Inside the world of Nick Garrett’s classic hand painted signwriting

A London Signwriting and Gold Leaf Gilding company, specialising in traditional, retro and modern brand sign writing. Workshop, on site and studio based quality production and courses.

The complete bespoke service.

Inside the world of Nick Garrett’s
classic hand painted signwriting –

Raffety Nick Garrett signwriter 002

One Two Five - Nick Garrett Signwriter NGS London


Since NGS began a bespoke signwriting service in 1981 the industry grew, died and is now bursting into life again. We are feeding this great art revival with passion and style, with great signs and great student support.

I love providing a wide range of hand written, gilded and painted lettering. It’s what our forefather’s did and what we continue to invest in today: lettering shop fronts, retail windows, doors, panels and walls.

Message I studied commercial sign writing in Edmonton, Alberta quite a few years ago. I miss the absolute soul and pride that it gives the maker. Thank you for your website. Regards.

Most popular work includes retail displays, hospitality, bars, restaurants, hotels, galleries, homes, objects and offices.

NGS is a leader in quality bespoke sign painting across all London and are always happy to chat over your project and ideas.

Signwriter Nick Garrett at the George Stepney London 003

The George Tavern London Signwriter Nick Garrett NGS 3

Shops, cafes, house numbers, bars, teaching… we try to cover it all.

Nick on the fascia
T e a c h i n g Teaching Irena Szhestakova

Sheen Mortlake Fascia Nick Garrett SignwriterSkiedJet

Fantastic Signwriting!

Leading London Signwriting company specialising in Classic Modern Design, Hand Painted Lettering & fine Gold Leaf works – NGS


Mr happy... with a brand new NGS sign!!!welcomeTattoo detail Love Hate Social club London new sign by NGSTattoo 4 Love Hate Social club London new sign by NGSThe Crew Rockef203-lyle2527srestaurant-teabuilding56shoreditchhighst

A London Traditional Signwriting company specialising in bespoke, hand painted lettering & fine gold leaf works NGS London

Contact me

NGS For A Stylish London 

Traditional Sign

modern twist bespoke hand painted lettering,

fine gold leaf and architectural gilding works

A London Traditional Signwriting company specialising in bespoke, hand painted lettering & fine gold leaf works NGS -Patey hats London signwritten by Nick Garrett 001


Lettering detail R Original Features Hornsey London NGS signwriters

Cafe No 193 NGS signs of london

London’s Signwriting experts

fz 12
 Origins of a great tradition – Florence Italy
Heritage signwriting
Understanding the Heritage of signwriting and gilding
That is the NGS way.
The truth; by eye, by hand, by heart.

Signsmith August weekender workshop

Signsmiths weekender NGS London signwriting crew sweep Signsmiths weekender NGS London signwriting crew Sign crew 1534995_715654881789112_2085898945611053953_n 1150902_10203194999933845_259706787_n


Ghost sign walkabout was pretty awesome with some excellent focused talks about Edward Johnston fonts, Regent Street brand, Austin Reed logo and influence, the massively excellent Dave Smith’s work at Burberry, our work at Penhaligon, Paul Smith and Sister Ray, Soho Ghost sign study and foundations of the Gotham family font.


Studio was an essential dive into the paint and what came out was a superb practice session and application of new skills sets.

Big well done for August 2nd Signsmiths and roll on tomorrow’s session.


Nick Garrett Signs




Vinyl lettering!? Are you serious?? Why vinyl is now so toxic and so last century.

For one signwriting is art – even bad signwriting.  Vinyl is simply low cost rubbish so don’t do it save for opening times.

A peeling


Vinyl says it all about your company – better think again and say it properly with signwriting.

Here is an email just in, asking me to sort this vinyl shit out.  It’s titled ”Peely Sign” 04 08 14


Hi there
Can you give me a quote to paint the sign at the front of my house please? See attached photo. We have recently had the gates and sign painted but the decorator has not done a great job with the actual lettering and as you can see it is peeling off after a week…
Thank you
WendySent from my iPad
Begin forwarded message:
From: martin d
Date: 4 August 2014 13:29:18 BST
To: Wendy L
Subject: Peely sign
Looks a bit shit, eh?

