SIGNS OF POWER

Sign painter Vanessa Power will take her art in­doors for the Hop House 13 event se­ries. The in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of vi­brant flavours, sights and sounds, takes res­i­dency in some of Dublin’s most char­ac­ter­is­tic venues this April and May

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SPONSORED -

It takes strength to change tack in life but Vanessa Power is well named for it. She spent six years work­ing in cor­po­rate web de­sign be­fore a love of ty­pog­ra­phy led her to her true path, sign writ­ing. Since set­ting up Signs of Power three years ago she has worked on projects for some of the world’s best known brands, as well as, pos­si­bly, your lo­cal pub.

Al­ways cre­ative, she had ac­tu­ally started a port­fo­lio course for art col­lege af­ter school but dropped out. “I lacked con­fi­dence. I kept com­par­ing my­self to ev­ery­one else on the course and I didn’t feel as good as them. It didn’t help that we spent our time paint­ing fruit and veg­eta­bles. If we’d been paint­ing letters I’d prob­a­bly have stayed.”

In­stead she stud­ied mul­ti­me­dia sys­tems and moved into the tech sec­tor, end­ing up as a web de­signer for a soft­ware multi­na­tional. It wasn’t a good fit. It seemed the only cre­ative re­lease she got was from end­less doo­dling, all of which were letters. Ty­pog­ra­phy has al­ways had a par­tic­u­lar res­o­nance for her, pos­si­bly be­cause her fa­ther sold signs for a liv­ing.

“He also loved sail­ing and used to put names on boats too. These weren’t hand drawn but vinyl let­ter­ing. In fact he worked for the com­pany that in­tro­duced vinyl let­ter­ing to Ire­land, killing off hand-painted signs. My un­cle jokes that what I’m do­ing now is only try­ing to make up for what he did to sign writ­ers.”

It’s cer­tainly a labour of love. “I par­tic­u­larly love the kind of com­mis­sion where I get a whole wall to my­self and can do all the de­sign and paint­ing,” says Power.

Mak­ing the tran­si­tion from cor­po­rate em­ployee to self-em­ployed sign painter wasn’t easy. “I gave up my job to do a sign writ­ing course in Bal­lyfer­mot but when I got there it had been can­celled. I didn’t know what to do next but I spoke to a sign writer and he said ‘there’s no se­cret to it, it’s just prac­tice’. So I started prac­tic­ing.”

Try­ing to get paid was hard. Like many cre­ative peo­ple, she of­ten worked for free. “Some­one told me I should stop do­ing that though be­cause it de­val­ues the craft, so I did.” She started out going from shop to shop in Dublin look­ing for work, even if it was only writ­ing on a sand­wich board out­side. “In the be­gin­ning they all said no but it was so good for me be­cause going out and telling the world I’m a sign writer built up my con­fi­dence. It made me be­lieve it.”

She got her first proper break at the New­mar­ket Food Mar­ket and from then on the work snow­balled. “I’ve never had to ad­ver­tise, the work just seems to come to me. Some­one said to me early on that ev­ery job you do is a free ad for your busi­ness, so I al­ways make sure ev­ery job is my best job.”

Her lat­est com­mis­sion could well be. It will see her cre­ate funky sign paint­ing as part of The Hop House, Hop House 13 Lager’s pop-up event se­ries, which takes place in venues across Dublin dur­ing April and May.

The Hop House brings to­gether some of Ire­land’s top DJs, street artists and lo­cal street-food ven­dors all un­der one roof, with in­ter­ac­tive art sta­tions be­ing worked on live by Power.

“It sounds like great fun. I’m really look­ing for­ward to it,” says Power, who starts all her wall art projects by seek­ing out in­spi­ra­tion from an eclec­tic range of sources, sketch­ing ideas in pen­cil and then work­ing them up as painted drafts, be­fore com­mit­ting to a cho­sen de­sign. The wall is the fun bit.

“What’s really nice about it is that peo­ple en­gage with you all the time. You al­ways get some­one telling you you’ve spelled some­thing wrong or missed a bit. One guy re­cently rolled down his car win­dow to say he loves to see a woman up a lad­der do­ing a bit of DIY. I en­joy the in­ter­ac­tions be­cause sign writ­ing is ac­tu­ally quite a soli­tary pur­suit.”

It isn’t al­ways. Last year Power par­tic­i­pated in a global cel­e­bra­tion of fe­male sign writ­ers in Chicago, known as the Pre-Vinylites. Tak­ing time out to kick back and cel­e­brate is im­por­tant, par­tic­u­larly when your work is in de­mand.

Right now the big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing Power is weather – she can’t work in the rain. “Though when I look out­side and see it’s rain­ing heav­ily, I feel like a small child who’s just been told there’s no school, so that’s great too.”

Three years into her new ca­reer she is ex­actly where she is sup­posed to be. “In my old job I had to lie down af­ter work be­cause I was drained. Now I spend 10 hours up a lad­der and come home ex­hil­a­rated. I love it.” #TheHopHouse #HopHouse13 In­sta­gram @hophouse13

Strictly over 18s, en­joy Hop House 13 sen­si­bly and visit drinkaware.ie

Vanessa Power will bring her funky sign paint­ing to The Hop House, Hop House 13 Lager’s new pop-up event se­ries, which takes place in a va­ri­ety of venues across Dublin dur­ing April and May

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