San Diego, California
Posted on Wednesday, February 28th, 2018
Chuck was first featured in the March/April 2001 issue of SignCraft. He has moved a couple of times since then before landing in his native San Diego. Now 64, he’s using the Internet to market the brand of creative sign work that he enjoys along with other types of sign work that fit his shop.
Chuck Peterson Designs
600 sq. ft.
Gerber Signmaker IVB
Gerber Edge printer
Gerber Omega software
I work out of a studio in my home. I have about 600 feet of workspace—the garage plus one adjacent room in the house for my office. It works very well for me. I’m pretty low-tech. Believe it or not, I use a Gerber Signmaker IVB and a Gerber Edge. I outsource anything that requires bigger equipment than that. That way I don’t have to stock the materials or spend time doing the work. I know some shops prefer that, but I’d just rather be doing other work.
I basically work alone, but I do get a little help now and then from Mike Mannis on social media, Internet marketing and some fabrication and installation work. He’s not in the sign business, but he is an artist and he loves signs. I call him a sign connoisseur.
Back in San Diego:
I lived in Cardiff-by-the-Sea for quite a few years, then I decided it was time for a new adventure. So in 2006 I moved to Prescott, in the high country of Arizona. It was very nice. It gets cold enough to snow there and it’s beautiful country. But I missed California, so I moved to Sierra Madre which is next door to Pasadena. After two years, though, I moved back to San Diego, where I was born and raised. I’ve been here again for the past four years.
Moving away and coming back again isn’t exactly good for business. One of the things that I did to get going again was to donate signs to worthy nonprofit organizations, like some of the animal shelters. I’ve donated banners, window signs and magnetic signs— whatever they needed. That gets the word out and I like doing that sort of thing.
The mix of work:
It seems like my work has gone off in two opposite directions at the same time. I’m doing a lot of what I call “art signs.” These are hand-lettered signs that are done not for commercial advertising use but rather for decor in homes and restaurants. It’s all hand-lettered work, and I sell those at art shows in the area and on Etsy.com and eBay.
People like to hang these signs in their homes. I make up the wording then do a design, then post it. When I sell it, I make one that’s similar, but never identical, and post that. It’s fun and it works out well.
On the other hand I’m doing a lot of lobby signs for medical offices and law firms. I usually have Gemini laser- or router-cut the letters for me. Some of those I sell online as well, and they go all over the country.
I’ve also been doing a lot of cast bronze plaques, which is another thing that I outsource to Gemini. In the past I might do one or two of those a year. But I am marketing them online now and doing quite a few of them.
I like this mix of work. It’s a nice variety. As I’m getting older, I’ve learned not to worry about some of the things I worried about in the past. I’ve also learned not to compare my work to others. I see a lot of work in SignCraft that I could never aspire to do, but I just keep trying to be the best Chuck Peterson that I can be. It works out pretty well.