Expertly crafted hospitality signs
By Steve Aust
“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”
– Henri J.M. Nouwen, “Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life”
“That boy is your company. And if he wants to eat up that tablecloth, you let him, you hear?”
– Calpurnia speaking to Scout, from Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”
Hospitality takes many different forms, adapting to the required nuances of a specific environment. A hotel must convey a restful environment while also providing the technological and aesthetic comforts of home. Eateries and bars must reinforce their cuisine or concepts through all details ranging from environmental graphics to window treatments. Educational environments, with more of an emphasis on function than comfort, operate under a somewhat different expectation of hospitality. Still, visitors want to become familiar with a property as efficiently as possible. What performs this role most capably? Signage.
Relative to its size and population (it ranks 45th and 49th among US states, respectively), Vermont enjoys a high profile. From Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to maple syrup to its majestic Green Mountain slopes, Vermont’s cultural icons translate to a vibrant tourism economy. This industry and Vermont’s rustic environs inspire innovative hospitality concepts which, in turn, practically demand the creation of distinctive signage.
Wood & Wood Signs (Waitsfield, VT), which founder Sparky Potter opened in 1972 in a self-described “hobbit hole,” gradually evolved into a 3,000-sq.-ft. shop with a 12-person staff. Potter noted that hotels, restaurants and other hospitality-related venues represent approximately 30% of Wood & Wood’s business.
“For these types of properties, we provide more unique design/build concepts and a higher level of craftsmanship, which these types of customers usually appreciate,” he said. “Appropriate lighting and strict attention to the client’s brand are also especially important for these customers.”
Potter continued, “Attention to detail is essential for every site survey, but it’s especially important for a hotel or restaurant. Traffic flow, materials, dimensions, everything should be taken into account. Many clients like to integrate reclaimed or recycled materials with new components.”
Wood & Wood crafted a four-sign package for Long Trail Brewing, a brewpub located in Bridgewater Corners, VT. The entry monument served as the program focal point; Wood & Wood fabricated the sign using client-furnished artwork, and designed the masonry base, which Bella Fiore Landscaping built. The main sign’s panel comprises a laminated-MDO slab, a painted tree and a CNC-routed, contoured map. Wood & Wood printed the logo on PVC with a Roland VersaCamm printer/cutter, and CNC-routed “Pub” and “Brewery” from ¾-in.-thick Sign*Foam® HDU.
The shop installed a powdercoated-metal support beam and a painted-mahogany frame as complementary elements. Custom black-metal straps were bolted through the sign and beam with a hook-and-eye connection, and stainless-steel bolts join the elements. The program also includes a building-entrance sign and a pair of directional panels.
“We wanted 3-D elements to make the Long Trail sign more compelling and durable, while remaining within the client’s budget,” Potter said.
The shop also handled a design/build project for Zero Gravity, a Burlington, VT brewpub. The exterior ID, which Wood & Wood designed using Adobe Illustrator® software, features a ¾-in.-thick MDO layer that’s painted black with a white border and return. Wood & Wood jigsaw-cut and painted the hummingbird from 1-in.-thick HDU and fabricated cut-out HDU letters that were painted, taped and glued to the MDO background.
To convince the client a memorable hummingbird sign could be fabricated from HDU, Wood & Wood created several full-size mock-ups for the customer. Potter said, “The client told us the sign has become a photo-up for customers. We think the concept works because of the 3-D relief, which gives the impression of motion.”
Wood & Wood’s reputation has earned it considerable business outside New England. One such job involved fabricating signs for The Ivy Hotel and Magdalena restaurant in Baltimore. The Ivy’s main exterior sign, which Shelburne, VT-based Kaiser Dicken Design devised, comprises Gemini metal sign letters, a ½-in.-thick, aluminum face that’s painted matte-black with Matthews acrylic-polyurethane coating, etched and filled text and stripes, and a giclée-art print on the surface. The Magdalena sign was similarly fabricated and pin-mounted to the interior wall.
“The Ivy is an historic building, and we had to create designs reflective of a classic, elegant hotel,” Potter said. “We credit Craig Dicken with creating a spot-on design aesthetic; we simply had to listen and determine the right fabrication techniques to fit his vision.”
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