Over the past 30 years, we have seen many professions in the graphic arts replaced by technology. Sign painting is one. Sign painting was a trade that existed in every community to adorn storefronts, banners, billboards, street signs, and buildings. The really good signs were one-of-a-kind works of art, produced by a steady hand, discerning eye, and aesthetic sensibility. Hand-painted signs revealed the pride and skill of the craftsmen. Their execution took human judgment and an active collaboration of eye, mind and hand. On a subliminal level, viewers could feel the effort of the maker. Now signs are mostly computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering. Undoubtedly, this is faster, cheaper and more uniform in quality, but like so much of our urban landscape, it lacks the warmth, soul and touch of human hands. “Sign Painters” is a documentary film (and also a book) by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon that celebrates the vanishing art of sign painting. The film is currently being shown in select locations in the U.S. and other parts of the globe. If it comes to your area, do see it.
When this museum’s main attraction is a shawl, its ingenious to drape one in a way to form the logotype “M”, as Moscow designer Vova Lifanov did for the History Museum of the Russian Shawl in Pavlovsky Posad. The colorful, lavishly patterned shawl is a national symbol of Russia. Like Russia itself, the shawl traces its roots to a mix of East Asian and European influences. Centuries ago trade with Persia popularized the wearing of Persian shawls bearing decorative patterns that looked strikingly similar to Persian rugs. The word “shawl” itself is of Persian origin. When Russia began producing its own shawls, it integrated its own Russian ornamentation into the design. Lifanov captured all this for the museum by creating a flexible identity program that allows the use of different patterns and colors on objects ranging from business cards to shopping bags and coffee mugs.