A few years ago a friend introduced me to the work of artist and sign painter Christian Shaknaitis who goes by the business name Brush and Pounce. Eventually through Instagram I found out we both have a deep appreciation for ghost signs.
If you are not familiar with this term, “ghost signs” refers to hand painted signage you see on the sides of buildings that are most likely faded. This form of advertisement was popular in the early 1900’s but the practice of hand-painting signs on buildings fell away in the late 20th century.
Photo by Brush and Pounce
Looking through Christian’s work, his aesthetic is reminiscent of that time and reminds me how certain design movements can make a come back. Whenever I’m walking around, I love it when I recognize one of his handcrafted signs. I was excited to have the opportunity to visit Brush and Pounce’s studio to see what he’s been up to and ask him a few questions:
How did you get into the sign painting business:
That depends: When did I start this business for myself? Or when did I start painting signs? I have been doing art of some sort for most of my life, and over the years I have had various opportunities to make “signs” and design logos for various clients. Much of the style and technique I worked with pointed in the direction of sign painting- without me even knowing it! I have always been passionate about lettering, type and old signage. But it wasn’t until around 2007 that I was working for a family run business back home and my talent was discovered, leading to me becoming their in-house sign maker for over a year and a half. When I moved to Pittsburgh in 2009, word spread of my skills and I started to get sign work outside of my regular jobs. The timing was right, with Pittsburgh’s revival and new businesses were opening weekly, keeping me very busy as that continues today.
Sign painting has made a bit of come back, how has that impacted your business:
It has impacted it greatly. My clients have a true appreciation for hand crafted work and I feel that is something that spreads throughout all skilled crafts these days, from jewelry making to fashion/style to art and beyond. The talents have always been there, but folks are interested and willing to pay for it these days. It gives a business a very personal touch to have a one of a kind logo or sign designed and fabricated for them. It set’s them apart from the common day brands we all grew up with and can overlook.
There’s a number of techniques that go into traditional sign painting, can you tell us which one has been the most rewarding to learn:
All of them, to be honest! Haha! Gold leaf/glass gilding has been one of the most challenging techniques to learn. It’s very meticulous and requires a lot of attention. Anything can go wrong! But truthfully, all of the work I do is rewarding. It’s a constant learning experience, because no two jobs are the same. A lot of problem solving.
Example of his gold leaf work
Signs he was working on for the Abby when I visited
What are some of the challenges you run into:
There can be obvious challenges, like weather, location/access, difficult clients (which is very rare), creative blocks, etc., but I think the biggest challenge for me, has been learning to run a business. That was a big learning curve for me, not having any previous “real” experience. All the background stuff, like billing and taxes and such. It can be intimidating, but like riding a bicycle, once you learn……
Photo from the Abbey on Butler
Sign collaboration with the Pittsburgh Lettering club
Photo by Brush and Pounce – recent sign work for Gold Dust is so beautiful!
Photo by Brush and Pounce
I want to thank Christian for taking the time to chat with me and letting me check out his studio. If you need beautiful signage for your business, get in touch with him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find him here or on Instagram.