Behind an arch, in a former custard factory and in just about every crevice in between, this city of 1,000 trades is still making and creating and valuing real craftsmanship. This week, we've been sharing a sofa with the brushes and the brains behind Seven 9 Signs. And if that's a name that doesn't mean anything to you, we're betting every reader a miniature Shetland pony that a part of the portfolio will.
Appearing on the other side of what looks like a lock-up, Jim Kerr (not that one) is deep in thought. He's working on the main sign for new Moseley bar Cheval Blanc, which launches on Saturday, and can't decide whether the lettering needs gold shadowing. We're zero help, but looking around Jim's huge, light, letter trove of a studio, we're sure the former graffiti artist, street artist, urban artist "or whatever they're calling it these days" will make the right shout.
Pondering why he got into words — a subject which the artist formerly known as Zoot has been fascinated by since childhood — Jim explains "I'm very artistic and very dyslexic, so letters are probably something of an enigma to me". An enigma which Jim's been covering Birmingham in, 100% legally, ever since discovering he was to be a dad. Concord House (yep - the one with the flat that sold for £1.8m — pictured) is a project Jim particularly enjoyed. Taking a week of planning and a day and a half on a scissor lift to finally execute, the text can be seen all the way from Brum's urban dining room of a greenhouse, MPW. Jim also worked on the interior.
A project Jim is always keen to accept is the freedom offered by hand-painting ice cream vans. Coming in pre-summer waves, Jim's put his retro Americana mark on four givers of sub-zero joy this year alone. And some pretty important consultants input into the van-mounted mouse, pictured. Herbie and Maggie — Jim's children — get to see the van they helped to design regularly, as it finishes its route via their road, albeit somewhat painfully/perfectly past their bedtime.
Painting signs for plenty of local businesses including new openers The Pig & Tail,Browns Parlour (see top) and The Dark Horse, whilst finalising the lettering forProvide's "on-tour" store, Jim got spontaneous with wooden offcuts and leftover paint. The result was a range of wallet-friendly, nostalgia ladened signs, which are available to buy through Provide, who have shacked up with a big bunch of art talent at 212 Space. Visit them. You'll feel infinitely more creative by association.
Taking on plenty of private commissions, Jim completed this 23.5 carat gold water gild with matt centres "for a friend's Dad's second wife's birthday, or something". Despite giving up a life which saw Jim exhibit his art in Munich, London and New York, he doesn't regret the move. "Artists have a predisposition to manic depression - having choice taken out of the equation allows me to enjoy what I do. Having parameters and knowing when to walk away. It's liberating" Jim says, gazing back at the sign for Cheval Blanc. It's got gold round three of the letters by the time we leave.
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