By SignCraft Magazine
Posted on Tuesday, December 31st, 2019
Shop size: 2000 sq. ft. total
Staff: Five plus Dave
Roland 54-in. printer/cutter
Graphtec Cutting Pro FC5100-75
Gerber Omega software
Dave Sautter began his sign career in the Stowe, Vermont, shop of Jay Cooke, who was first featured in SignCraft in 1985, and went on to work with another SignCraft alumni, the late Doug Williams, in Hawaii. Now 35 years later, it’s our turn to share Dave’s work and his story in SignCraft.
Dave eventually returned to Stowe and put together a team of creative signmakers who serve their resort community of about 5,000—which is visited by hundreds of thousands of skiers each year, not to mention other tourists. SignCraft spoke with David he was beginning another busy Monday:
Early days I got started in the sign business in 1988, working in Jay Cooke’s shop and really enjoyed the work. I learned how to hand letter and hand carve, and how to lay up a wood sign panel.
I was around 21, and eventually decided I wanted to do something a little different. Being a New England surfer, I was pretty limited to when I could surf. I wanted to go somewhere where I could surf year-round, so I decided to roll the dice and go right to Hawaii.
Jay had been to Hawaii, and he told me he had met woodcarver Doug Williams there. I read the article on Doug in SignCraft and saw his beautiful signs—and that he was a surfer. I wrote him a letter, then Jay gave him a call. Doug invited me to stop by when I got to Hawaii.
I bought a one-way ticket then took a bus to LA to catch the plane to Hawaii. Before long I was working with Doug. I worked with him for about five years and am really grateful for that experience. It isn’t easy for a mainlander to make it in Hawaii, but I was able to do it because Doug took me under his wing. He introduced me to his family and friends and showed me the way of the diverse culture.
He helped me become both a better sign maker and businessperson. As a subcontractor, I had to estimate my own jobs, determine the cost and set up the draw I wanted from it each week. Doug took my price and marked it up. It was great experience.
Besides being a mentor, Doug became a great friend. He did super work and was a big influence in my life. I introduced him to mountain biking, which was a relatively new sport in Hawaii. We rode a lot together. I owe a lot to him. He died from cancer in 2012.
Michelle, my wife, and I met in Hawaii— though not for the first time. [Laughing] We had known each other in college, then one day after I had been in Hawaii for a few months, I ran into her while walking to the beach to surf. She had moved to Honolulu and was on her way to work. We ended up dating and marrying, and have two sons.