The Letterheads are a collective group of like-minded individuals who share a common interest in lettering art in all of its infinite forms, but chiefly in the form of sign-making and sign-painting (pronounced "sing-writing" for all of you Brits out there).
Roughly 40 years ago in Denver, Colorado this once small group of 7 artisans began holding informal gatherings, meetings, and demonstrations of all sorts sharing industry secrets, methods, and knowledge in the pursuit of bettering themselves and their craft. After Sign of the Times magazine took notice of them and their work, the ranks of their unofficial "membership" began to boom and larger and larger events began to pop-up all over the map, with a few international meets even taking place on foreign soil.
Today the Letterheads society is larger than ever, and draws a surprisingly youthful crowd that is eager to learn from the veteran "brothers and sisters of the brush" that devote their time to teaching a new crop of students that they hope to pass the torch to if they are worthy and commit themselves to the craft of their choosing. Other groups with somewhat similar interests like the Pinheads (a society of pin-striping artists) and the Walldogs (a group of artists that paint murals, large pictorial artwork, and humongous signs) have now all been brought into the fold at this one meet.
This year the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio hosted the 40th anniversary meet which boasted upwards of 20 workshops from more nearly 30 of the worlds highest authorities in the sign, lettering, mural, and pin-striping communities. The event also featured many improvisational demonstrations, historical videos, and discussions - some of which were led by two of the original Letterheads, Noel Weber from Boise, Idaho and Mark Oatis from Las Vegas, Nevada. I even brought a suitcase full of books that I thought others would be interested in seeing and I quickly had a crowd around the table of people hoping to flip through the antique pages of my mini mobile reference library. It was an excellent experience seeing so many people gather together for a common interest, especially when they were there to improve, to learn, and to share information, tips, and tricks of the trade.
For those that have never visited, the American Sign Museum (helmed by the great former Sign of the Times editor Tod Swormstedt) is a truly spectacular place filled to the brim with dazzling neon displays, magnificent hand painted treasures, grandiose gilded glass pieces and mirrors, enough reference material to start their own library, and so much more. Have a look at all that I managed to capture during my 4 day stay at the event when I wasn't busy talking shop with my heroes and hanging out with some of the best and most genuine people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.
I tried to capture a little video walk-through of just a small portion of museum's neon collection - it's not the greatest quality flick, but I figured some people may want to see some of the signs "in action".
Unfortunately I didn't quite get to stick around until the 6 murals outside of the museum were completed, but it was amazing to watch the process and scale at which these artists were working. Each mural on this wall represents a local business (whether past or present), while the 2 that were done on the opposite wall behind me in this photos were of the Letterheads 40th anniversary logo, and a faux-ghost sign for Sign of the Times (which was one of my favorite although I don't have a photo of it!).
The city of Cincinnati is no slouch either when it comes to impressive buildings, signage, stone engravings, and murals. Have a look at a few of these shots I grabbed while walking the streets of the city in-between workshops.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the meet and getting a view through the looking glass at my experience. Again, I strongly recommended everyone visit the American Sign Museum in person. Pictures, though nice I as I try to make them, do not do this place justice. Thanks for reading and be on the lookout for more posts in the future!
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