Meet the Letterheads: Keeping the Craft Alive

The Letterheads movement continues to go from strength to strength as it nears its 50th anniversary.

Horizontal purple banner in three parts with lettering, scrollwork, and decorative tassles.
Mark and Rose Oatis' silk banner on display at Tokyo Letterheads in 2019: "Letterheads, 1975, Keepers of Our Craft. Through practice might mastery each student gain. Every master through life will a student remain."

Ten years ago this month, I was greeted at Minneapolis airport by temperatures of -16℃ (3°F) and a man with a fox on his head. That man was Mike Meyer, and I was visiting the USA for the first time to attend his Mazeppa Mardi Gras Letterheads meet. At the time, I didn’t know what to expect, nor that the trip would change my life.

Two men with arms over shoulders in an airport. One is wearing a fox fur on his head while the other points towards it.
'Wear the fox hat': meeting my ride to Mazeppa Mardi Gras in March 2014.

Letterheads Meets

The origins of the Letterheads movement were a series of gatherings of sign painting apprentices in Denver, Colorado, in the mid-1970s. To this day, its lifeblood remains those that are relatively new to the trade, with the broad aim of sharing knowledge, skills, and time with other like-minded craftspeople, invariably accompanied by liquid and other refreshments.

The 1982 'Boise BBQ' was one of the first large gatherings of the Letterheads, hosted by Noel B. Weber, one of the original founders.

Letterheads 'meets' (the correct term for these gatherings) can vary in size and format, from a few people getting together in a sign shop over a couple of beers, through to multi-day events with hundreds of international guests.