07 January 2012

Give me a sign

The master plan of having one part of the world doing all the manual labour (the others), and the other half (ours) doing all the thinking... it is just not panning out. Because, big surprise: not everybody is cut out to sit on the bench and get a higher education. And the ones that already have one, now sit on their hands waiting for the jobs that were cut. When they did the math, they forgot to count in the human aspect. As I see it, the solution is simple: we need to revive the dying trades, call in the craftsmen and have them pass on their skill to the next generation, while there is still time.

On one side
I have had this idea brewing in the back of my mind for a while, or.. it is more of a matchmaking plan, really. In the old days Copenhagen were famous for its street signs, hanging from above the store, making it easy to see from afar if there was a bakery, a barber or a cobbler in the neighborhood. Some signs were three dimensional, others cut, painted or welded, but they were all informative and beautiful. These days we are mostly down to eyesores: soulless industrial run-of-the-mill signs, and full body stickers.

The match
On the other side we have a generation of kids roaming the streets, with an obvious love for painting and coming up with creative ideas. Sometimes it turns into plain vandalism (I get the frustration of not fitting in the single box provided for you), but I am sure that if given the opportunity, at least some of them would appreciate learning the craft of sign making. And perhaps even take the trade to the next level? I smell a huge potential here. Can someone perhaps see to it that this match is made?

One of the oldies still hanging in:

Of course the coolest Copenhageners are already on board. Teteria on Vesterbro:

Teteria tea sign

Harbo Bar in Blågårdsgade:

Harbo Bar

And a few steps further down the street, This Issue:

Hand sign

The classic hand painted sandwich signs are good too. Personal, informative and cosy, you want to hang out in this place before you even set foot in it. A good sign.

Can we agree this matchmaking business should be set in motion, or what?


  1. Love the post! By the way, I saw a friend had linked to this page on Facebook and it made me think of your blog. I love the clever things people come up with... http://www.streetartutopia.com/?p=5982.

  2. Hi Lauren,
    I love those fat color pencils! Street art utopia is one of my favorites. I don't know where all the Copenhagen street art went, maybe they are all hibernating? There are mad things going on in the world, art wise, I wish I could see more of it live.

    I am not on facebook myself, but I made a page for the blog (here) in case you want to say hi. :-)

  3. My old neighbour in Frederiksberg was a sign writer when he was younger (in his 70s now) and had a fab collection of vintage Irma signs he did back in the day!

  4. Som sædvanligt har du ret.

  5. Haha Amalie, du er guld!

    Hi Melanie, see that is exactly what I am talking about. What I would not give to see his collection of old Irma signs, aaaaah. I am guessing that you did?

  6. i love signs. sigh. wonderful post.

  7. Mike Rowe fra discovery channel siger det ret godt i den her tale til den amerikanske kongres. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NwEFVUb-u0

  8. Butikkerne på bl.a. Vestergade er underlagt regler om skilte. Det skal forbi Kulturarvstyrelsen hvis man vil gi' den gas med grimme klistermærker osv. og svaret er vist altid nej.
    Selvom jeg ikke er stor fan af bureaukrati as such, så er det ok lige der. Elsker gamle (eller gammel-udseende) skilte.

  9. As you know, I also have a soft spot for signs :) The only one of the signs you've photographed I don't like is actually the 'hand sign' - I don't think it's informative at all. In fact I would never guess what kind of business they were in, from just seeing the 'hand'. So I think it's a 'bad sign' in fact, albeit more interesting than the average.
    I like the retro teapot and the "Harbo Bar" much better - here you are not in doubt about what kind of shop you're entering, and the craftmanship is excellent.
    Oh well, taste will be different I guess ;) Great photos as always!

  10. Hej stopdetdog,
    Jeg ved at kommunen er uhyggelig striks når det kommer til butikker, men det er mindst lige så meget et spørgsmål om indtjening. Hvis en butik har noget på facaden der rækker bare tre cm. ud fra facaden, så koster det. Og de har ansat folk til at gå rundt med målebånd, sgu'. Det er helt grotesk. Men når det kommer til ikke at skæmme gadebilledet, med ensformige monstrositeter, så kan jeg forstå det.

