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Documenting the shopfronts of London

With high street retailers experiencing a significant drop in footfall and reports by the Independent revealing that high streets have suffered over the last seven years, dropping by 10%, it seems the hundreds of storefront signs run the risk of becoming ghost signs.

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Steve Hatt, Essex Road

However, for the last ten years, artist Eleanor Crow has been documenting the shop fronts of London after becoming drawn in by their signs and the “beautiful signwriting or skilful 3D typography” that comes with them.

Crow explains: “I admire excellence in typography, all of these – whether painted or 3D metal or wood, or even the original gilded lettering, shows a real eye for design and letterforms. I like to think of the people who first commissioned them for their shops, and how proud they and subsequent generations have been of the care that was taken to create the fascia lettering and the styling of the shop.”

I like to think of the people who first commissioned them […] and how proud they and subsequent generations have been of the care taken to create the fascia lettering and the styling of the shop

When Crow published some of the series of cafes, bakers and other local businesses on the London blog Spitalfields Life, the popular response received from this led her to collate her artwork into a book which includes not only the artwork, but stories about the shops and their histories.

Having now painted a total of 150 shop fronts, Crow says it’s hard to have a favourite sign design: “I admire many styles – as long as it’s done with care and craftmanship. It can be historic or contemporary. It’s great to see new interest in these things from people working in these trades today.”

Deep Clean Launderette, Beulah Road

Whilst documenting the signage, Crow has witnessed different themes emerge, particularly the traditional style of sign-writing. She says: “Skilled painted lettering is seeing a comeback, as it’s a way to stand out. I’d love to see more gilded glazed lettering again.

"People are able to create 3D printed versions of beautiful signage and considered typography for their shops now, too. I like the way 3D lettering casts a shadow at different times of day.”

L. Manze, High St

Working on sometimes busy highstreets has proved challenging for Crow who has found tactical times to paint. She explains: “Painting in situ during big sporting events is great, as the streets are quiet. The World Cup and the Tour de France have been helpful.”

Crow currently has an exhibition at Town House, London which runs until Sunday October 20th. This coincides with the launch of Shopfronts of London which is now available to buy directly from Spitalfields Life.

If you have any news, please email carys@linkpublishing.co.uk or join in with the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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