Lucy's Story

Lucy,18, has just completed studying sign making at Sheffield College and is now setting up her own business. She is from Hampshire and spent the last two years living in university halls of residence as Sheffield was the only place to do sign making. WEST gave her £75 towards tools.

Why did you want to do sign making?
My dad paints canal boats for a living and I watched a sign writer work for two days on one of the boats my dad had painted. I have always loved art and this inspired me to try to find a course or a way to learn.

I love the fact you can be so independent when it comes to your work. You can be creative and add your own mark to each piece. The best project I have done so far is a glass LED sign I made for a student at Sheffield College who was selling sweets to other students. I enjoyed having total control over the entire design and construction.

What was studying sign writing like?
I have just finished my level 2 in sign making at Sheffield College. Sign writing is considered a dying trade, and Sheffield was the only place in the country to do the course. I am originally from a small town called Fleet in Hampshire and I travelled to Sheffield when I was 16, living in university student halls on my own.

Although it was a sign making course and not a sign writing course I felt that learning the modern techniques would be an advantage. I was given a great deal of support and help with the traditional sign writing though I had to practice a lot of the time alone. The college allowed me to use the facilities and I spent most of my free time in college, practicing my art.

What did you think about sign making being a male-dominated trade?
Being in a “male-dominated” job does not bother me. I have always believed that a woman can do many jobs traditionally done by men. It never really seemed to me as being a problem. I wanted to do this type of work because I knew I would enjoy doing it.

Apart from myself, there was only one other girl in my class. We didn’t get treated any differently to the boys for most of the time. The boys often asked for our help when they wanted a “feminine touch” on signs or designs

What are your ambitions?
The next step is to continue practising my painting techniques and try to build my business and get it running at a profit.  I hope one day to be regularly selling work that I have manufactured in my workshop and be in demand and taking commissions for traditional sign writing work.

For now it’s all about just keep going, and hoping my reputation grows to carry me forward. I have decided to expand my knowledge of art and design so I have enrolled at Basingstoke College of Technology where I will be studying Art and Design at advanced diploma level for the next two years.

What did you think when you heard you got a WEST bursary?
I thought it was a really great idea to help women out because I know how hard it can be. I was over the moon to find out that I had received some of the bursary money to help me keep moving forward.

What advice would you give to other girls or women thinking of going into sign making?
If you have a lot of time, patience and determination then go for it, though my business brain tells me not to encourage anyone to potentially become my competition!