Shooting the Breeze with Sideshow Sign Co.

Sideshow Sign Co.

Luke & Jasmin (image courtesy of Warby Parker)

Rusty tin sheds, barbed wire, old trucks, faded wool bale stencil lettering…don’t we all love rural Australia? Luke Stockdale’s Aussie bush upbringing undoubtedly had a great influence on his work. His solid vintage signs have clearly struck a chord with customers all over the USA, too. This is evident by the many projects filling his Nashville-based workshop, Sideshow Sign Co.

sign shop welding nashville

(image courtesy of Nashville Scene)

With the help of his wife Jasmin, Luke is producing the type of classic, timeless signage that only improves with age. We’re pleased that he took a little time to tell us about how he went from a Melbourne design course to bending steel and wiring light-bulbs in Nashville.

sign shop in Nashville

(image courtesy of Warby Parker)

My wife is a Nashville native. We met in Prague in 2006 and the two of us have been back and forth across the Pacific ever since. We lived in Melbourne before deciding to settle in Nashville.

Sideshow Sign Shop

Adam Gaskill at work in the shop

Adam Gaskill Custom Bike

My full-time fabricator, Adam Gaskill makes these amazing bikes when he’s not beltin’ out signs. I’m lucky I’ve got him because he’s just as passionate about digging up old sign-making techniques as I am!

custom bike nashville

Another of Adam’s creations

I got a Design degree from RMIT and worked as a freelance designer for seven or eight years, mainly branding and album artwork. The move to sign-making was innocent at first, I made a few interior typographic pieces for restaurants I was re-branding, and the demand came from there.

sideshow cafe sign

Over the next couple of years I tried to learn as much as I could about traditional sign-making. It’s been a trial & error process, but I was lucky enough to have the whole ‘distressed and weathered’ thing to fall back on while I was honing my sign-making skills. I could make my mistakes look like they were intentional! I still feel like an amateur sometimes but we’ve managed to make some pretty solid work.

electric sign sideshow

‘Leave it to an Aussie who was born and raised in rural Australia to come to the states and exemplify the current vintage Americana style movement.’ – Uncrate

My folks were affected by the ‘Black Saturday‘ fires in Victoria, in 2009. They lost everything, but managed to get away with their lives in the nick of time. Unlike a lot of Black Saturday victims, they were able to claim enough insurance to rebuild. I relocated to stay with them for the next nine months and the three of us designed their new home. The house just won a HIA award. The whole experience made me want to make stuff for real, so you could say it influenced my move into sign-making.

rural australian letterbox

This one was a gift to Luke’s mother. It hangs on her mailbox in rural Victoria

The light bulbs were just something I knew I could do – I had access to sockets and bulbs, and I knew how to do some basic wiring. As far as the aesthetic goes – my style as a designer was kind of vintage Americana. And I’ve always been a lover of old signage & typography.

sideshow sign dimensional

We’ve done a few apprenticeships, but we’re taking a break from them for the moment.

We can make fresh, new-looking signs as well as ‘distressed’ ones, but either way our fabrication is still traditional – steel, rivets, hand-painted, hand-cut lettering, etc. (although we do have a CNC for bigger jobs), so they don’t look like a modern channel letter or vinyl sign. People don’t generally come to us for clean modern signage, they come to us wanting them to look old. That’s kind of our thing.

lighbulb lettering in process nashville

One hundred percent of our signage work is custom. The only inventory items we have are our prints.

sideshow sign co prints

One of the Prints Designed by Sideshow (image courtesy of Librarian Tells All)

I was told about Sideshow Signs by Peter Vogel, of Nutmegger Workshop.

I would absolutely love to work with Peter. He’s really talented. Soon, I hope!

nutmegger workshop sign

Peter Vogel also makes hand-crafted vintage signs. Here’s one of his (image courtesy of AIGA)

Our most recent has been my favorite so far – a double-sided neon projecting sign for clothing company Imogene & Willie.

imogene and willie sign nashville

We have quite a bit of work in the shop right now. We’re doing another job for ESPN, this one is a big channel sign of their old logo, it’s going in some broadcasting hall-of-fame. Another piece for a circus.

Lightbulb ESPN sign and deer head

dimensional sign

Thanks, Luke and Jasmin!

French Periodic Table: Sideshow Sign Co. from Luke Stockdale on Vimeo.

7 thoughts on “Shooting the Breeze with Sideshow Sign Co.

  1. I was looking forward to this. Downright killer work. Never gets old, looking through Luke’s website and videos. And thanks for the mention.

  2. I was showing a friend your blog on Reeds and saw your latest post…Great pictures…I’d argue that “creative design combined with practical function” make signage among the highest art forms.

  3. Thanks Pete, Let us know when you get around to collaborating with Luke. Look forward to seeing what you come up with!

    Bill, I couldn’t agree with you more about sign-making being among the highest art forms. Shed-building would have to be up there somewhere too, right?

  4. It’s neat to suss out some thru-lines in design inspiration: Pete Vogel’s faux-aged “B” (or one very similar to it) is hanging on a wall at the first branch of the Bun Mee Vietnamese Sandwich Eatery (http://www.bunmee.co/), here in SF, as it inspired their logo design, done by http://www.minesf.com/. We’ve been commissioned to paint it several times now, on windows and menu boards at a couple of locations.

  5. Hey Damon, that’s great. I did notice a ‘Bun Mee’ sign or two on your website. It’s neat when a business like that opts for handcrafted signage – especially when they rope in more than one sign-maker to interpret their logo. Obviously your style is a little different from Peter’s, but the variety just adds to the visual interest of the place.

  6. Great article Danthonia Designs USA. Some absolutely stunning work showcased on here and getting a behind the scenes perspective on the sign makers is really insightful. Just wish I could find some clients who’d go for this type of old school Americans signage!

  7. Matthew, if you want to sell this style of sign, you might have to make a few samples, put them on your website & then hang them on the walls of your shop. See what happens!

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