Filmmakers Faythe Levine (Handmade Nation: the Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design) and Sam Macon are working on a new documentary on sign painters persisting in their hand-lettered craft. So far, they’ve shot in Olympia, Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, and Syracuse, with Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, and more to come. The film, by capturing the stories of sign painters both young and old, illustrates that although digital vinyl lettering has decimated the profession since the early 1980s, the craft still continues to draw in many young painters with an eye for the handmade quality that digital work so clearly lacks.
Then there are the old-timers, like 90-year-old Rey Giese of San Jose, who has been painting signs since the Great Depression and is still going. And everyone seems to have a story about how they picked up the trade, whether it was from a friend, in a trade school, in prison, or as a way to continue a youthful love of lettering first brought out in graffiti. Stay tuned for more updates on this feature, projected for release in 2012. Check out some early stills below.