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Film Review: Sign Painters

June 29, 2013 by Erin Fletcher


Even though many hours of my life are spent watching films, I rarely sit down and write a review about one. But this particular film left an impression on me and would be quite interesting for anyone working in a skilled trade industry–like bookbinding.

In 2010, filmmakers Faythe Levine and Sam Macon began documenting the dedicated practitioners of a somewhat dwindling industry in Sign Painters. The film follows a handful of artistic (sometimes egotistical) and witty characters who are both veterans and newcomers to the industry. The audience gets some insight to an industry that is over 150 years old, how it was affected by the onset of technology and the ways it’s bouncing back. 


Sign painters are responsible for decades of hand-painted signs for businesses, in the form of advertisements, announcements and notifications. Not only were sign painters incredibly skilled with a brush, but had a deep understanding of lettering and design. In a culture where now just about everyone has access to design programs and a printer, signs have been less permanent and more unattractive. As one sign painter in the film puts it: We’ve become a culture dumbed-down aesthetically.

The history and future of sign painters is visible through each hand-painted sign, whether freshly painted or aged through decades of wear and to those who dedicate themselves (not to a life of wealth), but to the love of lettering, design and painting.


Snippet from the opening sequence–one of my more favorite hand-painted signs in my hometown!

Finally, another quote from the film that I find to be particularly lovely—“I think that every human being has the capability of altering their environment for the better with their bare hands.”

Now for a documentary about Bookbinders!

  1. callen says:

    Awesome! I’ll look forward to finding this to watch sometime.

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  • My name is Erin Fletcher, owner and bookbinder of Herringbone Bindery in Boston. Flash of the Hand is a space where I share my process and inspirations.
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