In her shoes: Liane Barker

she wear - 17th June 2022

Traditional signwriting has been around since the times of the ancient Roman's, with some examples preserved in the ruins of Pompeii. Like many early craft industries, signwriting has commonly been a male dominated work force. That didn't stop Liane Barker though. In 2022, she celebrates 40 years working as a traditional sign writer & gold leaf specialist!

She wear recently visited Liane at her Barker Signs office, based within Jamieson Studios, at Bowen Hills, Queensland. Liane is a real she wear customer who wears our women's safety boots, work shoes and workwear. We asked Liane about her 40 year career as a sign writer, what she enjoys the most, and how she has dealt with being in a heavily male dominated industry. We also talked to Liane about what she loves most about her she wear work boots and clothing.

Name: Liane Barker
Profession: Traditional sign writer and gold leaf specialist
Role: Owner Operator at Barker Signs, www.barkersigns.com

She wears: She Supports white, She Achieves imperial purple, short sleeve tradie shirt and rugged cooling pants

Liane, your work is stunning. We'd love to hear a little bit about what you do, and how you got started?

I am a trade qualified traditional signwriter specialising in custom hand painted and gold leaf signage. My hand painted and gilding work can be seen on many shop windows, shop fronts, custom vehicles, trucks and most recently on two vintage timber speed boats where I signwrote and applied 23ct gold leaf.

I began my career 40 years ago as a signwriting apprentice in 1982 with my father who owned the original Barker Signs brand. He started Barker Signs in 1964 when I was just four years old. As the now business owner, I am proud to be able to continue the legacy he started, continuing to create hand painted signage under the same brand - Barker Signs. The legacy continues today too. My daughter and I have also recently joined forces and are offering lux interior gilding on everything from walls and ceilings, to furniture, restorations and mouldings. 

She wear signwriter Liane Barker hand lettering book
She wear signwriter Liane Barker in womens work shoes She Supports
She wear signwriter Liane Barker in womens work wear

If we had to step into your she wear work shoes (pun intended!), tell us what a day in your life is like?

Every day is different, and no two jobs are ever the same, which is what I love about my work. I love that I get to add my own creative personality to every job I do! I can be adding names to an honour board in gold leaf in the morning, gilding a window in a tattoo studio in the afternoon, or designing a hand painted sign for a prop or business by evening.

I do most of my designs by hand as I find it gives me greater freedom with the lettering and provides an extra finesse to a sign. There is so much more that I can do, that computer cut lettering just can’t.

What do you enjoy most about your job? Describe your favourite part.

I love how unique my work is, and how it sets me apart from other signwriters! Sadly the craft is not taught in college here anymore, which is super sad because a resurgence in hand painting and hand lettering is occurring in other places of the world.

What I love the most though is the moment when a client meets with me and realises that they can have something original and unique for their business, or as a personal commission. Seeing the pure joy that they experience when they see the finished result is so rewarding.

Another thing I enjoy is when I am working on a job and people come past, and are amazed at what I am doing. I get so many people say that they didn’t realise “this” was still done anymore.

Gold leaf signage from She wear signwriter Liane Barker, Barker signs

What has been the most challenging job/most challenging project? And how did you overcome it?

The most challenging job I've completed was probably when I was engaged to create a mural at a shopping centre on the Gold Coast. I could only go in after hours and work for a couple of hours at a time because the centre security would not allow anyone to be in the centre after a certain time. This job was extra challenging (and tiring) because I was also traveling long distances on the road late at night for days on end. In the end I pushed through and completed the mural in just over a week. The client was absolutely wrapped with the finished result, so it was totally worth it in the end.

Do you have any funny stories or amusing experiences from your journey so far?:

Not sure if it was funny at the time but looking back it was sure "interesting". When I was working with my Dad as an apprentice, we did quite a lot of big work including signwriting the side of a grain silo!! Insane right! This was back in the days before strict Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) measures were in place. We were put into a bucket on the end of a crane and hoisted up towards the top of the silo. Once in place, the front of the bucket was removed so we could access the area easily. We had no harnesses or safety gear and the dogman was on the top of the silo sending commands to the driver of the crane as the crane driver could not see us from where he sat. The bucket would swing off the chain so we would have to stop signwriting during the course of the job to wait until the wind or the movement of bucket would stop. Pretty hair raising stuff.

Thank goodness we survived to tell the tale. With advancements in OH&S, we are much more safety conscious these days, and take safe working conditions very seriously.

What is the most random/unusual thing you’ve worked on as a signwriter?

I've gilded many random things in my 40 years but the most random would have to be the inside of a hearse. I had to signwrite the windows. Laying down in an awkward position. In the back of a hearse. Hand lettering the back glass windows while I looked from the inside out. Yeah that was interesting haha.

She wear signwriter Liane Barker in womens work shoes She Supports

Have you won any awards, earned any special recognition or been involved in something “out of the box”? 

I have been recognised for many achievements over my 40 year career. In 1982, I was awarded Queensland Top Apprentice of the Year, a significant achievement for a female working in a male dominated industry. Now, I am internationally acclaimed for my online signwriting workshops, and for the extensive travel that I have completed (pre covid) overseas to USA, Europe and UK. On these trips I not only assisted other signwriters, but I also taught newcomers to the industry.

Probably my most significant achievement was when I was invited to be a part of the inaugural “Pre Vinylette Society - International Showcase of Women Sign Painters” held in Chicago in 2017. I was the only Australian female signwriter to be invited to the show. I attended the event together with my daughter. This opportunity opened up many more opportunities since and I have now attended many meetings with some wonderful signwriters from around the globe.

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in signwriting?

Come and do a workshop with me and learn some traditional skills!

A signwriting apprenticeship is also another way to get into the trade, however it tends to be more graphic based and focused on digital signmaking than traditional hand painting and gold leaf.

Doing the hand made work is not an easy job. There is quite a bit of physical work involved and often long hours. But it is extremely rewarding.

She wear Liane Barker from Brush and Pen Studios at workshop

Do you have a favourite saying or quote, or mantra that you live by?

Training takes you places! My father coaxed me into the apprenticeship when I returned from travelling the world at just at 20 years of age. I wanted to keep traveling. But then he said “You know you can travel with this trade”. And he was so right! My work has taken me to so many places around the world - both near and far.

What are your favourite she wear products? And why?

She wear make some amazing safety boots and work shoes for women.
I recently purchased a pair of the She Supports sneakers which are like walking on clouds! My next purchase is definitely a pair of the womens work boots and work pants!

Where can our readers see your work and follow along on your journey?

I have two instagram accounts, one for my workshops and the other for my signwriting.

You can follow me on Instagram: @brushandpenstudio and @barker_signs
Or Facebook: The Brush and Pen Design Studio - @brushandpenstudio
And of course my website: www.barkersigns.com

She wear signwriter Liane Barker in womens work shoes She Supports
Gold leaf signwriter Liane Barker in she wear womens safety boots
Gold leaf signwriter Liane Barker in she wear womens safety boots and workwear

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