Letterheads New Zealand Celebrate Their 25th Anniversary

Letterheads New Zealand get back to the business of sign painting for meet number 25 in Wellington.

Man painting a sign.
Jeff Marshall at work on one of his panels at Letterheads New Zealand. Aotearoa is the current Māori-language name for New Zealand.

The Letterheads movement has taken a firm hold in New Zealand and before the pandemic there had been a meet in each of the previous 24 years. They had a long wait for the 25th anniversary event, hosted by the Sign Foundry in Wellington, but it was well worth it. Here are some highlights, and news of plans for 2023...

Keepers of the Craft

Most of the 54 participants were from New Zealand, with a sprinkling of travellers from Australia. There were four apprentices sponsored by NZ Signees Ltd and, as always at these events, they were guided and encouraged by more experienced painters, helping to facilitate the passing of the craft to the next generation.

Five people holding work that they have painted.
Some of the newbies at the 25th New Zealand Letterheads posing with their panels.

The heart of the meet is always the panel jamming and projects (see below), but this event also had a more formal gilding workshop. Participants worked on a reverse-glass piece under Anne McDonald's expert guidance.

Projects and Panels

Many participants had brought things with them to letter and decorate, including old Totara fenceposts, a letterbox, bar signs, and skateboard decks. There was plenty of other stuff available to paint on, and the Letterheads let loose.

Derby Car

It was impossible to miss the swamp monster derby car that everyone took a brush to. This ended up with the Letterheads New Zealand 2022 logo painted on the bonnet, flames down the sides, a target board on the rear, and a gilded sun on the roof. It was finished with signatures from all the attendees, and has now been fitted out for use in a stock car meeting.

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Channel Letters

All participants got to pick a 3D channel letter on arrival which they then decorated. Some added lights and other embellishments to create gifts for friends and family.

Bowling Pins

There were a lot more than ten bowling pins available to play with, and they ended up with all sorts painted on them.

Panels Galore

There were panels of all shapes and sizes, painted with the usual dose of good humour and irreverence.

The 2023 Meet

After the success of the Wellington event, next year's host, Anne McDonald, is going to run it at Sign Foundry's Christchurch premises. The proposed dates are 29 September–1 October 2023 with the theme, 'Letterheads in the Land of the Long White Tiger', so types of all stripes will be the order of the day!

Group photo.
The 2022 New Zealand Letterheads at the Sign Foundry in Wellington.
Thank you to Duncan Rourke, Sign Foundry Managing Director and co-host of the meet with Lydia Reeve, for helping bring this article together. Also to the team of organisers, including: Ash Marshall on hardware, tools and liquid refreshments; Helen Fenn on registrations, sponsorship, catering, and furnishing; Shane Philip on coffee machine duty; Mark Cleland for sourcing the derby car; and Casey Ferrier on logistics, transport and accommodation.

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