A peeling 2

Thanks,Martin D



Real signwriting is the real answer

Here’s the shortlist as to why…

  • Signwriting is art
  • Signwriting is beautiful
  • The design nuances are endless
  • Signwriting is energy efficient
  • It ages and improves
  • It lasts for decades
  • It communicates properly like real dialogue




Vinyl doesn’t last or cut the mustard


This is how your vinyl sign will look in the future.


This is how your painted sign will look in 100 years…

Vintage sign Hornsey London


The makers – the hand painted sign

Sign crew


Vinyl letterer




Any idiot can switch on one of these things and knock out the plastic.


Cost of sign product



Investment value

Vinyl – low cost short end performance

Signwriting – medium cost long term iconic brand



Bottom line

Vinyl producers laugh at the fact they have put A LOT of sign writers out of business. True … they are proud of that.


Sign writers must share the knowledge and pale these uncreative morons once and for all.


Surveyors are stipulating more than ever that writings is to be used.

Today we can reclaim and write the wrongs suffered by our fantastic artistic trade.







If you need a fine English hand painted sign or numeral, you’ve got my number…

No7 Temple Indian Gastronomy, Weybridge, by NGS signwriters Nick and Tobi


We have the expertise, freshness and Passion to make your sign say everything about your business.  Within 1 week of opening, No 7 Temple of Weybridge it went to ranked no 4 by Tripadvisor for the best restaurants in the area.

We worked closely with Shiraz on this wonderful Gastronomia developing truly inspiring writing for his life’s work.

”I’ve put everything into this Nick…”

”I know mate and that’s why we are giving you everything we’ve got…the work will be our flagship too” Came my reply.

Mirror gilding NGS London

First impression say everything and while painting Jonathan Norris’s Fishmongers on 140 Fortress Road, Tufnell Park, a local lady called up to me.

”I know how good this shop will be just from what your doing…”

NGS London Cool Signwriting

How amazing did that make me feel?! ..  because for me my work is only done and successful if it launches the business.

So you fulfill my dream and I yours, and in that way it is a truly shared venture.

Not just fanciful but empty words this, because we work equally hard at getting the price spot on for you too.

Tobi and I passed by the shop a month later and Jonathan said the words we wanted to hear ” This place is doing fantastic business Nick…”

Great – success.


Which brings me round to another real passion: signwriting numerals for the home.

Not easy at all because they are so important, delicate and purposeful.  And each home is worth so much to the owner that it just has to imbue that spirit through the numbers.

Gallery House Richmond



As you can likely tell, I love my work.

I want to work with you and share the success.

Let’s do it.

Nick Garrett

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SIGNS TODAY: Eye Candy at Bunga Bunga Club London: case London – NGS


This page covers the bespoke signwriting practice of Nick Garrett

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You are in the NGS Gilding page – NEW article Case study Leadenhall Market gilding

… it gleams and reflects – an unparalleled beauty

Here is a quick photo case history of our flash splash for Bunga Bunga disco club in Battersea, London.

Creating the sphere mirror ball base coat.

It was really cold and after an hour right at our backs 3 huge reverse cycle air con units started up, blowing FREEZING air into our kidneys!!  Time to move inside!!

Minus 3 degs… brrrrr

Inside was much better but the board was wobble board –  … but we got it under control and stitched in the detailing to the globe which completely transformed the piece..

Finally I laid on Glow in the Dark phosphorous paint to all white areas and the job was done!

Tonal transition on the mirror tile details created the sensation of light and 3D


Nick Garrett – Design, layout, all paint, detailing



Michael Leventis – lettering for the artist

Lettering the fine fine art painting

This lettering commission was really unpredictable with the canvas and different absorptions affecting flow of sign enamel.

The letters actually flowed on beautifully… but the real drama was getting them on in the first place.

Normally the layout drawing traces down onto the surface easily and one uses the chalk line draft as a close spacing guide.

This drawing and trace down decided to completely fail for some unfathomable reason.  It was at that moment I realised there was something special in the way he applied his paint.

”Only oils with turpentine he mused..”

But as I gave up the normal route I realised I had to do it differently and without hesitation.

