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Using signmaking tools to create art

Photos courtesy Dave Metituk

By Brian Spiteri
Many signmakers would agree an ideal project involves a careful balance of creativity, freedom and focus. Too much of any one of those components can easily cause a project to run over schedule and over budget. And when municipalities and committees are introduced to the mix, they often add an extra layer of complexity to the logistics, such that creativity can end up being the last priority.

In 2017, the Canada 150 committee for Grande Prairie, Alta., along with a corresponding community foundation, decided to commission and install a special mural. It would combine hundreds of photos taken throughout the year at various Canada 150 celebrations with an original piece from visual artist Robbie Craig of Yellowknife, N.W.T., depicting a bear.

The committee and foundation spent months trying to find a creative way to make this project come together. During a period of frustration, one of the committee members asked Dave Metituk, co-owner of a local Speedpro Signs franchise, if his business could create a mosaic.

Having co-owned his shop for nearly 20 years, Metituk has augmented his innate problem-solving abilities over time with a breadth of skills in production, fabrication, installation and product development. When his 204-m2 (2,200-sf) shop’s production department added a computer numerical control (CNC) router 15 years ago, for example, its in-house fabrication capabilities increased exponentially. Other key equipment includes a vinyl plotter, a flatbed applicator, a 1.4-m (54-in.) wide laminator and two 1.4-m wide ‘eco-solvent’ inkjet printers, along with various hand tools.

Client consultation
Meeting on-site with both the client and the artist was a critically important early step in the process, so Metituk could really understand the space, the artist’s point of view and the importance of the project to the city. The mosaic would be displayed at Theresa Sargent Hall, an open public space attached to the local art gallery and library.

The main challenge was to create a mosaic that would stand the test of time, as it was to remain installed for the foreseeable future, but also complete it before the end of the year, so as to take advantage of the grant funds available to support it.

It can be very difficult for clients to visualize what is possible with today’s signmaking tools and materials. Digital proofing has come a long way in helping to alleviate this issue, but as Metituk proposed multiple layers of images, with different material treatments, the roles of signmaker and artist began to blur at a certain point. Fortunately, he was able to win permission to create the vision as he saw it in his head.

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