The first drawing I submitted was the tree concept. I drew from my heart, thinking of my own grandchildren as I designed. I sent the drawing, a little apprehensively, desperately wanting to hit a homerun on my first try. I fully understood how important this was for the family. Because the client was a sign maker, I also knew the expectations would be very high.
The tree is now wired and ready for concrete. The edges of the sign were textured with a die grinder to extend the woodgrain seamlessly from both sides. This small detail adds a lot of believability.
The family’s initials were carved into the base of the tree behind the roots as requested. Details abound on the tree, and are there to be noticed by those who really look. The four ladybugs are the most obvious.
After the three coats of base color had dried it was time to begin the glazes. As always we started with the lightest glaze. It was brushed on and wiped off carefully. The glaze left in the texture and cracks made these details jump into view.
We hand sculpted four ladybugs using Abracadabra Sculpting Epoxy on the tree and sign. Ladybugs were Dayna’s favorite and there is one for each year she was with us. Rather than being realistic they are much like a four-year-old would imagine them.
Jeff is busy painting the 5/8-in. rods that support the sign. The sign lettering and the fairy door fade from blue to purple. When I asked Dayna’s family about her favorite color they told me it was blue until just before she died. For reasons they do not know, in the last few months she suddenly decided it was purple. The blue/purple fade tells that story.
The many roots of the tree add interest to the feature—and most of the complexity to the project. Welding the armature, tying on the lath, applying the concrete and sculpting it, along with the painting are all much more difficult and time consuming in the back and upside-down areas. The fairy door was done using sculpting epoxy for extra detail.
The leaf shapes were cut from 10 gauge steel plate, bent to shape and then welded to the half-inch steel rod that forms the stem. A little grinding makes everything nice and smooth. Once we were done they were sent out to the powder coaters for the green color.

A very special sign

By Dan Sawatzky

Posted on Thursday, October 26th, 2017

We put our hearts into every sign we tackle in our shop, but every once in a while a project comes along that demands a whole lot more. A while ago I was contacted by Marian Perrot. Her email read as follows:

“I have been a fan of yours for many years. We own a sign shop, 1st Choice Graphics, in northeast Saskatchewan and work mainly with the farm machinery manufacturing companies in this area. I’m not sure how to make this a short story but here goes…

“My granddaughter Dayna died in 2005 just shy of her 4th birthday. We spent her last 14 months in and out of hospitals in Saskatoon and Edmonton. Looking back we are grateful for the time we had with her. She taught us so much.


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Dan Sawatzky

Dan Sawatzky's shop, Sawatzky's Imagination Corporation, is in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. Dan shares his experience in his Sign Magic Workshops on 3-D sign making, and his Sculpting Workshop.