It started when I saw the pile of nice weathered wood from my neighbor’s old stockade fence stacked in his driveway. I knew I could do something with that wood, and though I’m overcrowded with future projects I couldn’t pass it up and stacked it in a dry area under my deck until I could get to a project. Which took about two weeks—I just couldn’t wait.
I like the look of the stenciled wood signs that are popular right now and I’d been planning on making a few. I painted signs years ago, before I bought my house, and before everyone went digital: big sheets of plywood for work sites, window banners, even a few trucks and buildings. I joke that’s how I saved the down payment for my house. And I still love to paint them.
I looked at that pile of weathered wood, just the perfect weight and color for little signs, and that was just what I needed to make it all come together. I didn’t want to buy pre-cut wood in the craft store, I wanted wood that had character. I made a couple of samples to see about cutting and finishing the wood, and creating the stencils and painting the signs, and it fit right into a good spot with time (eh, some, more than some) and cost (practically nothing). I standardized the size so that all my wood was the same and made up my stencils.
Drawing on my experience painting signs I began painting these signs freehand with outlines I traced on the wood, and that worked fine with the first pieces of wood I used that I’d chosen because they were nice and smooth. However, in real life, most of the wood is not smooth but has rough finishes, stamped patterns from being cut, and splits and holes from nails and weather and stenciling helps to control the edges. They are a combination of stenciling large areas and painting in smaller details, plus all hand-lettering.
The wood is 3.5″ wide so the signs aren’t terribly large. I worked out all the designs so they were the same width, 10″, just to make cutting and finishing the wood that much easier. The back of the wood is slightly convex. I initially added a sawtooth hanger in the middle of the back, but weathered wood being unpredictable and hanging in various ways, I instead added eye hooks with wire to which I added some twists.
Here’s a little bit about each of the signs. Click the image to visit the product page on Portraits of Animals.
Peace, Love & Cats
On “Peace, Love & Cats” I was again a little too literal and initially made the whiskers too thin to balance with the rest of the art so I made them thicker and attached them to the cat face. Wordless signs are fun, and this one always brings a laugh after someone get to the third symbol and realizes what it “says”.
Cats are Like Potato Chips
A friend had this phrase on a refrigerator magnet decades ago. I always loved it and researched to see if it was copyrighted or if I could find the origin. No luck, so I decided to use it. This design had originally had four cats, which I liked, but in order to make all the designs the same width I designed it with three cats.
PS: Potato chips have always been my favorite snack, too.
Home is Where the Cat Is
When I was handpainting this sign I painted around Mewsette’s eyes, leaving them the wood color. Since I’m stenciling it’s awkward to try to get those little bits of stencil to stay in the right place, so I stencil over the entire shape and then cut another stencil for her eyes. In this case I used a light cool green, which is the color of Mewsette’s eyes.
Home is Where the Cats Are
Of course, most people I know have more than one cat, so I had to make up a sign for “us”.
Click each of the images to go to the product page and read more about the design including the reference materials.
“Home is Where the Cats Are” was the popular one for customizations. Of course, I’d know many people with several cats, and it’s funny that design was an afterthought because I liked Mewsette and the design for “Home is Were the Cat Is” so much.
In November I customized one in which the customer wanted the smaller cat, on the left, to be gray. I happen to know both cats and fostered the gray one for a while so that was a sweet little job. She had also wanted to know if the sign could hang outside, and it certainly could—the weathered wood would be fine, and the acrylic paint could stand up to some weathering. I also added the eye hooks and wire instead of the sawtooth hanger on the back, and that was pretty fun to do because I love to play with the wire.
Another friend asked if I could make the cats look Siamese to give as a gift. I had done a portrait of one of these cats, Chloe, and the other cat was her daughter. I can be pretty literal in my interpretations as I tried to figure out how I’d shade the Siamese fur as it was in life but still wanting to keep to the spirit of a stenciled sign, which simplifies the design. Then I thought about other stylized representations of Siamese markings I’d seen and realized I could simplify it.
Here’s a little bit about each sign and the changes I’ve made to the design. If you click on the image you can go to the product page and read more about the design including the reference materials.
Cost of customization
I couldn’t figure out how much to charge for customization since I was actually making a new sign for each one so I decided that would actually be the charge: The sign is $10.00 plus $5.00 shipping, so to customize I just charge the extra $10.00, making the sign $20 plus $5.00 shipping.
Where to find the signs
Click the images above or find these signs and more in my gallery of handmade gifts on the Signs page.
Studio supurrvisor Mr. Sunshine wondering if I made a mistake with the white paint.
Take a look at other new merchandise and featured artwork.
Marketplace is a feature on The Creative Cat to share the latest coming out of my studio with my readers. Once a week on Thursday I feature something new in my “shop”.
Read about creating custom items
Find out more about creating custom items for your own home using the images you see here. Visit the “Ordering Custom Art” page to see samples and read bout how to order.
Find out about events and festivals where you can find me and my work.
Sign up for my e-newsletter (below), check the widget on the sidebar on my home page, or sign up to receive posts on Portraits of Animals Marketplace. I plan on plenty of events this coming summer in the Pittsburgh area.
It’s all done under the close and careful supervision of my studio cats!
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!
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