The clumsy Chippendale crest shape is a spot-on evocation of the strenuous efforts of a journeyman sign maker, c 1780s.
This sort of lettering puts us squarely in the second quarter of the 19th century
As much as it appears otherwise at first glance, the signs here are not the stock of some high-end Americana dealer. They were all created by Heidi Howard, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate, in her Eastford, Connecticut studio. The boards are actual aged wood planks whenever possible, and the hand-painted and lettered signs are assembled with antique hand-cut nails. The whole duly aged and weathered and... We've entered dangerous territory here haven't we? A knowing, labor-intensive recreation of an ostensibly serendipitously found naive, ephemeral object? Kitsch or cuteness? I'm torn. I'm genuinely drawn to many of these—I love the awkwardness.* Taken individually, the aesthetic spirit conjured is quite beautiful. The decorative shapes and silhouettes look suitably like the earnest efforts of a rural journeyman sign maker c. 1800. The lettering, punctuation, and spacing is near pitch perfect. The research and historical knowledge is emphatically there. And yet I wouldn't be wholly surprised to find one in a Massachusetts TGI Fridays. Which makes me sad. // All signs by the undeniably talented Heidi Howard

* “naive” and primitive lettering and figures like this can be found on gravestones (see here and here). Several of Ms Howard's signs take cues from the spindly, hesitating lettering of early and mid 18th century, elsewhere she takes on the look of the “fat face” and decorative letters of the 1830s.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You also will see these or their ilk at Marburger/Brimfield/Rose Bowl, etc. being passed off as original. Reproductions have always been around, but these really began to pump out around 10 years ago. The internet has made it easier to copy. TGIFridays indeed!...Someday we really need to get together over some mushroom caps; I am unfortunately stuck upstate for the duration. Happy Holidays Angvou!



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