When Creemore sign maker Shane Durnford was commissioned by the village’s Mad & Noisy Gallery he accepted the challenge as an artist. Recently, four weeks of labour was unveiled to expose a sign truly representative of the group and what it stands for. It was a work of art that drew appreciative sighs of awe from satisfied peers.
“I wanted to support to support the group but I also wanted to show that a sign does not have to be two sided or made of wood,” said Durnford.
“There is a story to see when you look at it and the feeling that a sign gives the sense of why everything has its place.”
Hanging above entrance of the Mad & Noisy Gallery the high relief image of multi-coloured aqua water flowing around a five-foot sign includes a partially extended fish. The sign not only speaks of surrounding landscape of hills, vales and namesake rivers but Durnford says through using the movement of water he has pulled in the flow and harmony of the work within the establishment.
He came up with the idea for the design after sitting down with the Mad & Noisy River artists who gave him information about the gallery and how the surrounds of the community have greatly influenced their work.
“The different colours represent the depth of talent and work - each colour becomes one individual artist to create one flowing unit. The fish is banded to become part of the water. It does not stand out but represents the harmony of the group as one. The sign works together like they do,” said Durnford who has become an expert in the art of high relief design on wood and other materials over the past three decades.
“The sign is typical of the work that I do and is hand carved made of high density aero thane, a light weight waterproof material. The actual value of the sign would be about $12,000 but I have donated substantial hours and work in support of the community and because I believe in the group and its work. I think the gallery is great for the community.”
Durnford’s involvement in the Mad & Noisy Gallery Sign led the Township of Clearview to adopt a sign by-law regarding the BIA area for Creemore, which goes along with the image and mission statement of the unique community. In the past, stipulations for smaller signs were very restricting but through his experience Durnford has helped the township to understand that “visually signs look much smaller as they go up”.
The process used to create the gallery sign is being featured in a magazine called ‘Sign Craft’ out of Florida that features signs from all over the United States, UK, South Africa and other countries. Through the magazine Durnford offers workshops to sign makers in the industry internationally including Ireland, South Africa and the United States.
Over the past 25 years ‘Shane Durnford Design’ has built up a commercial, residential, municipal and market design clientele that spreads over a 200 mile radius reaching out to Toronto, Peel, Barrie, Oakville and everywhere in between. People from all over the country have been warmly welcomed to Ontario communities by original hand crafted Shane Durnford signs. Collingwood and Creemore are testimony to Durnford’s work while he has also assisted the City of Barrie to create a ‘brand’ new identity.
Businesses of all kinds have commissioned the Creemore artisan to create a lasting image for the service they offer while homeowners and families have also introduced themselves with handsome Durnford sign at the end of their drive. On the ‘Pine River Cottage’ sign a high relief fox hides in a pile of hand carved leaves, while a gentle doe set in the curves and soft landscape extend a warm welcome to ‘Deer Run Farm’. Another residential client once commissioned Durnford to sculpt a 10’ x 8 x 14’ lighthouse for the side of a house. Durnford signs have reached saintly heights as redwood and gold lettering of St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Creemore bear witness to the local sign maker’s talent. In Oakville his carved lettering and full relief lamb stand out on a hand carved 60’ x 30’ x 10’ mahogany sign at St. John’s Church.
Durnford signs come in all sizes, colours and themes. Jackie Durnford who is Shane’s partner in life and in business says it is difficult to set a standard price range for a sign due to the different amount of detail required.
“I just carved some letters into an old moss covered board for a cottage for $380 and have made a $10,000 home sign. Each piece is custom designed to suit the home, location and the home owners within a budget set by the client,” she said.
“Most of our signs are commissioned by small business from the design approach the sign being the primary marketing tool to target their specific clientele.”
Some of the signs in Collingwood done by Shane Durnford Design are on the Garden's Nest /Espresso Post, Chocolarte and Fawcett Funeral Home. The company also provides Marketing/graphic design to these clients including logo design. Some of the company’s logo design work in Collingwood included MacMaster's Crossing and Garden's Nest. It designed Espresso post's Coffee labels and stationery as well as the sign for the Grand Georgian. A specialty is in doing signs for historic buildings and Peel Heritage Complex is a perfect example of this.
One of Shane Durnford Design’s newest ventures is the home market with custom carved architectural pieces that bring design, art and function together such as the lighthouse mentioned above. Examples of these can be seen on the company’s blog.
“I always say it took me 25 years to make a sign not a month of several weeks, but most importantly I make sure that my signs give back value to business to attract the right clientele,” said Durnford.
“Our goal is to further build our reputation as a 'design house' and spread the story of our growing custom architectural carving.”