By SignCraft Magazine
Posted on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018
Shop size: 12,100 sq. ft.
AXYZ 5-by-12 CNC router
PlasmaCAM CNC Plasma Cutter
54-in. Roland printer/cutter
When I was 11 or 12, I used to watch the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday evenings. I was always fascinated when they showed the behind-the-scenes features of them building the attractions. From then on my dream was to do that kind of work.
After high school, though, I started college in pre-law. But it just wasn’t for me—I wanted to do some type of creative work, so I got interested in the sign trade. Back then it was either hand lettering or three-dimensional work and 3D had always appealed to me.
I started learning all I could about making 3D signs. I ended up doing a lot of sandblasted and other 3D signs for the next 27 years. It was mostly for local businesses, though, and not themed work. My theming opportunities were primarily in children and teen spaces for churches, one of which was a castle that was 60-ft. wide and 22-ft. tall.
Creating themed projects I had branded the company as Kingdom Productions. We are a faith-based company so it matters a lot to me that we honor God in how we treat clients, vendors and our employees. We believe in the “Golden Rule” of treating others as you would like to be treated and we do our best to practice it.
In 2010, we were given an opportunity to do some work for the Cincinnati Zoo. That began a complete change of direction for us. We refocused the business on doing themed projects for cultural attractions—zoos, museums and theme parks. At first, it was smaller themed food stands, but then we got into themed environments. This was much closer to my original dream.
Our niche has become food and retail projects for the cultural attraction market, and we work all over the country. Themed projects are meant to take the visitor out of where they are and into somewhere else, bringing them into the experience. It is called Immersive Theming. Many of our projects have become photo-ops for the guests.
We really enjoy doing full environments, which includes the highly themed signs, but there’s a lot of other work that goes into it as well. We do projects in cultural attractions all over the US. It’s different from most sign work, though, in that you get a lot more detailed. The people who see the signs, graphics and props are on foot rather than racing by in a car.
We have a very talented staff of 16—a great group of skilled designers and artisans. They sculpt, paint and fabricate a lot by hand, although we use automation and technology where we can.
Embracing technology We use the CNC router a lot and recently purchased a CNC plasma cutter. We also added a full metal shop. Up until now, we’ve been outsourcing most of our metalwork, and this will let us handle it in-house.
I embraced the technology as it came on the scene back when I had my sign shop, and invested in it as I could afford to. This makes a lot of things possible that just wouldn’t be practical by hand. Our next significant purchase will probably be a CNC hotwire cutter. This will let us cut out over-sized 3D sculpted work in-house, rather than outsourcing it.
We also do planning and design for our clients as well as design/build. Our projects continue to grow in size and scope. That’s pretty exciting in and of itself because each project seems to lead us to a bigger one.
A lot of our work is fairly large projects that are fabricated in the shop then assembled and installed on location. We have recently added mobile and modular food and retail stands to our offerings for our clients. We work our same theming magic on our mobile and modular units, but we fabricate them in-house as a complete unit then drop them in place on the site.
We don’t pursue signage for local businesses anymore. Most of our projects include a lot of signage, though, because it’s such an essential part of theming.
We have a great team and a great work atmosphere. We have an awesome facility and we have a lot of fun.
As for me, I’m finally doing the type of work I dreamed about as a kid. I often feel like that 12-year-old boy again. I’m always excited to see the next project come together.