Artcraft is an 81 year old creative signcrafters design – build studio, museum, & gallery serving up excellent signage and somewhat related items since 1933.
If you would like to know more about our work, please browse this site, visit our facebook page, or just give us call at 919-832-5058.
A brief history:
Just a note here, for those interested, Sylvia and I have been slowly getting started on a high quality coffee table book of Artcraft and her long history. Stay tuned, one day it will just show up on our store site.
Artcraft Sign Company was started in 1933 by Jimmie Weaver. Jimmie began his career in the signwriter’s trade doing hand-lettered theater showcards (advertising posters) promoting films for local theater houses in and around Raleigh /Durham NC. The shop actually started on the second floor of a downtown theatre. The showcard work he did eventually led to a few commercial sign jobs for local businesses, and Artcraft began to grow. From the beginning, Artcraft was a Hand-Lettering Sign Shop, and from this foundation Jimmie developed the company throughout the 1930’s and ’40’s, adding neon signs, gold leaf work, carved sign panels and other sign types to his product offering. Jimmie Weaver remained active at Artcraft until the 1980’s when his daughter Sylvia, having grown up in the shop, took control of the family business.
Sylvia Weaver owned and operated Artcraft Sign Company from the 1980’s until she retired and sold the company to Jim Jackson in August of 2009. Sylvia is worthy of a book all her own, so I will cut this part short for now, and promise to continue revising and editing as time allows.
In late 2009 I purchased Artcraft from Sylvia, and by early 2010, my previous Studio 106 operation in Raleigh had been consolidated and folded into the existing Artcraft location on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh.
I came into the sign and graphics industry in the early 1980’s, at about the same time Jimmie was transitioning Artcraft to his daughter Sylvia. This timeframe was also a transitional “moment” within the sign industry as a whole, from craft shops utilizing hand lettering and other craftsman style production techniques, to the beginnings of the computer graphics era.
My father, Tracey Jackson, also a sign man, had to drag me into this work. Dad was at one of the early Letterhead meets in Colorado, and had been hand lettering signs and trucks himself since the early 1970’s. I was always around the work as a kid growing up, and though Dad and I did not actually work together until many years later, I somehow landed a job running a small sign shop in Virginia. Quickly I was passionately hooked on the lettering trade.
Pete Schnibbe and I worked together at that shop, became great friends, and eventually broke out and started our own shop together with a pair of pliers, a stepladder, a few lettering quills and not a single client. Along with another great friend, Kenny Pitts, we started practicing our hand lettering techniques, drooling over Sign Craft magazine, and writing business plans on napkins at the local bar.
Closing signage sales at a rate just barely ahead of our financial obligations, we eventually built a successful small sign shop (Eastern Signworks, Sterling, VA) on passion, beer, and luck.
We have formed and broken apart multiple partnerships, shops, and associations since, always in the name of doing better signwork, each in our own way.
By the time I ended up owning Artcraft Sign Co in Raleigh, NC some 20 plus years later, I could really appreciate the long history of the company and the people who had kept it going, not to mention all of the cool products and techniques that had been kept alive with it.
I had come into the sign industry passionate about the historical techniques and art of sign-making, just a moment before the desktop computer came into the sign shop. The introduction of the computer opened the doors of our industry to people more interested in the business model than the art of sign-making, so as an “old school” sign professional who stayed with the work because I loved it….a traditional sign company like Artcraft and I were a great fit.
Writing this in 2014 with some 30 years of experience in the trade, I am still more passionate and idealistic about the work than the business model. This seems to be proven out when I compare my bank account with my portfolio. I have been lucky enough to work at almost all levels of the sign industry, from upper management in a 40 store Sign Shop franchise group to running a multi million dollar shop with 25 employees, to sweeping the floors and hand lettering boards as the current owner of Artcraft. I have learned to love the business but I am passionate about the actual sign making.
As I slowly build Artcraft “word of mouth” by promoting both vintage and contemporary high quality custom signage, my best days at work seem to revolve around the making of the signs. I still enjoy learning something new every day and I value our ability to provide high quality signage made to effectively do its job with class and style.
Not all of our clients care to invest in high-end signage, so we try hard to make the sign that is needed rather than simply the portfolio piece that excites us creatively.
Sometimes the sign that is needed is a simple, inexpensive plastic panel with block letters, so we produce quick turnaround, low-budget, temporary, and simple “standard” sign products just like any modern vinyl sticker retail sign shop. We do this competitively, but our specialty is the cool stuff.
I don’t come to work every day to make money, although I believe that the money will follow the passion, I come to work to do interesting quality work. I hope that Artcraft will flourish during my tenure here, and that perhaps I might transition the company to another who values quality signage and the small shops that produce this type of work. Perhaps my son might usher in the next 81 years of Artcraft history, at 14 years old, he seems to have a knack for the new digital stuff!
For now, Artcraft Sign Company stands proudly on the foundation of her long history.
We look forward progressively, having added contemporary digital and computer aided design & manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technologies such as Computer Numeric Control Routing (CNC), full Four Color Digital Output capabilities, Light Emitting Diode Technologies (LED) and more.
We feel that what makes Artcraft special is our passion for our craft and our unique ability to marry old school materials, techniques, experience, and craftsmanship with contemporary expertise, technology, and partnerships. Please bear with us as we continue re-inventing and refining ourselves in the year 2014 and stay tuned as we will be presenting more of our history here on this page throughout the year.
Thanks for reading!
-Jim Jackson, owner-operator, Artcraft Sign Co
Jim’s sign industry experience illustrated in business cards, starting mid 1980’s.