A hastily written sign is a familiar sight at many businesses, hardly warranting a second thought. But when two Peoria artists took notice of several tattered signs in storefronts along West Main Street, they saw an opportunity to make a positive impact. Designer Chelsie Tamms of Lettering Works and photographer Sarah Waldo of Violet and Ivy Photography took it upon themselves to offer these businesses creatively hand-lettered signs and storefront photographs—illustrating the difference that intentional design can make in a neighborhood.
The “Hand Letter West Main” project involved replacing signs in the windows and doors of storefronts with Tamms’ distinctive hand lettering, while Waldo took “before” and “after” photographs to document the contrast. “The project was inspired by both the Help Shape West Main initiative—put on by Peoria's Innovation Team and the Renaissance Park Community Association—and our interest in doing a small part in building up the community with our individual talents,” Tamms explains.
The messages may be simple—“Use other door,” “Must be 18+ to enter,” business hours, etc.—but the new signs add a refreshing detail that looks professional and welcoming. “West Main is somewhere I personally spend a lot of time at, as well as being a very walkable small-business hub,” adds Tamms. “The city has had its eye on the area for redevelopment, so this project allowed us to showcase how far a small effort could go.”
The artists became acquainted through Tuesdays Together, a monthly meetup for creative entrepreneurs, and they believe there’s potential to expand the initiative to other neighborhoods. “We'd both love to be hired for our services in the future by small business owners or community associations that believe in the work we do,” Tamms notes. Find more examples of their signs at letteringworks.com/handletterwestmain—and visit letteringworks.com and violetandivy.com for more information on their work and services. iBi