I grabbed a pair of rusty studio scissors and started hacking out the letters with reasonable accuracy and rising panic… after a fairly desperate activity I laid the drawing back up and flicked chalk across the now newly chopped stencil.  In 32 years this was a first and not without desperation.

I never use the drawing as a final mark… I always take my brush and allow it to command the structure and curves.  The drawing gets you spaced accurately but after that it can get in the way.

At last my pallet was loaded and brush charged to the canvas the chiselled sable went and with a tip led technique I found myself flying around the text!  Ocassionally the canvas sucked in the mix and cause tiny errors, spiders and runs…  I zapped these with tissue at hand and re cut the glyphs.

The font itself was a contrived New york wharf type of 50s font – chunky and hard. Standing back with line one done it looked really hard and perfect.

I was amazed!!  This was good.

After 30 minutes they were done and it was solid… no need for an outline as originally planned.

The painting had taken on a new dimension and talked it’s own poetic message.

Masking the 10mm box line was a job every bit as accurate as Damien Hirst job nay more so… involved taping registers for marking out … marking, straight liner tape as offset guide, then Frog tape, tracking the straight setters… corners all needed re tape cut ins because impossible to razor trim tap for obvious reasons… Frog Tape ruled again with only 2 tiny bleeds.

Curious as I usually am about my clients, I had a number of fascinating kick-back chats with Michael in his fab Rauol restaurant in Maida Vale and talked about his past present and future aspirations..

I can recommend the salmon and avocado sandwich by t’way.

”I started out working with my father… he didn’t want me to head in the ‘wrong direction’ (art college) and so in my early twenties I found myself in the USA … we had a number of businesses in the states… one of which was a bottling plant for Cocoa Cola… ”

But it wasn’t until I met Francis (Bacon) years later and quite by chance on Ios that I realised I had to paint again… Francis demanded I return to England and found me a studio… how could I refuse that?

” You see my father died of lung cancer… and the chap in the Marlborough adverts died of lung cancer too… so it’s deeply ironic.

I physically winced when he told me that.

”How devastating… ”

Michael kep his eyes fixed in his sheltered yet poised way.  he struck me as a tender hearted man and a gifted painter.

Getting up close to his image on the canvas was quite a surprise because at a distance these graphically rendered images seem rather slick. Up close is a different mater.

They are beautifully painted… crafted across the carefully selected shifts and divisions.

Divisions they depict and play with.

TBC shortly


Ben Jones designs: Heavenly Bodies Bridal

Posted 22 hours ago

By Ben Jones

Earlier this week I mentioned that a logo I had designed for one of my clients, Heavenly Bodies Bridal, was going to be hand painted onto their new shop front, by the talented Nick Garrett.

We had originally hoped that I would pop down to film the process, but unfortunately, I was unable to make it down to the store for the time of painting. So there is no video, boo 😦

I do have a photo however! yay!

photo curtesy of Nick Garrett – pilfered from his website

I think you will all agree, it looks VERY tasty!

You can check out more of Nicks work here:


Starting an Art Guild or Co-op

Starting an Art Guild or Co-op

Many people are interested in starting a guild or art group, but don’t know where to start. Groups provide a good setting to exchange information and to socialize. They can also accomplish things that individual artists can’t, such as sponsoring workshops, organizing group activites, or operating group facilities, studios, and galleries.

The purpose of this paper is to share the experiences of one group of artists in forming a guild.

The Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. (We chose the name “Orchard Valley” to invoke the heritage of California’s past, rather than referring to a particular geographic area.)

The group was started informally in mid-2000; we began signing up members in January, 2001. By mid-2003, we had 168 members, and lots of activities going on. We were fortunate to be in an area with a lot of active ceramic artists, so we were able to grow quickly, but we know of groups with as few as 9 members that are still able to accomplish a lot by working together. We hope that our experiences can help other artists get together!

Getting Started

First, you will need a core group. One person can be the catalyst, but it takes a lot of work to get something like this started – you’ll need a group of people who are excited about the idea, and willing to put in some work to make it happen. In our case, we eventually had a group of 7 people who met regularly to plan, and who each put in a little seed money ($30) to get things off the ground.

We started out by creating a mission statement, which is just a short statement of what the organization is all about. We wanted to create a supportive group, where members work together to help and encourage one another, so this is emphasized in our mission statement.

