David A Smith is a name that has become synonymous in Sign-Writing and Glass gilding circles, with high quality, hand crafted reverse glass signs and decorative silvered and gilded mirrors. In this short documentary, filmmaker Danny Cooke reveals behind the scenes work, techniques and visions that Dave uses when carrying out his passion as a glass embosser – One of the few remaining traditional UK glass artists.
Dave’s career in sign-writing began in 1984, when he left Westlands School in Torquay, aged 16 and was apprenticed for 5 years with Gordon Farr & two associates. These gentleman were traditional sign-writers, who had come up through the ranks and Gordon, in particular had an almost uncanny ability to paint letters, accurately laid out, without even a preliminary sketch. Under their tutelage, Dave became an accomplished draftsman, accurate letter painter & talented pictorialist.
In 1992, Dave set up his own sign business in Torquay dealing every aspect of the sign trade from vehicle graphics to 3D installations but always with his own stamp of unique design and pristine execution.
In the same year, on a visit to New Zealand, he had the immense good fortune to be invited to Wilmington, California to meet Rick Glawson & his crew of the famous “Fine Gold Sign Company”. Rick, who is sadly no longer with us, was universally regarded by his peers as the godfather of gilding, with a reputation for sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of glass decoration with eager students of the craft. The two became firm friends & Dave thereafter attended the California conclave of Letterheads every year. This is a gathering of talented sign artists, carvers, muralists & gold leaf experts. They further fueled Dave’s passion for creating elaborate, ornate mirrors & reverse glass signs of distinction. At the peak of “his sign company” success, Dave sold the business, to concentrate more fully on gilding, painting & acid-etching glass, adding brilliant cutting, so that he could fully replicate the Victorian glass work he admires so much. From home in Torquay, Devon, UK, he continues his quest to uncover & share even more knowledge of the processes involved before it becomes a lost art.