Posted on Monday, March 13th, 2023
Shane Durnford—who now goes by Jayce Fox—has always specialized in designing, carving and building exceptionally beautiful signs. Looking back through past articles in SignCraft that featured his work, you’ll find very clean, appealing designs with great proportions.
After a hiatus from sign making of about ten years, he spent the past two years doing a project in Creemore, an historic village of about 1200 that is 80 miles north of Toronto. It’s in a popular tourist area, and since COVID has become home to remote workers.
“It was good to carve letters again and do some classic signs again with custom iron work,” Jayce says. “It was for the village green, which is a park where the railroad used to come through. I designed all the signage for it but didn’t plan on making it. The plan was to outsource that.”
After the design phase, though, Jayce was asked to take on the sign work. The main project was a 16-ft. pillar sign with a train/industrial/Art Deco/contemporary look that tells the history of the park. There were also many secondary signs to go along with it.
“All the signs were done with quality materials and made to last,” he says, “so that was good. I also had a great bunch of people to work with. It was a little challenging because I didn’t have a studio. I did all the work in my garage, but it worked out.
“It was a unique project—a collaboration done by working with the community, landscape architects and others. We were telling a story and creating this design plan. That was a lot of fun. Then I was asked to make the signs, which I really did enjoy. It helped me realize how much I enjoy working with my hands.”
Originally a signwriter, Jayce got into sign carving when vinyl cutters started to replace hand lettered signs. He did that for quite a few years in the Creemore area, and also offered workshops on sign carving and design.
See more of Jayce’s work:
By 2009 he had burned out on sign making. He switched to graphic and web design, and sign designs that others would produce. The Creemore project, though, brought him back around to sign carving.
“I’ve done websites, branding, logo design and package design,” Jayce says. “That was all in the digital world. It was fun, but it’s good to get back into the analog world, where you make things with your hands. That’s more of what I do naturally. Sign work and carving comes easy to me. It’s a pleasure.”
“Today CNC routers make most of the commercial dimensional signs so I’ve opted to specialize on handcrafted signs and architectural carving. There are tuned-in customers out there now who want something created by hand. the clientele is completely different than mainstream sign clientele. It is a true niche.
“There seems to be a swing of the pendulum. With all the shift towards digital, there’s also pushback happening. Some people want hand lettered and hand carved signs.”
Now 62, semi-retired and winding down, Jayce is looking forward to hosting workshops once again and sharing his approach to sign design and carving—and learning to see what makes a design effective and beautiful.
“The workshops that I did for several years weren’t really exclusively about sign making techniques,” he says. “They were more about seeing and understanding where design comes from. For me, it’s a good feeling to pass that along. It was rewarding to see the improvement in the work of many who came to the workshops.
“I’ve had several requests for workshops and have my next one scheduled for June 2 through 4, 2023. Workshops are great because it’s in-person learning where people share their experiences and ideas. It’s different than learning online. Things happen spontaneously and each workshop takes on its own tone.”
Now back to doing some sign carving and sharing what he loves through future workshops, Jayce is certain about staying involved with custom signs. Conventional retirement is not in the picture.
“You can’t give up work if you’re doing something you love,” he says. “It would be like giving up breathing or eating. As signmakers, we’re pretty lucky to have this satisfying work to do, to do things we love, to keep learning. I believe most of what I’ve learned about life has been through the work I’ve done. There have been a lot of lessons learned that way. Why would I stop?”
Here’s a closer look at how the scrolls were carved on the Creemore Pharmacy sign.