Under the umbrella of the mission statement, we then decided on the activities we wanted to offer, and we put a person in charge of planning each of these activities: newsletter, website, regular meetings, workshops, and sale. (We later added special events like group pit firings.) We wanted to have some activities in the works when we started recruiting members, so we could tell them what they would get in exchange for their membership dues!

You will need someone who is comfortable with budgeting and spreadsheets to act as treasurer. The treasurer, working with other members of your core team, will develop your first budget, This means figuring out what your activities will cost, estimating how many members you can recruit, and setting your dues to cover your expenses (with a little left over for future projects).

We identified local places where we could reach other potters: schools, clay suppliers, etc, in preparation for our public “launch.” One of our initial team members was responsibility for recruiting, and she put together a nice brochure for us to distribute. It also helped to do a lot of personal networking! We kicked off our recruiting drive with a party that we organized, and we invited every potter we could find. At the party, we ?talked up? the guild and tried to convey our excitement? we actually signed up about a dozen new members that night, and another couple of dozen in the first few months. We now have a meeting every other month. Meetings always have refreshments, usually a guest speaker, but plenty of time to socialize and chat about clay stuff. Members often bring new work to show, or questions for other members.

By the way, the owner of our local clay store has become an enthusiastic supporter. He lets us use his shop for small workshops, post flyers there, and so on. If you have local art suppliers and shops, get them on your side as early as possible!

The rest of this page contains some lessons we’ve learned over the past couple of years.

Professional Appearance

We were lucky to have a professional website developer, and a professional graphic artist, among our early members. From the start, our website, membership brochure, and newsletter looked very good. We didn’t realize how important this was until much later. Once we all got to know one another, many of our new members told us they joined because the group looked professional – they were proud to be associated with it.

So, although it was a lucky accident for us, we’ve learned the importance of a professional appearance. When deciding who will do your design work, don’t just take the first volunteer! We actually held a competition for our logo design. We have a committee review event flyers and other material to make sure it meets the group standards and conveys the image we want to promote. I hope this doesn’t sound too fussy – we just found that if you want people to join you, then you must look like a group they’d want to be part of.

Website and E-Mail

Electronic communication is becoming critical to the visibility of any group!

We found our website to be absolutely essential. I don’t think we could have succeeded without it. It’s the one place members and the public can go for up-to-date information about the guild and guild activities. When you meet a new potter and tell them about the guild, you don’t need to have a brochure handy – just give them the address of the website. If you forget the date of the next meeting, check the website. Want to sign up for the next workshop? Go to the website.

We publish a paper newsletter 6 times a year – people like to get something tangible. But between issues, we send out news and announcements to a mailing list of our members. More than 90% of our members have e-mail addresses – this may not be true in your area. We established a buddy system, so people with e-mail pass on important news to the relatively small number who don’t use e-mail.

Our website now gets about 30-40 visitors a day, and we see big spikes (extra visits) before our events, so we know people are using the website to get information.

We’re also starting to use e-mail to reach customers.

Our guild has built up a mailing list of regular street addresses, which we use to send out postcards before our sales. We won’t abandon that any time soon – it works quite well for us – but we’re also starting to collect e-mail addresses from our customers. We have about 4000 street addresses, and so far just 500 e-mail addresses on our customer list. We send out postcards, and then send out a “reminder” to our e-mail list. But in the future (perhaps a few years from now), I believe we will rely on e-mail to promote our sales and events. So, we’re working hard to build up that e-mail list!

Legal Structure

We initially organized as an informal association. In other words, we didn’t have any legal standing. We found a local bank that gave us a free checking account. That was fine for the first few months, but it started to be a problem as we grew:

  • When we tried to rent facilities, we found that our local community center and other places didn’t want to deal with us unless we were a legal corporation. They also had much lower fees if we could show that we were a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation.
  • Our postage bills started to get pretty high when we publicized our sales and workshops. Again, the postage rates are much lower for non-profit corporations.
  • Our officers started to worry about liability. If someone got hurt at a group event, and decided to sue the organizers, none of us wanted to lose our businesses, savings, etc.

