Follow the sign to Wayne’s world

Wayme Tanswell at his Sudbury studio

Wayme Tanswell at his Sudbury studio - Credit: Archant

Slightly quirky and definitely different, Wayne Tanswell has turned signwriting into a modern art form

Wayne Tanswell

Wayne Tanswell - Credit: Archant

For the whole of March at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds you can enter the wonderful world of words of Wayne Tanswell, signwriter and literal artist.

Wayne, from Great Cornard, is staging an exhibition of his work called Writing Wrongs – a quirky take on traditional sayings – in aid of St Nicholas Hospice. He’s hoping his original wall art, combining mixed fonts painted on recycled pallets, will capture the public’s imagination and raise much needed funds. His work has already received broad media acclaim with features on the BBC and ITV.

Wayne has been a signwriter since he left school at the age of 16 with few qualifications and little idea of what to do with the rest of his life.

He met his first traditional signwriter while he was at his part-time job, sweeping out buses at the depot after school.

Wayne Tanswell, work in progress

Wayne Tanswell, work in progress - Credit: Archant

“He asked me what I was going to do when I left school,” recalls Wayne. “I replied ‘I would like your job’. he told me I’d better do well at school and pass my exams.”

In fact, Wayne achieved good grades at art, but English – and spelling in particular – eluded him. On his last day at school Wayne was hitching a ride home – he had no money for the bus – when who should give him a life but a professional signwriter, passing through the village.

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“He was new to the area and looking for an apprentice. I replied, ‘I’m available and can start in the morning’.”

Wayne never looked back. Thirty years later he’s still a signwriter – although he admits he still can’t spell.

While demand for traditional signwriting has generally declined in the face of modern technology – digital printing and the like – Wayne has found a niche for his craft with clients such as pubs, hotels, the National Trust and independent businesses that call for a more creative approach.

He’s also turned it into an art form in its own right. He teaches willing students at his studio in Sudbury as well as in London for Handover, the maker of signwriters’ brushes, who sponsored an exhibition of his work at its Stoke Newington workshops.

Writing Wrongs’ by Wayne Tanswell

Tuesday March 3 - Sunday April 5

Official exhibition launch: Friday March 13 6pm - 8pm

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