Have you spotted the beautiful painted signage on our Spruce Street store? Elegant matte gold letters in a classic, serif-heavy font welcome you from our large front window, and matching numbers tout the address above the door. These might be easy to overlook - after all, they are relatively small details, and there's a lot of other lovely stuff in the shop (saying, have you seen that espresso machine?!) to catch your eye. But next time you come in, take a second to admire the signs, which are not the product of some random sign printing company, no. They are the handmade labor of local artist Christian Cantiello. He also painted the striking black and white old-fashioned HubBub logo on the brick wall inside. Dude has serious talent. In addition to the work he's done for us, Christian has designed signage and logos for businesses all over town. His online portfolio is amazing: his lettering turns even simple words into stylish pops of shape and color. We were just so impressed with his work that it made us wonder: who is this guy, anyway? How does one get into sign painting? What's his story?
Turns out, Christian is a Philadelphia native - he grew up in South Philly and recently bought a house two blocks from his childhood home. Something about that makes us feel kinda fuzzy inside. While he's always loved art - he took art classes from Kindergarten through college - he couldn't say exactly what guided his decision to focus mainly on letters, besides perhaps his long-time admiration of graffiti. Though he's had many jobs in his life (his first was working as a busboy in an Italian restaurant on Passyunk Ave. at the tender age of 13!), it wasn't until two years ago that he decided to try to paint signs full time, and for the past 6 month he has successfully been doing so.
His favorite kind of project changes all the time - he gets his kicks from trying new things. For instance, he said he enjoyed working on the brick wall in HubBub (aw, thanks!). He loved getting to design the image from scratch and paint it on the texture of the brick wall. He thought it came out great - we agree, obvs - and said it was so rewarding to see it in its finished state surrounded by all of the other beautiful details in the shop.
By contrast, his least favorite project to work on is a combination bad elements, like a picky customer who wants to make round after round of revisions, or an outdoor job in extreme heat or cold. He's also less than stoked about jobs where he must spend more time using the computer rather than painting.
His designs reminded us a lot of tattoos, and indeed Christian said he's dabbled with tattooing in the past but didn't stick with it. He did note that sign painting and tattooing go hand in hand. A lot of tattooers are also sign painters and vice versa, and good tattoo shops will usually have a lot of hand painted work on the walls, windows and facade. He's done quite a few tattoo signs himself:
Finally, we wanted to know if Christian likes coffee, which he says he does. He definitely drinks it more now than ever, but will also go periods of time without drinking any. He calls himself a novice coffee drinker who might not be able to tell the difference between an "okay" cup of coffee and an great one. But for a guy with such excellent aesthetic sensibilities and such an eye toward craftsmanship...we find that hard to believe.
All photos courtesy of Christian Cantiello