So we ultimately decided to incorporate, and apply for 501(c)3 status from the IRS. We bought a do-it-yourself book from Nolo Press to learn about the process and get started. Ultimately, we decided to hire a lawyer, but by reading the book first, we were able to lay the groundwork and ask our lawyer the right questions. We had a fund-raising drive to come up with the almost $2000 needed to have a lawyer do it for us. That includes the various filing fees, plus the lawyer’s fee. The incorporation process and costs vary from state to state, and I’m sure our California laws are more complicated than many places. My advice would be:

  • Think seriously, in advance, about the need to incorporate
  • Read the Nolo Press book
  • If you’re not completely comfortable handling the process on your own, start networking to see if you can find a lawyer who will help you out for free or at a discount!

Note that, if you apply for 501(c)3 status, you will need to show that your group provides a public benefit, so you’ll want to include public education (or charitable contributions) in your mission statement and activities. (It’s a little easier to become a 501(c)4, or member benefit corporation, but you don’t get all the advantages of 501(c)3 status. Your lawyer, or the Nolo Press book, can explain the differences.)

At any event, it was a long road for us, but we are now a tax-exempt public benefit corporation.


If you are starting a co-op studio or gallery, you will need contracts with your members. The contract should clearly define the rights and responsibilities of both the members and the co-op. It should also clearly define how the contract can be terminated by either party. Finally, it should specify a process for resolving conflicts. I recommend that the contract require binding arbitration through a properly accredited arbiter. Otherwise, legal costs arising out of conflicts can bankrupt your group, even if you win!

You may also need to create contracts if you are hiring instructors for workshops, or running sales or other types of programs.

You can write up the terms of your contract in clear, understandable English, then have a lawyer draft the “legal” wording for you. Be sure the lawyer understands your intent, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand the resulting contract, or if you don’t think it says what you wanted. The leaders of your group will probably need to go over the contract many times with prospective members, so be sure you understand it!

That’s All for Now!

This short summary of our experiences should give you a lot to think about, and probably raise many questions!

ArtChain will be expanding the Resources section of the website in the future, so if you have requests or ideas for additional content, please use our Contact page to make your suggestions.



Numerals and door insignia are an incredibly important statement for any home or business… the very first message that we have arrived.  So they have to be made just right.. and doing that is a particular art.

They are not simply numbers but beautifully important objects.

Writing numerals needs a fair bit of consideration – it’s a tight mix of typeface design, craft and architectural art.  

For this set above, which adorn a 9 million pound hotel, my brush and little pot of black paint had to reflect that value.

I first needed to establish the perfect match in sizing and position and immediately set off down Cranley Gdns with tape in hand.  Fairly straight forward I hear you say… nah… every number and every height setting was different.

Measuring the heights, from deck of immediate neighbours nos 2o and 26 I found whopping 20mm difference in height positioning –  I decided on placing 22 in the balanced mean between the two of c51” H and 24 a shade higher.  

Font sizes and styles also varied considerably up and down the street as they were all written by different hands over the past 30 years or so. This final numeral set I made was traced from 2 neighbouring lettered pillars and tweaked making them my own: distinctive, classic, yet beautifully modern.

In the end I measured every pillar numeral on Cranley Gardens in order to know with full certainty, my final measure.

Not only do we have to craft up a fine letter (often on a rough surface) but we need to marry them to the era, feeling and style of their neighbours.

It was quite nostalgic: as if decades of West London’s finest writers surrounded me as I wrote.

 1469966_102025Garden Flat

Restoring original fonts numerals

NGS ‘s Mat made the sketch and final artwork,  for this nice gilded restoration numeral in Muswell Hill, London.

Chelsea house number


19 Barons Ct


Gothic Sans serif – Dishoom Shoreditch

London Signwriter detailing Nick Garrett

Mock up for Dishoom

Contemporary fonts – Ampersand hotel 10 Layout

Photo: Numbered...


Numeral Man


 J Crew Reverse Glass gilding NGS

Heritage NGS Cornhill Collection

I am starting to collate some of the finest carved lettering and numerals from the Cornhill in City of London. These will be converted into paintable fonts thus continuing the fine tradition of my 3 generations of family letter carving.


If you need a fine numeral, you’ve got my number…

Best,  Nick Garrett  07951509238