Birthing Florence

I’m gathering anecdotes and photos and accounts about signs made by my dad Stuart. Perhaps you were one such neighbor/friend/customer of his, and had a shop of your own back in the day. He painted signs in Florence for almost 50 years, beginning when he arrived in 1971. Having one of his signs made a difference didn’t it? As a kid I felt like Florence was becoming itself as I was growing up, each time an empty storefront became a cool shop with a sign inviting you in.  I believe there are a hundred stories about his signs that just need to be unearthed. They spoke to the community. They created businesses and identities and evoked magic and care and a warm personal spirit. 

As I see it, Stuart’s signs birthed Florence over the last half century.

Nowadays, my dad can smile as he putters about, and speaks in riddles, and barely has means to communicate but for his easy smile and the twinkle in his eye that reveals his amazing spirit. 

Not just a board

If you think about a sign, much like a logo, it can be a collaborative project of self expression. A signmaker needs to understand the business, the market, the sight lines, the space, the color psychology, the personality of the business owner, the market niche, cultural topspin, and the character of the font, and the era being evoked, and then it takes on a life of its own, becoming the ambassador for the business’ integrity, pricepoint, character, and value. If the sign sucks, the business sucks. If the sign is amazing, then oh my god we have to go in. And everything in between. My dad didn’t do boring signs that looked like everyone else’s. He gave them character and life and sometimes they transcended their merely commercial role to become art. Even if you never went in, you probably remember the sign, and have an opinion about the business because of it. And if the sign is human and generous and friendly, and charming or quirky, or elegant, the voice of the signmaker carries through and supersedes mere utility.

My invitation to you

Do you have any pictures of the signs Stuart created for you? Did you ever have a sketch process or did he just have carte blanche? Was it a good sign? Was it a symbol? A totem? Was it the first graphic work he did for you? Did it matter?

I’d love to hear about how YOUR sign came together visually especially if it includes insights into HIS insights — in addition to any relationship he had as a neighbor, friend, etc. I think if I can get this information from Florence folks about their experience, I might be able to share his voice and spirit for the next fifty years as well.

Thanks in advance

Thanks in advance for whatever written memories you can send, at whatever length you can manage. And photos – do you have any from back in the day?  Please send your recollections (we can edit them together if you like before posting) and your photos (as many as you have) to and I will help you craft something enduring in this ‘blog, and maybe someday in print if we get enough material.  Sound good?  Talk to me! ~Nick

2 Responses

  1. We have the logo for The Scotsman Tree Farm. 1987 or 88. I have a sketch of the Gazebo in Florence that Stu did–we were planning to sponsor musical groups in the gazebo in the summer on the week-ends–1981. I have a copy of the hand lettered poster and program Stu did for “Spokesong.” 1982. I didn’t see this section before the exhibit opened. Hope to get a copy of the book. Wish all of this had been publicized in Eugene.

    1. Beth,
      The show has come down, but this site lives on, and I’ll be sure to get you an invite to any next (analog) events if you send me your mailing address.

      I would love to see photos of the materials you’ve got, and any memories you can attach to them. I’m at I really look forward to anything you’d care to share! I have such fond memories of my SHS Theater experience. Best to you and yours…


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