The 3rd. Annual Australian
Letterheads Meet

Letterheads Get Down..ah..Under!

No other group of Letterheads has been more supportive of The Letterhead Website than the over 100 Australian shops that have made this website their second home. Those of you who are regulars on our IRC chat channel are no strangers to the enthusiasm and friendship these wonderful people display. Gail Beattie, also known as T2-, of Taurus Signcraft is one of these special people. We want to thank our Aussie friends and Gail in particular, for their unselfish acts of kindness, their willingness to share and their desire to carry The Letterhead message to others in their corner of the world. All of us are truly blessed to call them our friends. Gail and her husband Dave recently attended their first Letterhead meet and took some of their valuable time to share their experience with the rest of us. All of you are encouraged to do the same whenever you have something to share.
Steve & Barb

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Canberra was the place to be on September 15, 16 & 17 this year. "Gee! Why don't we do this more often?" was the most commonly heard phrase all weekend at the Third Annual Letterheads Meeting in Canberra, A.C.T, Australia. The Australia Sign Association and hosts Ron Andrews, Darrell Andrews and Bob Koster of Sign Design combined to present an educational and inspiring event that none of us will ever forget. I'm sure everyone has their own special memories. Here's a few of mine. hostsign.jpg - 7.88 K

Dave & I arrived late for the three day event hosted by Ron and all the wonderful folk at Sign Design. We had family commitments that delayed our departure from Newcastle until sometime after 10pm on Friday. The first day of a Letterheads meeting, we were told, is usually the time for "get to know you's" and learning what was on the menu, so to speak. Drinks on the Friday evening to get everyone over their shyness didn't hurt the mood either, I discovered. Having missed that part, our moods were more over tired, over excited and over anxious at being the 'new kids' at the party. hostvan.jpg - 9.03 K

With 2 hours sleep under our belts, we ventured forth into the unknown. Driving down the street where Sign Design is located was our first surprise. There were signwriten cars, vans & ute's parked all up and down the road. People were coming and going into the shop with armloads of gear, a regular beehive of activity. I figured no one would notice a few stray sign-ees creeping in. Wrong! smashed.jpg - 6.78 K

Jenni Johnson, from the Sign Association, was the first of many smiling faces we saw. She greeted us with our commemorative T'shirt & cast alloy badges, (my badge will look great on my new brush box). From sign-kits to a 30 foot wall, everything in the place was being transformed. As we looked around the first room, all the surfaces were full of photo albums, sketch books and samples of this years logo, faithfully reproduced by students and old timers alike. meet1.jpg - 8.22 K

I figured pretty quickly that it would take the whole weekend to just drool over this room without even taking time to peek out the back. We could hear the music, laughter and general commotion coming from the workshop. Dave couldn't resist, and I was right behind him. We just had to check out what was happening! banner.jpg - 5.58 K

The wall was well under way, as was a banner being lettered to send over to Ireland as a gift for their Celtic Brushfest next month. Jim Frederickson said that the postage cost of the banner alone would be pennies compared to the cost of sending the paint on it. That banner ended up with outlines on outlines. Then someone figured a shadow around that would look cool; "Let's do it!" everyone screamed! Talk about a project growing. The end result was outrageous. We all loved it! head.jpg - 5.01 K

Upstairs the hot wires were ripping through the styrene foam. I watched in awe as Ron Andrews and his team hand carved and shaped this years logo head from glued together sheets of foam. When I mentioned that I wanted to make my own hot wire someday, Ron was quick to say, "There's a couple over there on that workbench you can try if you want to get a feel for them." hadfield.jpg - 6.53 K

I was rapt. I'd lost Dave by then. He was off meeting people and swapping info with John Hadfeild from Hadfeild Signs, Sydney. The talk was of routers, customer relations, quality assurance(everyone is doing it over here) and all the other stuff we want to know about each other. What a knowledgeable man John is, and so happy to help people coming up the ladder with his ideas and insights. A true Letterhead!
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It wasn't long before they were comparing price lists and suppliers. I saw the air brushing and naturally gravitated toward the choice work that was evolving on the wall before everyone's eyes. 'Big D' was the man in charge of this project, and I don't think I've ever seen a more talented craftsman. He has a freehand style to kill for! This bloke can fly an airbrush as easily as most of us sign our names. He's one of the mob coming from "Up Over", as opposed to downunder. D gave an exhibition of his work, and generally spent the day knocking out project after project, answering questions, and demonstrating just how easy it all can be done! jackie1.jpg - 4.40 K

