It is hard to believe that it was almost ten years ago I witnessed a CNC router in action for the very first time. I was fascinated and simply had to have one! Although I had been in the creative end of the three dimensional sign business for most of my life I didn't really know what I would do with one of these machines - but I just knew it could do fantastic stuff.

Along with the CNC router I discovered the wonderful material called Precision Board and the glues, primers and other companion products they offer. Since then we have gone through many tons of the material using it in most signs and projects we tackle. This journal will chronicle our many adventures both past, present and future. I'll talk from the perspective of someone who pushes these products to the creative limit on a daily basis. I'll be adding to the stories two or three times each week. -dan

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What happens at a Sign Magic Workshop?

I often get asked what we teach at one of our Sign Magic Workshops. In this short format it is very hard to describe... but let me give it a try. The pictures will help a lot I'm sure. These pictures were taken at a workshop that was held at my studio in Yarrow, British Columbia, Canada.

The purpose of the Sign Magic Workshops is to share not only our routing 'secrets' but also the many other tools and methods we use to finish our signs. We seek to teach as much of the things I have learned and discovered in more than 40 years in this business. The hard part is to do all that in three days.

Everything is provided for the workshop. You don't have to buy any supplies. We'll even provide a sketchbook and pen.

We generally have a guest instructor from EnRoute come and give us a hand with the technical stuff. Generally it is Jeff Hartman, one of the authors of the program or EJ Nordurft, product manager for EnRoute. Jeff and EJ know more about EnRoute than almost anybody and both are great teachers too! These are also available in any non-classroom time for one on one instruction, making sure everyone gets their questions answered. In this picture Jeff is showing Mark some of the intricacies of EnRoute. Mark is a power user of the program and brought some pretty tough questions to the workshop. Jeff is working on the solutions.

Through each day of the workshop we give a series of lectures showing various aspects of sign creation from design through the creation of files. My job was to inspire and challenge folks, while the Enroute person takes it on himself to provide instruction about the creation of routing files.

We'll explore how I do design, where I get my inspiration, and how I pull things together to make our unique signs. We also delve into the various aspects of Enroute and routing on a CNC machine. We take frequent breaks to make sure everyone is alert and awake, able to soak in all we are presenting. It is wall to wall learning, total immersion in a creative world like none other.  During breaks we discuss our businesses, family and other important subjects, getting to know each other and the things we care about.

The shop time is also packed with information. We explore the specialized materials, tools and methods we use daily. Better yet it is done hands-on, with some demonstrations and lots of try it yourself time.

We look at every aspect of our craft, from cutting, prepping, gluing, priming, painting and glazing. Every question is answered as best we can within our experience.

Each student is given a number of pre-routed sample pieces to work on. Some are done step-by-step and others are a here's the problem, come up with a solution kind of fashion. All materials and tools are provided.

There are samples done in all stages for reference. And contrary to what is imagined, it is all pretty easy when broken down into small stages.

Then it is time for everyone to get their hands dirty by actually doing it themselves. As the students began the painting we keep a close eye on the projects and answer the many questions to make sure everyone is successful.

Everyone gets to try out a variety of techniques.

The sculpting project follows a theme we have done a number of times... 'B' is for BUG. Everyone got the same challenge. Use a pre-routed leaf with a letter 'B' on it and create a 3D bug to go with it. The results are always as varied as the folks who attended. Every solution was imaginative and GREAT!

When people aren't busy on their bug sculptures they were painting their dimensional letters and practicing their glazing techniques.

Some students take advantage of the one-on-one time with Jeff or EJ for a private tutorial in EnRoute.

Through every minute people were busy taking endless pictures, looking at the many examples in the shop and studio. Some took the time to browse my library and found some great treasures.

So much more happens through those three magic days, it was not possible to capture it all nor write of it here. It was in a word...  MAGIC!

If you want more information drop me an email or give me a buzz. I'll be happy to answer your questions.