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John Serjeant...Serjeant Signs


South Grafton, NSW, Australia

sarge7.jpg - 9.62 KG'day to all you Letterheads around the planet. I'm John Serjeant, a 41 year old sign designer and painter from Australia. My wife's name is Sue and we have 3 children; Jessica 12, Ricky 7, and Brendan 4. Ricky has all sorts of artistic ability, so our one man shop may have to expand in the future. You never know! sarge1.jpg - 12.06 K

Here's a brief geography lesson. Grafton is located on the north coast of New South Wales. The climate here is much like Florida, hot, damn hot. Summer temperatures average 100F. Winters are very mild and shorts can be worn year-round. The Pacific Ocean is only a half hour drive away. This year we experienced a major flood after many years of drought. Here's how I came to be involved in this crazy sign business.

It all began in the late 70's. I was working at a local bus depot in Weiley Park, a suburb of Sydney, as a panel beater and spray painter. At around the same time, it became very popular here to advertise by lettering up buses. Mobile billboards! To me, this was an opportunity to generate some much needed extra income. sarge8.jpg - 6.89 K

Now I had always been gifted with a bit of an artistic flair and convinced my boss that "Yeah! Sure I can sign write a bus, just like the one drivin' round here". Truth was I didn't know a bloody thing about it, but I soon learned by doing and bluffed my way through. To my utter amazement, the bus turned out pretty darn good. We ended up painting 12 more buses and I was hooked!

I took on a lot of other non sign type jobs over the following years, and in almost all of them, sooner or later, I'd end up painting a sign for my employer in return for extra money or time off. I never was much of a financial whiz and pricing has always been a challenge. sarge2.jpg - 10.82 K

And so it continued until the mid 80's, when I took on my first "professional" job. My neighbour needed a for sale sign and I offered my services for $10, not a fortune, but enough to start the wheels turning in my skull. I just knew I could make a buck with signs! Serjeant Signs was born!

For a number of years, it was only a part time passion. In the late eighties, we relocated to Grafton on the New South Wales north coast. After a time of learning to blend in with the country life, I took on sign painting full time. We're still a one man shop today. Everything is produced by brush, as we still don't have a plotter or any fancy software. I'm still learning more and more about this business each day. sarge5.jpg - 8.89 K

I have always had a hunger to learn more about the sign game. Because I was self taught, I figured nobody in the trade would offer me the time of day, let alone help me out. I battled on blindly, learning as I went, and was astounded when I found a copy of Signcraft Magazine at a paint supply company. I was blown away by the quality of work in that publication and decided then and there that I had to get every issue. I'm still amazed at the quality of work in every issue. sarge3.jpg - 9.70 K

It was through the pages of Signcraft that I sent a request for pen pals. I got quite a few replies, and became good friends with 3 gents in particular, Mac Macquarrie from San Francisco, a true gentleman, Lloyd Powell from Toronto Canada, another true gentleman and last but not least Mike Meyer, from Mazeppa, Minnesota. Mike has done more than any one else to enthuse me about signs. They are his passion! He is a magnificent artist and I'm proud to call him a friend. Mike also has another passion, The Minnesota Letterheads, which I'm also proud to be involved in. sarge10.jpg - 7.36 K

Since I could never attend the meets in Minnesota in person, I attended by way of painting banners. They often use a gopher as the theme. I've painted welcome banners for the meets, and I treasure a banner on my wall signed by all my Letterhead pals in Minnesota. All the guys mentioned here have been a wonderful help and really demonstrate the Letterheads' spirit. sarge4.jpg - 7.73 K

Another passion of mine is computers. When an internet provider setup shop in this area, I was one of the first to join. A whole new world opened up for me, IRC Letterhead Chat. For those of you who have never tried IRC, you don't know what you are missing. You meet the nicest people in cyberspace...learn, spin yarns...generally talk all sorts of BS and make friends. I'm still trying to get Empy or Fontzy to catch me a salmon next time they go fishin. sarge9.jpg - 8.65 K

What do I like best and least about our trade? I'll bet the same things that annoy you in the sign game over there apply here! Customers whose only motivation is the bottom line of $$$$$$ and not the absolutely enormous potential a quality sign has the potential to provide. Cheaper is not always better. I don't know how many signs I have quoted on and heard no more from. Later I see these same business' with a tacky looking sign. You know...white b/ground, red and blue helvetica caps all maximized...."shudder", but because some of the other sign shops want to push these super cheap, nasty looking things, the pricing for signs has dropped. I find it extremely difficult to sell someone on the benefits of a quality, and therefore more expensive sign, when all that matters is the cost. Very frustrating!

Like I said before, I'm still learning, making friends via the internet is cool and so is the spirit shown by all of you, especially Steve and Barb...thanks for allowing me share my story, and all your assistance. I'm looking forward to reading all of your stories here on The Letterhead Website. Get involved!

You are welcome to E-Mail Sarge

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