Just about this time, huge trays of donuts arrived and people diverged on the coffee & tea. I felt a tap on my arm, and a grinning stranger said, "Are you Gail?" That's how I meet Jackie, who has a shop in Canberra. We quickly discovered we had something in common apart from our professions, the Letterheads Website. Jackie had bought her computer to the meeting to demonstrate the Letterhead Website, as well as our IRC live chat channel. This was a wonderful opportunity to show everyone just how big our cyber family of Letterheads really is.

It always seems that just when you really want to impress someone with a new thing you've found, things didn't go exactly to plan, but we persevered and whallah. Success at last! ircview1.jpg - 5.88 K

The questions were just as thick in the office around the puter as they were throughout the rest of the shop. This is further proof that when it comes to being innovative and always ready for a challenge, sign folk are right there at the front of the line. Don Lopez, from the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, was on-line chatting with an old friend, who called himself Uncle Arthur on IRC, as was EmpY, a sign artist from the Chicago area. Empy entertained everyone with his own brand of humor, and I told everyone that if they had any questions or trouble with IRC, EmpY was the very man to help them with this stuff, hehehe. I suppose I should apologize to him for volunteering his time, but i won't. Steve Shortreed from Ontario, Canada even made an appearance to share some news with all of us.(grin) irc2.jpg - 6.81 K

Gabe, a talented second year apprentice from another local Canberra shop, was busy talking onlookers through the IRC process while chatting to the world. Don't you love how easy it is to keep the Letterhead experience alive 24 hours a day via the Internet and Letterhead Website? Lots of handy tips and tricks, as well as shop profiles by real sign people who share the same challenges as we do. Somehow it is comforting to learn that others experience the same ups and downs we do in this crazy business and it is inspiring to see how they deal with them. Everyone was very impressed with the Letterhead Bulletin Board, as well as all the neat links to other sign industry resources. It's surprising more suppliers have not yet discovered this site.

Out back the glue chipping and gold leaf had everyone buzzing. Michael from Newcastle was invited to lay some leaf, and loved it so much that he later told me he intends to practise so that he can do the gold demo next year. That's the kind of enthusiasm we felt was being generated all weekend. sam.jpg - 5.21 K

Saturday finished with a great meal at the revolving restaurant on top of the Telstra building, located on Black Mountain. Ron took along the foam head mascot to keep us all company. I have a real aversion to heights, but the view over Canberra at night was worth the sweaty palms and wobbly legs. Or was it all the Southern Comfort that kept finding it's way to our table? hahaha:) learn.jpg - 7.06 K

Simon, one of our own multi gifted Letterheads, took over the piano and played some terrific jazz and blues for us all. Dave and I had been in town for less than a day and already we felt right at home. Over dinner we talked to Mark & Ray from Snowy Mountain Signs, the hosts of last years Letterhead meeting. They related how the snow was so abundant that everyone took to making snowmen out front of the shop. Then someone found a spray can of flouresent paint and well, I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Ray told us the effect was certainly unique.
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Sunday arrived early and bought the sunshine with it. We couldn't wait to get back into it. Ron's office was full of "Netterheads," as he had nick named us Internet Letterheads. They were chatting to all the people at another Letterhead meet in San Jose, California, halfway around the World. What a tremendous communication tool the Internet is. Never before have sign shops possesed a better tool to unite us all as a unit. I watched the fun for awhile, then headed out back to see what else was cooking. fridge2.jpg - 6.31 K

Big D was checking out his project of the day. A bar fridge was going to be first prize in the big raffle, and it was D's job to customize it for the lucky winners. In no time at all, a beautiful rendering of a roaring lions head appeared. Big D is an amazing artist! Dave asked him about running classes for those of us who wanted to learn more, and he promised to host some workshops just as soon as his new shop in Darling Harbor is up and running. Hopefully that will be in February and I, for one, can hardly wait. dave3.jpg - 6.20 K

