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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
One hundred percent of our signage work is custom. The only inventory items we have are our prints.
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!
Our most recent has been my favorite so far – a double-sided neon projecting sign for clothing company Imogene & Willie.
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.
Thanks, Luke and Jasmin!