For the last two years at Design Bridge in Amsterdam, we have hosted bi-monthly talks with inspirational guest speakers – we call it ‘At the Bar‘. So far, we have enjoyed evenings with architects, world renowned photographers, chocolate expert, food architects… the list goes on.
Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming American sign-painter, Mike Meyer in to our studio. Mike was over in Amsterdam for a few busy days to host some sign-painting workshops – and for the Amsterdam screening of ‘Signpainters the movie‘, a sign-painting documentary he was involved with. So we thought it was was a great opportunity to ask him to come in and show us how it’s done!
6pm, Thursday arrived – and the larger than life ball of energy that is Mike Meyer cruised into our lane on a low-rider pedal bike, shoes splattered with fresh wet-paint from an afternoon sign-painting. Originally from Mazeppa, Minnesota (population 800!), he is the son of a barber who dabbled in painting signs between haircuts – and that’s where it all started. Since then, Mike has done nothing but paint signs. Even in his three year stint in the US Army, he made signs.
Full of anecdotes and hilarious one-liners, he charmed us with tales of starting up his business by trading his sign painting skills for favours from local mechanics, carpenters and builders. Completely self taught, his curious mind and hunger to do new things has meant he has never stopped learning. He continues to take on new challenges that he solves with practical and creative solutions. For example, working out how to paint a huge full colour ‘floor tattoo’ for a creative agency in Chicago. Gold leaf on a pub wall in an old London style? No problem. He deliberately takes jobs that push him to learn new techniques and skills.
His experience and well-honed skills were clear to see as he gave some quick demonstrations in front of us. We were given a chance to have a go too – it quickly became clear that it wasn’t quite as easy as he made it look.
He spoke of how the emergence of quick, cheap and convenient digital cut vinyls in the 70’s and 80’s almost completely took over the art of true sign-painting. But Mike’s story was one of real craftsmanship – and he’s delighted that a renewed appreciation for doing things properly with time, care and effort is being respected and embraced again. The popularity of his workshops and film screenings in Amsterdam is testament to that.
Now he not only has his business in Mazeppa, but he travels the world teaching sign painting – done the proper way! His down-to-earth style, wit and charm has clearly made him many friends around the world – and at Design Bridge, Amsterdam.
What came across loud and clear is that he doesn’t do it for the money or fame. He just does it for the love of it – and enjoys that it can make so many people happy.