The wall was Dave's next stop, where he and Skid (marx) from Goulburn, NSW, got together to highlight and sink the script on the logo. The pinstripe race track was also drawing a crowd, as pinstripers showed off their speed and precision. Vinyl that had been splattered with paints and then rolled to give a dappled look, was used for the next demo. Morrie had everyone laughing with his most efficient weeding donstration! We all agreed that leaving the centers IN was a viable alternative, but he finally opted for a more traditional approach and removed them. Old timers, as well as new-comers, got a real kick out of the "I remember when stories." speach.jpg - 6.37 K

The speaches came next and turned into a wonderful history lesson on our sign associations almost thirty years of accomplishments. Ron Bidwell, who was involved from the start, shared with us how far we really have come, along with the challenges overcome, to get us, the next generation of sign painters, to this point in time. One of the many stories Ron told was about an old timer he knew way back when who, like many of his kind, absolutely hated the new fella's trying to make it in this business. His paranoia about protecting his market was so bad that when one of Rons kids, a little boy, passed the old blokes house one day, he growled and grumbled about it to his wife, "He only appears to be a nice little boy. He's really a spy!" haha(grin) signit.jpg - 7.19 K

It's people like Ron who remind us that this business, perhaps more than many others, is really about people. Learning to deal with customers is really just about communicating with other people. By sharing our knowledge and skills, we are helping to make our industry a better place for all.

I learned a lot, and really enjoyed Ron's talk, as I know everyone else in the room did. We all appreciate that Ron and the others like him cared enough about our trade to get involved all those years ago so that we can make a better living doing what we all love, painting signs and creating graphics. me.jpg - 7.48 K

The last job of the day was to sign the guest panel, Dave took his brush and shuddered at the thought of lettering that small. We have been spoiled by the technology that now does the 'little stuff' these last few years. Mr. Computer does much of the work we all used to do by hand. Like a brave man on the battle field, Dave gritted his teeth and got into it, silently hoping that no one would notice just how out of practice he really was. Just as he finished, another bloke asked Dave if he would please do his while he was at it, cause 'man, that's way too small'. Dave was happy to find out that he wasn't the only one to feeling a bit insecure about his skills. wonit.jpg - 6.42 K

I put a tiny Santa under our shop name. Fiona Dewis and her partner Rod finished their name with a cute rose bud. Fiona not only won the "Most Enthusiastic Newcomer Award," but then went on to win the weekends big prize, the bar fridge. Some people are just born lucky! enthus.jpg - 7.01 K

Rod Tickle from South Australia signed his name upside down on to document the way his beautifully signwriten ute ended up just out of Canberra. Rod and Darren lost control of their vehicle in a monster hail storm on the way too the meeting. Amazingly, both walked away with just a few bruises. Rod told us in the bar on Sunday night that even his tooth brush was bent at right angles. After seeing the pics of his ute's remains, I can understand why! Dave remarked that there are easier ways to make a convertible. w3.jpg - 7.84 K

The wall was all but finished when we just ran out of time. We couldn't wait any longer for final photos since many had to be home for Monday's start of work. Some had already left. We had to do something! The lettering had already been cut, but it took 11 people leaning over the railing upstairs to sort of hold it in place. Someone grabbed the big logo head at the last minute, held it in place, and the pictures got taken.

About all that was left to do was to discuss the location of next years big meet. After 3 years in the cold south, many of us are eager to head to the sunny north next year. I liked the sound of Coffs Harbor myself. Sunshine, beaches, and the big banana tourist attraction. It makes me wonder what effect 70 or more wacky Letterheads could have on a 100 ft. yellow, concrete banana? I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.....won't we?

All praise has to go to our hosts at Sign Design and to the sign association. The food, the company, and all the other details were put together expertly. I know that this was our first Letterheads meeting, but I can guarantee you, it won't be our last. Come and join us!

E-Mail Dave & Gail

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