Eric Taylor, village signwriter

By signcraft

Posted on Saturday, February 25th, 2023

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

England’s roads connect one small town after another, and in years past, many of those towns had a signpainter or two. They provided all the signs in their area decade after decade, usually in a traditional style that they had learned or been exposed to for years. Looe is one such place, a fishing village in southeast Cornwall, and Eric Taylor was one of those sign painters for over 40 years.

After he graduated from art college with an honors degree in fine arts, Eric decided to teach himself signwriting. He started in a small way, and as he had always had a love of cartoons, was asked to paint the four large front windows of a local pub. From there, more and more sign work came his way.

For years he was the “village signwriter” in Looe and the surrounding area. He and his wife Sue lived in the heart of Looe where Eric worked out of a small studio—a spare room – with sign construction done in the entrance hallway. In 2007 Eric and Sue moved to a hill above the town where he had a much larger, and more ideal, studio.

His hand-lettered signs, often with hand-painted cartoons and graphics, had an air of folk art about them. His work was flat painted signs of all types, along with storefronts. He seldom lettered vehicles, but was often seen painting the names on fishing boats and the variety of boats that frequented Looe harbor.

“Always with an eye on the incoming tide!” Sue says. “He never advertised because his work was all over Looe. For years he just kept a photograph album that he would let customers flip through to get an idea of what he could do for them. Later, I made a website for him, which made it easier for customers to look at his work. He didn’t have much time for the computer. If someone brought him a computer-generated drawing and said that’s what they wanted, he would say, ‘Oh no you don’t. Let me show you what you really want…’”

Even before his signwriting days, he used to draw cartoons for friends’ birthdays, and later, his very topical Christmas cards, were treasured—and are still greatly missed. Eric died in 2016, shortly before his 71st birthday, after a battle with COPD. For the last year, he worked with his oxygen in a backpack, and while in the hospital, he had Sue send a quote to a customer, but died suddenly the next day.

“In Cornwall, there aren’t many traditional signwriters left,” Sue says. “I only know of one in the whole of Cornwall. When you travel about, you don’t see many hand-painted signs. It’s sad because hand-painted signs give a town a look all its own.”