Decor Crush: Sylvie Signs
*AD:Gifted: This post contains some signs that were made and gifted to me. As ever my views are my honest opinion!*
Not only is Esther who runs Sylvie Signs one extremely talented sign writer, she is also a lovely lady who I had the pleasure of meeting earlier this year. Esther and I met through The Coven, which we’re both members of, and began chatting as we both had a mutual love of each other’s work (Esther’s signs and my interiors). And the rest they say is history…!
Esther offered to make me some bespoke signs for our house and we worked together to create them, and let me tell you, they are even better than I ever could have imagined! Her work is so intricately detailed and she is a perfectionist, so everything is finished to such a high standard.
Did you know that she paints everything by hand, with no tape or stencils? She is such a talent. Her work is inspired by old advertising and I think there is a modern vintage feel throughout her designs, with retro style typefaces and bold pops of colour and texture.
For our signs, we chose to have a bit of fun and make them really personal. After much deliberation, Steve and I decided on ‘Supernova Heights’ (Oasis reference and our house name), Northern Soul (we love that era of music and it’s also the name of The Verve’s album - my favourite band), Last Orders (for the boat bar) and finally, Mais Oui (an Only Fools & Horses reference and a bit of a joke for our downstairs loo - get it?).
You can see the finished signs in our home below. I think Northern Soul is my favourite, although to be honest, I love them all! Esther creates all sorts of bespoke signs for private commissions, weddings and events and she also has a small selection available to buy on her website (the coral ‘cocktails’ one above is a particular favourite of mine).
I was excited to ask Esther my ‘Decor Crush’ questions and let you learn more about her and her amazing work…
1. How would you define your style?
Bold, minimal, timeless. I feel like my style changes a bit from job to job, especially for commissions, as I try to make sure that each piece speaks directly to its recipient, but those are the design values that I hope underpin my work.
2. What inspires your work?
Signwriting is a very traditional craft, so the letter forms I use are inspired by a long history of painted letters. I try not to use computer generated typefaces much as they lack the organic forms of hand-drawn letters, and they don’t always lend themselves as well to the brush strokes. I use old advertising material for inspiration - old painted shop fronts and pub signs, old print ads, and I love the old hand-drawn movie posters, especially from the 50s and 60s. I also like to look to completely different mediums and industries. Most recently I really enjoyed the Annie Albers exhibition at the Tate. Albers was a Bauhaus textile artist and the texture and structure of her woven fabrics are really beautiful.
3. How did you get to where you are today?
It was a long and winding path! I studied art at A-level and loved it, but decided to play it safe with a degree in English Lit (big regret). I went on to teach English as a foreign language in Prague, and then worked for Oxford University managing the implementation of reward policies and IT systems. My heart wasn’t in it, and eventually I left and became a content strategist and project manager at my husband’s web development agency. It’s a reasonably small agency and I got to turn my hand to design and digital illustration, something I’d been doing as a side hustle for years.
Around this time I did my first signwriting workshop with Wayne Osborne and fell in love with painting again. Shortly after that first workshop I got pregnant with Eric, and not long after that again with Max (there’s a 19 month age gap, which could be worse but felt pretty brutal at the time!) so painting went on the back burner for a while. When it was time to go back to work after Max, the nature of my husband’s web agency had shifted to more back end development and I felt the urge to do something more creative. I found becoming a mother a totally transformative process, and decided to seize the opportunity to start something new professionally too.
It has been a fairly slow start. Signwriting is a very skilled craft that takes lots and lots of practice. I don’t use tape or stencils, everything is hand painted. Gradually I’m building my speed and accuracy but it can be slow-going. Traditionally, signwriting apprenticeships took five years. Sadly, they don’t really exist any more and signwriting is no longer taught in any formal education settings, so the only option is workshops, learning from peers and lots of practice.
4. What new projects do you have coming up?
I’ve recently finished renovating my workshop, which took forever! I’m really busy with commissions at the moment, everything from wedding signage, to gifts, to shop signage. And I’ve got lots of ideas for signs I want to paint for fun - so keep an eye out for my website shop as I’ll be dropping bits in there. I did the Un-Wedding Show in Birmingham in February and I’ll be back there again in October. The best bit about that show is meeting couples with some incredible ideas. I’m working on some really cool wedding projects this summer and I’ve already got some ideas for my stand in October. I’m looking forward to catching up with all the amazing suppliers too, it’s a great crowd. Come and check it out! I’ve also got some collaborations with some wonderful lettering artists and illustrators in the pipeline, so the rest of 2019 should be really exciting.
5. Who or what is your decor crush?
Why, you, Beth, of course! I really enjoyed working on the signs for your beautiful home, it’s so great to see them in situ. I’m a big fan of your colourful, eclectic vibe. I’m also completely obsessed with Divine Savages. I love every print more than the last. It’s weird because my own home is all white and pale grey, with lots of plants and books and not much else (other than the mountains of children’s toys and paraphernalia). I often feel like my brain is too cluttered to deal with looking at patterns in my own house, but it’s an aesthetic I enjoy stalking on Instagram!
We’re all about Dining, Destinations, Decor so what’s your…
Favourite Dining Spot?
I recently went back to one of my all time favourite eateries, Sojo in Oxford, and it was as good as I remember. Incredible Chinese food, intimate, friendly setting. The braised pork hock is a thing of beauty, and I could easily knock back my bodyweight in dim sum.
I love Marrakech. I love the desert climate and the light. Yves Saint Laurent’s garden, with its cacti and cobalt blue pots, is so beautiful. I’d love to explore more of Morocco, especially Essaouira and the Atlas Mountains.
I know its a bit passé but I can’t get past Scandinavian style - white, grey, pale wood. I’d built a whole house out of plywood if I could. I like to paint everything white, and then have really colourful objects (or signs!) that I move around and mix up from time to time. I’d love to have a tattoo but I change my mind too often and I’ve never settled on an idea that I know I would love forever, and that’s a pretty good analogy for my house too. As much as I love colour and pattern, I find it very hard to commit!