Signcraft magazine article

Mark Josling

Ickenham, Middlesex, England

Shop name: Spectrum Signs Shop size: 1000 sq. ft. Age: 48 Graphic Equipment: Signlab 7, Coreldraw software, Roland CAMM-1 plotter Website: www.spectrumsignsuk.co.uk First featured: May/June 1998

In a digital world, where designs can be downloaded for a few dollars, it’s heartening to see someone opting to operate in a somewhat more traditional fashion. Mark Josling picked up lettering brushes in 1985 and studied under the expert eye of Mr. Bill Stewart, author of Signwork. Having acquired the standard programs and plotters, recent years have seen Mark make a deliberate move toward utilizing his hand-lettering skills. – Peter McCullen

My workspace for the last years has been a converted chicken shed on a farm. There must have been quite a few chickens in here, since the downstairs workspace is 14 by 50 ft., and the upstairs office and computer area is 14 by 20 ft. The computer system uses SignLab and CorelDraw, and cutting is done on a Roland plotter. Although I do a range of commercial work, I have always continued to do some hand lettering, especially honours boards for golf clubs, schools and so on. The vinyl/digital market has become saturated over the last few years. There seems to have been a recent move back toward hand lettering, especially from designers.

Most of this recent work is from designer’s artwork and briefs. Although I’d rather create my own designs, this is still rewarding work. A few years ago I was contacted by an art director who asked me to produce some hand-lettered signs for a television production, which, in turn, led to many more hand-lettering projects. I particularly enjoy this sort of stuff, though it is obviously quite high-pressure with deadlines that have to be met. The most interesting productions are the period ones that need authentic lettering from the particular period. I should perhaps point out that I’m not in period costume while working on set, but it could be a good gimmick! For one project, I was working on an old cobbled street, lettering virtually anything that didn’t move, then the painters aged the signs as they were finished.
The other recent need for hand lettering has been for a chain of restaurants in Central London, working for Ashley Bishop, Brilliant Signs Company, whose work has been featured in SignCraft. He’s one of the many talented signwriters I have met through the Letterheads. For their projects, lettering on rough surfaces and brick walls seems to be the order of the day. I have also helped Wayne Osborne and a few others in recent times. There is a network of signwriters around our country who are only a phone call away.

I also have been doing a bit of pub signwriting recently, mainly on exterior walls. A gread deal of it has been from a designer’s artwork. It is still nice to get out there with a brush.

As for advertising, my website has been instrumental in bringing in the right sort of work. I am looking to revert to the more traditional type of sign making. I have also sent postcards to organizations, specifically trying to target honours board work. It seems that once you have the club or organization as a client, they come back yearly for updates. Some of my honours board customers have been clients for twenty years. This type of work isn’t for everyone, but I actually enjoy rendering 1/2-in. gold-leaf lettering!

I still do a large amount of vinyl/digital signage. I wouldn’t want to stop doing it, as I enjoy creating designs and producing signs this way. My preference, when budget will allow, is to render my own typestyles and scan them in for vinyl cutting and artwork. I enjoy drawing letters – it,s been a real passion for me since way before I came into this industry. I’ve always doodled and sketched lettering, and I hope to take this further by producing fonts eventually. This is an angle I am very keen to develop.

I work mainly on my own, but have employed people over the years. At present Danny Mitchell works for me on a part-time basis. Previously in sign industry, Danny has retrained as a graphic designer. He can hand letter and is a very good designer, so he is ideal to bounce ideas off of.
I have to admit that I am not the greatest businessman, and really don’t enjoy the pricing or business side of the business. My wife, Samantha, has pretty much taken over the invoicing and bill-paying side of the business, much to my relief. It leaves me free to concentrate on what I do best.

– From an interview with Peter McCullen; Peter McCullen’s shop, Sirocco Design, is in Drogheda, County Meath, Ireland.

Signcraft magazine
Signcraft magazine article
Signcraft magazine article