your frozen stiff from 7 hours painting up a ladder! I also have reynolds desease (poor circulation) so in the cold loose my sensitivity in my hands, making it hard to hold a brush.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I’ll painting for a long time to come… But short term future I’d like to be in some kind of apprenticeship. I’m self taught, so I know there is SO much left for me to learn. Skills like gold gilding, more knowledge of materials and processes, they are all more strings to my bow and open up more opportunities and avenues for work. Long term future it would be fantastic to travel with my skills – go abroad and paint for people elsewhere in the world.
Who is your best supporter?
It has to be my old manager, James. He owns the bar that I used to work in (for the last year I have been sign painter by day, waitress by night!) at The Gallimaufry. He was the first person in Bristol to give me a proper sign writing job, then by securing me a waitressing place at The Galli I could afford to move over there and start my new life. Since then he has been my guardian angel, hooking me up with other painters and artists, promoting my work and just being a constant source of support and encouragement. He’s passed on not just contacts and work, but a real spirit of generosity that has formed a big part of my ethos now. And of course my mum and dad, because they are the ones ALWAYS at the end of the telephone whenever they need to be there!
Hannah Whaler will be exhibiting at Tinsmiths in July 2016, if you would like an invitation to the show just e-mail your details to firstname.lastname@example.org.