These little signs are a combination of stenciling large areas and painting in smaller details, plus all hand-lettering. I have even had the chance to customize a few signs both as gifts and for personal purchases.
I painted signs years ago, before I bought my house, and before everyone went digital: big sheets of plywood for work sites, window banners, even a few trucks and buildings. I joke that’s how I saved the down payment for my house. And I still love to paint them.
I like the look of the stenciled wood signs that are popular right now and I’d been planning on making a few. When my neighbor took out an older stockade fence I looked at that pile of weathered wood, just the perfect weight and color for little signs…I gave the wood and the paint and the designs a try and I am glad I did. These signs started out with just doodlin around in my studio and I managed to narrow down the designs to just four. I updated each design just a bit to keep them all the same size making cutting up the wood much easier, and adding a little color here and there.
“Home is Where the Cats Are” was the popular one for customizations. Of course, I’d know many people with several cats, and it’s funny that design was an afterthought because I liked Mewsette and the design for “Home is Were the Cat Is” so much.
In November I customized one in which the customer wanted the smaller cat, on the left, to be gray. I happen to know both cats and fostered the gray one for a while so that was a sweet little job. She had also wanted to know if the sign could hang outside, and it certainly could—the weathered wood would be fine, and the acrylic paint could stand up to some weathering. I also added the eye hooks and wire instead of the sawtooth hanger on the back, and that was pretty fun to do because I love to play with the wire.
Another friend asked if I could make the cats look Siamese to give as a gift. I had done a portrait of one of these cats, Chloe, and the other cat was her daughter. I can be pretty literal in my interpretations as I tried to figure out how I’d shade the Siamese fur as it was in life but still wanting to keep to the spirit of a stenciled sign, which simplifies the design. Then I thought about other stylized representations of Siamese markings I’d seen and realized I could simplify it.
Here’s a little bit about each sign and the changes I’ve made to the design. If you click on the image you can go to the product page and read more about the design including the reference materials.
Cost of customization
I couldn’t figure out how much to charge for customization since I was actually making a new sign for each one so I decided that would actually be the charge: The sign is $10.00 plus $5.00 shipping, so to customize I just charge the extra $10.00, making the sign $20 plus $5.00 shipping.
Peace, Love & Cats
On “Peace, Love & Cats” I was again a little too literal and initially made the whiskers too thin to balance with the rest of the art so I made them thicker and attached them to the cat face. Wordless signs are fun, and this one always brings a laugh after someone get to the third symbol and realizes what it “says”.
Cats are Like Potato Chips
A friend had this phrase on a refrigerator magnet decades ago. I always loved it and researched to see if it was copyrighted or if I could find the origin. No luck, so I decided to use it. This design had originally had four cats, which I liked, but in order to make all the designs the same width I designed it with three cats.
PS: Potato chips have always been my favorite snack, too.
Drawing on my experience painting signs I began painting these signs freehand with outlines I traced on the wood, and that worked fine with the first pieces of wood I used that I’d chosen because they were nice and smooth. However, in real life, most of the wood is not smooth but has rough finishes, stamped patterns from being cut, and splits and holes from nails and weather and stenciling helps to control the edges.
Home is Where the Cat Is
When I was handpainting this sign I painted around Mewsette’s eyes, leaving them the wood color. Since I’m stenciling it’s awkward to try to get those little bits of stencil to stay in the right place, so I stencil over the entire shape and then paint the eyes in with a brush. In this case I used a light cool green, which is the color of Mewsette’s eyes.
Now the larger areas on the signs are stenciled, and the text is hand-lettered. I try to find a smooth area for the text for each sign.
Home is Where the Cats Are
On the original sign I painted the heart black, but knew I’d want it to be red, and so it is.
The wood is 3.5″ wide so the signs aren’t terribly large. I worked out all the designs so they were the same width, 10″, just to make cutting and finishing the wood that much easier. The back of the wood is slightly concave so each sign has a sawtooth hanger in the center of the back, and I also add a wire with eye hooks at the top.
Click each of the images to go to the product page and read more about the design including the reference materials.
Here I am being supurrvised by a few of the models.
You can find these signs and more in my gallery of handmade gifts on the Signs and Posters page.
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