    Jeg har bare indtrykket af at det er penge der taler og ikke æstetikken.

  11. Hi Drumstick,
    You have a soft spot for signs too? I know what you mean about the handsign, but I think it is cool to take a classic and bring it to a new level. It shouldn't all be just boots and pretzels. If you are into this sign, you will probably like the store as well, and in that sense it works. What I really dislike is monotony, and industrial ready-made crap. I don't get why the stores buy it. But that's the taste thing, I guess. :-)

  12. CanDan ConsultingJanuary 09, 2012

    Good blog ... I've been reading it for a while now.

    I have a small business that needs a sign. Perhaps you can hook me up with a
    sign maker? We've already had a couple of people come to see the place and
    they've been asked to come up with a concept for us, but the more the

  13. Hi CanDan,
    I hope the connection is made. Fingers crossed.

  14. I'm virtually raising my hand in agreement with the whole post :)

    There aren't that many permanent signs in Portland, but you do see a lot of those painted sandwich boards sitting out on the sidewalks.

    We also have a bar/vinyl record shop in Portland - http://hallofrecordsportland.blogspot.com/ - though I'm not sure what their sign looks like, as I've never gone there, yet :)

    I did really like the hand-carved wooden sign for the little French bistro we went to a little while ago (they had delicious mussels, too): http://www.flickr.com/photos/poetas/5612191534/

    And no current businesses do it anymore that I know of, but I love these old painted advertisements on the sides of buildings that showed what types of shops or services were in the building: http://www.flickr.com/photos/poetas/5434446449/

  15. Hi Dave,
    Yes I LOVE the murals with polite and beautiful advertising. We still have a few from the old days hanging in, here. Imagine an advertisement so beautiful that people want to protect it long after the product is gone? Will that ever happen again? I am pretty sure it could, but it would take a serious change.

    We need to make some playgrounds for adults, with free access, where people could go and get inspired by each other, and try out different things. And there could be guest teachers offering advice on projects.

    We just need to play more. :-)

  16. Probably not surprising that I agree with you again :) It would be brilliant to have have a 'playground' for adults, that is basically the city street equivalent of a recording studio or writer's workshop. A place where you go, tools are provided, and you have free reign to be creative. Occasionally, there would be demonstrations by established street-artists about their work, or just about street art in general, history, techniques, and about the language of street art.

    I agree with you about the trades as well - we've somehow come to the place where intellectual pursuits are the only valid use of our time and energy, and their pay is inflated so far above that of the trades that people are driven away from trades because they can't make good money there. That, combined with our need for more and more stuff makes a lower income less and less appealing. Not to mention, we are only interested in buying cheap, mass-produced items which can be thrown away and re-purchased cheaply - we've lost much of our appreciation for a well-crafted object that we couldn't break if we tried, but is 3 times the price of its cheap cousin.

    Well, here's hoping some of that can be revived!

  17. We should be able to do something about it still. The playgrounds could be established, and from that we would perhaps see more micro businesses starting up. Sometimes you need to play around for a while, to find that solution you never thought of before.

    Things in Denmark are extremely expensive, rent alone is at least half our income (and to some two thirds). They say there is no profit to be made by having things produced locally because wages and taxes are through the roof, but then what? Nobody's hiring, and people with high educations are "invited" to work for free, and they accept. Just to feel needed.

    I don't know how we get back to a place where everybody have a role in our society, but we have to try. The fix, as I see it, is not in consuming more, but definitely wiser. Since I got rid of all this stuff last year, I have not felt the need to replace any of it. Now the clutter is in all the ideas making my head explode, haha.

  18. It seems like a plan! My favorite one is the Harbo Bar. There is nothing wrong with doing something esle than high education related. I'm thinking a lot about quiting my job for something more trivial but also more creative, where one can be truly oneself... Well utopia, maybe.

    Did you see that ?

  19. Hi Carole, that was a nice link, thank you. I don't know how I missed this guy, but now he is on my watchlist.

    I wonder what will be next for me.. :-)

  20. Ooh, CanDan consulting...I´ll CARVE a sign for you. How about that?


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