Dateline Oz.....Time ....... Something like the Monday after the night before (in this case it was all 3 nights before) I almost do feel like a war correspondent after surviving the 4th annual Australian Letterheads weekend :) You know the line, been there done that, got the T-shirt! ....... well, we were, we did, we have ...... And mate it was great. My ribs hurt from laughing, my head hurts from trying to keep up with it all, my eyes from all the wonderful things I saw and my hands and shoulders from hugs and handshakes hello and goodbye, and they were being gentle with me.........So you can imagine how everyone else feels.

Friday...Day One

As I opened my eyes the morning of the first day and saw the clouds come over threatening rain, I got worried. Jackie from Sign Innovations in Canberra reckoned, looking out my kitchen window, that it was warmer down south in the snow fields and accused us of telling untruths, promising everyone wonderful weather for this years Letterheads event. Letterheads 97 was being held just up the road from our place in Abaglassyn, a suburb of Maitland in the Hunter Valley, just a few hours drive north of Sydney in N.S.W Australia. After the last 3 letterheads meetings in the snow, sleet and hail, people had kinda though a change of climate might be nice. I kept my fingers crossed that the weather would clear for the next three days.shed3.jpg - 6.67 K

Friday is traditionally get to know ya day, unpacking and setting up, along with the introduction of new faces goes the warm handshakes and big smiles for friends most only get to see once a year at letterheads. As people started to arrive and spread out, sketch books and backgrounds began to appear. Banners were hung on walls and people started asking what's this one gunna be? Pc’s got fired up and foamrollers slapped a quick undercoat on walls around the sheds at Performing Art, our hosts for this years event. mustas.jpg - 6.64 K

Some are aware that due to illness, Dave and I had to withdraw from hosting Letterheads in Oz this year. Both Chris and Tony, who are Performing Art Signs & Designs, can’t be praised enough for keeping the spirit alive and with (never say die) Guy from Adept Signs making this years meeting the wonderful success that it was, I would like to add that Chris and Tony had never been to a Letterheads, so they really had no idea what they were letting themselves in for.

Lunch came real fast on Friday...... A good thing too cause I was starvin. pannel2.jpg - 11.65 K

Renderings of the meetings logo were starting to pile up in the shed where newcomers signed in. As the day went on the quality and diversity of those pieces continued to amaze. You had to feel sorry for the judges who at some point were gunna have to pick the best of the best ...... logo1.jpg - 8.07 K

Projects began in the afternoon and a gentle rhythm emerged, the sun was shining, a tad hesitantly but shining none the less. Teams had loosely formed on each of the larger projects, other folk were checking out the sign suppliers displays and there was a crowd around the incredible glasswork that Kevin and Mike from Canberra TAFE had bought along. I was upstairs working on a few layouts when Guy Richards decided that a banner was the go! Gota have something to hand along to the next Letterheads meeting! Sort of like handing over a batten in the relay of keeping the craft alive ...... It didn’t take long and a few fellas were working away happily on a banner to send to Jordan Signs in Hyannis (Escape to the Cape) Massachusus..... glass1.jpg - 8.03 K

The afternoon seemed to disappear real quick as, everyone headed off to dinner on Friday night. The chance of a couple of beers, great food and passable company didn’t hurt the mood one little bit. After dinner, Jim Firebrick introduced us all to our Letterhead from furthest away, Chris from New Zealand, who got up and spoke of sign making in his home and extended an invitation to us all to come on over to a meeting in the south island next year. Lots of us are hoping to make it to that one!chris2.jpg - 5.93 K

Jim went on to ask us all to give thought to where next years Oz meeting would didn’t take much thought I can tell you, Rod and Darren from Rod Tickle Signs in Loxton South Australia were unanimously voted as hosts for 1998 ...... wether they wanted to or not! The only cryterior was, that to join the illustrious group of hosts past and present both Rod and Darren had to grow a moustache, the one thing that a quick thinking Rod noted that all the other hosts had in common. I suggested we just shove a couple of mack stripers up their noses.

The party went on into the wee small hours and judging by the sore ‘heads’ the next day (pardon the pun) was a complete success, someone ended up in the pool at the motel and although he assured me that he did it willingly, ya gota wonder!

Saturday...Day Two hungover.jpg - 7.01 K

Saturday there was no time for feeling hungover (even if you were) all hands were flying in to the work. Fiona from Fiona Dewis Signs showed her chalkboard technic to a dedicated bunch and as the end result showed plainly those who participated had some great ideas, the talent of the younger folk really impressed us all. All through Friday and Saturday one project grabbed peoples attention, never did I see a time when there wasn’t at least a dozen people watching as John Rigby, our celebrated artist, sign maker and all-round nice bloke, recreated one of his fine art masterpieces on the bar fridge donated by one of the sign supply companys.dunnies.jpg - 5.49 K

The fridge is the big prize of the weekend and as such is much sort after, this year adding the talents of John and Rod to its transformation meant that everyone just HAD to have a ticket in that draw, even David Fisher who was joining the meeting on line in Queensland asked one of his mates to grab a few tickets for him when they spoke on the Letterheads Chat earlier in the day. fridge8.jpg - 7.55 K

