Oracal 951 vinyl film
Oracal 751 vinyl film
Oracal 751 vinyl film
Sandblasted western red cedar finished with 1 Shot lettering enamel over an oil-based primer on the letters and Sherwin Williams solid latex stain for the background
Oracal 751 vinyl film on ½-in. overlaid plywood finished with Chromatic bulletin enamel
22k gold leaf on sandblasted cedar with enamel border and stained background
Sandblasted western red cedar finished with 1 Shot lettering enamel over an oil-based primer on the letters and Sherwin Williams solid latex stain for the background
Digital print on Avery wrap media with laminate
Oracal 751 vinyl film
Oracal 751 vinyl film
Oracal 751 vinyl film
Oracal 751 vinyl film
Oracal 751 vinyl film
Oracal 751 vinyl film
Sandblasted western red cedar finished with 1 Shot lettering enamel over an oil-based primer on the letters and Sherwin Williams solid latex stain for the background

Tom Bowen

By SignCraft Magazine

Posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Shop name:
Plainfield Signs

Shop size: 2400 sq. ft.

Age: 62

Staff: Three plus Tom and Sue

Graphics equipment:
Roland SP540 printer/cutter
Roland and Graphtek plotters

Online:
www.plainfieldsigns.net
On Facebook as Plainfield Signs, Inc.
In high school, Tom Bowen found a job in a department store. Before long, he worked his way into the display department, doing the window signs on a small press and using transfer lettering. He was fascinated by lettering, and the woman who designed the newspaper ads shared what she knew about the use of lettering and type. At the time, the company was expanding into the malls going up around Chicago, so there was plenty of display work to do.

When the boss sent him to pick up a delivery truck that had been lettered at a sign shop, he found himself intrigued by the sign shop and amazed as he watched the sign painter. “His name was Wayne Majeri,” Tom says. “He did terrific work and he’s retired now. I have a few of his old signs in my shop. They’re beautiful.”

But rather than switching to sign work, Tom went on to the University of Illinois. His first thought was to major in art, but he decided on advertising instead. After college, he worked in his dad’s bakery for a couple years then landed a job as a beer salesman. We’ll let Tom take over from here:

One day I needed some banners for a promotion so I stopped in to see a sign painter—John Blazekovich at Blaze Signs. As I looked around his shop and watched him working, I fell in love with it right on the spot.

John passed away a couple years ago, but he was a real artist. I was trying to learn calligraphy, and he showed me how. Eventually I learned to hand letter and in 1985, opened my own shop. I went on to meet a lot of other local sign people. There is a lot of great talent around here—folks like Pat Finley and Bob Behounek.

Signs for small businesses: Like most sign shops, most of our customers are local small businesses. We do the usual mix of work—vehicles, windows, flat signs—and also a lot of sandblasted signs. I do vehicle wraps reluctantly, mostly because I prefer a clean legible look. Wraps tend to get cluttered and hard to read. In fact, I do more partial wraps for that reason.

Power of teamwork: Initially I was going to just be a one-man shop, but I eventually added another sign painter. Over the years, I’ve had three very good people who worked with me. Today, Colt Pelka does design and production, Mark Shoukletivich handles the maintenance, and Wayne Erber works with us part-time, doing carving and fabrication. Sue, my wife, does the books and manages the office.

Last year, I got pretty sick and ended up needing a double lung transplant. It took some time for me to get over all that, but everyone stepped up and kept us afloat. It’s good to have a team like this.

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