Yesterday, I wrote about my appreciation of hand-painted signs, inspired by the book Sign Painters, authored by friend Faythe Levine with Sam Macon. Faythe and Sam have directed a documentary – also called Sign Painters, as a companion to the book.

In 2008, Faythe co-authored and directed a book and film, both named Handmade Nation: The Rise of Craft and DIY. We welcomed her to Alabama last April for our Visiting Artist Series, where she highlighted “craftivism” and brought her light-hearted stories to the Factory. This summer she has taken Sign Painters on the road for a series of screenings.

Faythe has an itinerant spirit. She states in the book’s preface, “Many of my earliest memories involve travel, much of which was by car. I’d stare out the window of the family station wagon and watch America transition from one place to the next.”


Similarly, the documentary introduces us to sign painters across America, with stops in several cities, including San Francisco, California, Cincinnati, Ohio, Mazeppa, Minnesota, and New York, New York. The film profiles the same sign painters featured in the book, each sharing stories of how they came to be interested in, learned about, and fell in love with the craft. Norma Jean Maloney, a sign painter in Austin, Texas, speaks about her interest in typography from an early age. Her family traveled frequently (her dad was in the Army), and she picked where they would stay for the night based on the sign out front. She says, “Even as a small child I had a fascination with typography, which was completely abnormal.”

In between on-site interviews and personal recollections, Jeff Williams and Pat Finley explain the process of sign painting as they mix colors, transfer designs, and guide their angled brushes to make perfect strokes.


Sign Painters, the movie, is currently making its way around the world, as far away as Barcelona and Singapore. Visit here to watch online.



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  1. Don Armstrong

    Hand painted signs are a legitimate art form. My Dad was a signpainter in Fla in the 30s, including billboards. Still have his sign-painting kit, handmade varnished marine plywood box with myriad compartments for brushes, paints, gold leaf tools, etc. He later became an architect, hand-painted his firm’s name on the entrance to every one of his offices over the years. Classic pre-war moderne lettering – left me with a lifelong appetite for innovative graphic design.