All over the place people were talking and laughing, learning and doing. I found the walls progressing outside and the photo albums getting a great workout inside as everyone wanted to check out the terrific pics Jackie took at the Walldogs meeting earlier this year. I got a real kick out of the sand blasting booth that was constructed from a cardboard box and lots of tape. The U-board foam was getting sliced up and carved into some weird shapes when I checked in on Ron Andrews, last years host from Canberra. He seems to have a natural talent for foam, but like a lot of us he reckons he only gets to do this fun stuff at Letterheads as most of the time in our normal work day, its the same old thing all the time. I guess thats one main reason for these meeting being just so popular, not only a get together of like minds but a real chance to do for a few days what we’d like to be able to do everyday. hung2.jpg - 6.60 K

Most everyone really enjoyed the great rural setting and found at least some time to sit and watch the world go by, especially at meal breaks. Lunch came and went and glue chipping, sand blasting, calligraphy, gold leaf and airbrush took care of the afternoon nicely. airbrsh4.jpg - 6.72 K

I got to meet the very talented Wayne Harrison from Advanced Airbrush and watch as he knocked out a detailed black panther in the time it would take me to lay down the undercoat :) I just admire that kind of easy excellence so much....... You know the kind where they make it look like anyone could do it, anyone that is with 20 years to spare and the patience of Job.

One bloke who works like that is Darren from down south, who now has the new title of “that lucky mongrel”. Darren not only won the prize for the best rendering of this years logo at dinner on Saturday night, but that lucky mongrel” won the bloody fridge too!!!! And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer fella , although as Guy Richards said, (echoing us all) "He coulda painted his own”" darren2.jpg - 7.24 K

The BBQ on Saturday night gave us all the opportunity to eat drink and be merry ..... And then drink some more. Some ideas for next year were bought up after dinner and as was so eloquently put forth from the floor, as long as it doesn’t cut into our drinking time all will be happily considered. hehehe If I have given you the idea that Letterheads in Oz drink a lot....... then I guess I haven’t lead you astray :)

The idea of hiring a bus to take us all to Loxton next year was given the thumbs up and it was decided to search for an unsuspecting bus company that might need one of its vehicles signwriten ............I have it on good authority that someone went into the pool (again) and a few other folk had a little trouble with walls and stairways...... Those self propelling walls and disappearing stairs can be a real hassle!

Sunday...Day Three

Sunday morning ........ahhhhh bright lights!chalk1.jpg - 7.36 K

We decided to move the puter closer to the action so that a few more folk could check out the great resources that being on-line has to offer to signmakers. Mark from Snowy Mountain Sign Co and Mick who is currently working for him sat down to have a look around cyberspace, Mark was saying that he had a few setup problems with his Internet programing when Jackie suggested that he should put on a BBQ and she and Steve would shoot over and fix it for him. Such is the spirit of Letterheads. chalk2.jpg - 8.58 K

Luke, an apprentice from Coffs Harbour was real interested in the IRC, seems his brother is an exchange student in Canada, so this is one easy way to shorten the miles. Now that the projects were coming to their last touches stage the easy going co-operative mood ended .......... And the competitive nature of man emerged, Well on the pinstripe race track anyway. (grin) pinrace3.jpg - 7.10 K

Steve & Barb Shortreed joined the crowd, watching the races live via video with Netmeeting. Each time Steve’s Canadian accent came over the speakers, you could see people spinning around with surprised looks on their faces to find out where the up-over was. My twins sang a few verses of Waltzing Matilda to our Canadian guests, the only thing we couldn’t share with them was lunch..... Although I believe an attempt was made to show them just what an Australian roast dinner looked like. I saw the pic on the web site :) pinrace2.jpg - 6.00 K

Lunch was spent relaxing and enjoying the sunshine, checking out the walls and commenting on what a great weekend this had been. From the first timers to Letterheads the responses were as mine had been last year....... They will never miss an opportunity to get to a meeting in the future. From the people who had been to other Oz meetings it was looking forward to doing it all again next year.lunch1.jpg - 6.80 K

Lots of folk had to get away so as to be back at work on Monday, so right away we all gathered for group photo’s. The attendee’s panel was signed by just about everyone as a memento to our hosts and the job of cleaning up began. Jenny made sure that everything was taken care of in her typical and much appreciated mothering style. check list read ..... No one had a blue (fistfight). No one got hurt. No one missed out. Everyone left with more than they arrived with. brag1.jpg - 7.37 K

Those of us that live local talked about getting together back at Performing Art soon to finish the one wall that didn’t quite make it. After Canberra last year a few of us jokingly referred to ourselves as lowercase heads when we got together thru the year, when it was mentioned that the lowercase heads should have their first party of the year finishing the wall, John Rigby cracked up laughing at the name and said , we had to ring him when we did, so he could come too and just be a full stop or something ........... I think he’s more like an exclamation point. :o)

Gail Beattie
Tauraus Signcraft

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