Posted: Jul 17 2013
by: wickedpeacock

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Only the Best Dressed Sign for Wicked Peacock!

We’ve opened our retail space in the seaside town of Rockport, MA to much success, and we’re so excited about everything these days! Well, we’re ESPECIALLY enthused about our hand-painted signage and so are the multitudes of folks who compliment the design and craftsmanship.

Wicked Peacock Bracket Sketch

The design work, as we’ve recently blogged, is the creative genius of Amanda Williams Galvin, but materializing her digital vision is one of the coolest artistic companies in Boston, Best Dressed Signs.

Wicked Peacock Sign

Founders Josh and Meredith are Bostonians by way of the Bay Area in San Francisco, and they took the craft of sign making with them.  “Josh has always been interested in letters, since his teenage graffiti days growing up in the East Bay of San Francisco. In art school at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he focused his studies on Renaissance art and became very interested in the concept of the apprenticeship system. After school, he wanted to do some kind of art that required an apprenticeship and he initially looked for work as a tattoo apprentice. Then a friend told him about an apprenticeship with New Bohemia Signs in San Francisco and the rest is history!”

Josh and Meredith

The process of custom making a sign is no small undertaking, and requires tremendous skill. “If Josh is designing the sign, as opposed to just executing a design that the client has provided, he’ll draw a sketch and submit it to the client for approval. Once it’s approved we’ll cut the wood (we use a specific type of wood made for signs called MDO or Medium Density Overlay), sand and seal the edges with an elastomeric sealant, and roll out the background color with shot lettering enamel. We call these processes “prepping the board.”

After this initial prepping, the fun begins! Here, Josh scales the design on tracing paper, and creates an outline of the design on wood.  “After the design is traced, we use an Electro Pounce machine to perforate the pattern. The Electro Pounce is a machine that conducts an electrical pulse into a stylus that burns tiny holes into the paper. Then the pattern is “pounced” onto the board with chalk. The chalk goes through the perforated paper, leaving outlines of the design on the board that Josh uses as guides when he paints.”

Here is a visual tour of the process of making a sign--LOTS of steps and preparation!

[caption id="attachment_1638" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Projecting the Pattern Projecting the Pattern[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1639" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Sanding the Board Sanding the Board[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1640" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Sealing the Edges Sealing the Edges[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1641" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Perforating the Pattern Perforating the Pattern[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1642" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Pouncing the Pattern Pouncing the Pattern[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1644" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Chalk Outlines Chalk Outlines[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1645" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Painting the Size Painting the Size[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1646" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Painting the Size Painting the Size[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1648" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Applying the Gold Applying the Gold[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1651" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Adding the Blues Adding the Blues[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1652" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Measuring Measuring[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1653" align="aligncenter" width="547"]Drilling Drilling[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1654" align="aligncenter" width="547"]BDS Signature BDS Signature[/caption]

 If the sign has surface gold like the Wicked Peacock sign, Josh will paint a size—a specific type of adhesive for surface gilding—onto the area where the gold leaf will go. Once the size dries to a specific tackiness, gold leaf is applied to the whole area and then the excess is brushed off, leaving the gold stuck only to the areas where the size was applied. It’s a little more costly, but well worth it! The gold glistens and pops in the sun!


It is SUPER important for small businesses to have great signage because it is the cornerstone of a business’ brand. According to Meredith, when folks are strolling down a street with money in hand, the first thing one notices about a shop is its storefront. If the signs are high quality, beautiful, and show an attention to detail, it stands to reason that the products in the store will reflect that as well.


“Another reason I think it’s important for businesses to have nice signs is that it’s good for the community as a whole. When a neighborhood is aesthetically pleasing, people take pride in their community. Signs are often overlooked when people think about beautifying their neighborhood. Often people only think of parks and maybe public art but signs ARE public art—they are, or can be, the most accessible art that we see every day. Investing in a quality sign has far more range than just making more money for your business—it can start a trend towards a more beautiful landscape for everyone.”

Finished Sign Wicked Peacock

We had a chance to catch up with Meredith from Best Dressed Signs and here’s what she had to say about all things signage!

WP: How would you describe your sign-making aesthetic?

BDS: Josh and I are both really interested in history and traditions of the past but at the same time, we wouldn’t consider ourselves traditionalists—we believe that the past only has as much to teach us as we’re willing to take into the future and make new. A lot of the inspiration for Josh’s designs comes from 19th century aesthetics but he tries to take those aesthetics and put a new spin on them. Obviously being a hand-painted sign maker has its roots in a nostalgia for a bygone era, but we want to emphasize it as a current and viable trade, and one that’s deeply important for businesses and community.

WP: How long does it take to custom make a sign?

BDS: It depends on size, how detailed the design is, whether it’s single or double sided, how many colors, etc. But a ballpark answer would be about a week or so.

WP: Can anyone get into this kind of work or do you need special training?

BDS: There’s really no substitute for learning through an apprenticeship with a master sign painter but we know that’s not always possible. A few months ago we put together a blog post to help aspiring sign painters that don’t have access to an apprenticeship get started.

WP: Tell us about the scope of your business--how you make things happen behind the scenes.

Right now it’s only the two of us and Frisso, our Norwegian intern (but he’s heading back home in a month) so it’s a lot of work!

Basically, the division of labor is that I handle all the emails, create estimates for clients, schedule the jobs, order supplies, create invoices, file all the receipts and deposits, manage the website and write for the blog.

We also just started selling Tee shirts so I’m handling all of that now too.

Josh does all the design and painting work but he also handles emails and phone calls that are more specific to design inquiries or on-the-job details if he’s working on location. And he helps with creating estimates when they’re not so straight-forward. And I’ll help out on signs when I can but only on things that don’t require too much attention to detail. I don’t have the steadiest of hands—Josh could be a surgeon!

Photographs taken with permission from Best Dressed Signs!


  • Very fun to see this project beginning to end. Thanks!

    Posted by Don on July 24, 2013
  • This is awesome! Loved seeing that beauty come to life. <3

    Posted by Thais on August 16, 2013

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