Author: Amazing How to Gold Leaf lessons
Ron Percell a native of California. Ron is a second generation Sign Artist who currently Owns and operates Percell Signs, Letterhead Sign Supply and Gilders Specialty Products. Ron is Married to Kristi Percell and together they have two daughters also raised around the Trade.To know more about the Artist you need to know more about his family.
Ron’s Father Warren Percell Sr. was exposed to the fine arts from an early age by his mother Gene, who would inspire him early by purchasing Warren an Art-Kit for Christmas one year, and later by having him attend Live drawing classes at Humbolt University by the age of 12, and by 15 his fine painting were hanging in Maxwell’s Art Gallery in San Francisco along side with Picasso.
Humbolt county in the 50’s didn’t offer much in the arts, but Commercial art’s such as Advertising was a way to make a living and drew him in. Warren started painting signs and Pin-striping in the 1950’s taking on his first commercial project for a Trailer park in Blue Lake just out side of Eureka at 14 years old, it took 3 months but the pay inspired him on.
Warren traveled the state painting signs working at different Sign Companies and as a independent Sign Writer working with some of the best you’ve never heard of while moving the family often while still painting fine art at home or expressing himself through his Commercial work. These were the early inspiring days of Warren’s passions admired by his oldest son Ron, that also inspired Ron to follow a similar path.
1969 Ron watched his father create logo for Century 21, Del Monte Foods and watched him launch a guy who was using a push wheel cart to go door to door carrying a 55 gallon barrel of Industrial Cleaner, he’d fill into empty gallon jugs, start Liquid Plumber and then introduce it to one of his fleet lettering companies called Frosty Acres, the main distributor for Safeway on the west coast of the United States, it was then presented to Management at Safeway and taking into worldwide distribution in just 6 months. Other companies include the Oakland Raiders, Airport and Coliseum. Giradelli Chocolates, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39.
Celebrities, Movies and Commercials, World Class Race Cars, Custom Cars Shows, Rock Stars, Collectors and Magazines would seek out Warren, all enticing to Ron.
In 1975 Warren bought a old sign company call “Don Cass Signs” and took the company to 3 newer locations and grew it from 3-4 man shop to over 30-40 person. Over 5 years core group of 12-15 sign makers were full time while hundreds, yes hundreds (in the 1970’s San Francisco Bat area double in size) were coming to California passing through looking for temporary work.
These Informative years exposed Ron to Artists and skilled Craftsmen of all types, working Gold Leaf and Precious Metals, Metals Welding, Carved Wood, Spraying & Air Brushing on Reverse painted clear plexiglass and on Vehicles, Billboards, Fiberglass, Electrical, Neon, Silk Screening and always a heavy influence in Sign Painting. Ron’s father Warren has also been fascinated with Boats, many used in which Ron learned about wood restoration, Warren to this day is still building boats and is known around the world for his wood working skills with Boats.
Custom Painters kids get spoiled by going behind the scenes ,,, not always appreciated by a young child.
Custom Painters kids get spoiled by going behind the scenes during setup nights at events and shows, many late hours watching dad Pinstripe or Lay a little Gold leaf to give a car an edge to win the show, not always appreciated by a young child but later to be drawn upon through-out a career on many projects. Warrens Custom Sprayed Graphics and Murals help start a Custom Van craze, and Warrens work for Issac Hayes (musician) and Arlene Ness helped win 3 back to back “Grand National Roadster Shows” with a Custom Harley Davidson, Gilded from head to toe with a Dragon stretching from fender to fender with Candy colors everywhere and Warren also Electroplated all of the parts in Real Gold Chrome.
Ron’s Dad worked with and learned from Tommy the Greek, Von Dutch, Art Himsal and Barris, and these master craftsmen helped Refine and define the families styles and skills.
Amongst these talented group was Louis “Louie” Osternigh, and Italian born Sign Writer/Gilder 1921 immigrant, Louie would take care of all of the Reverse Glass Gilding.
Imagine walking into a shop of 30 craftsmen, all stopped, Frozen in time to watch old Master Louie, 91 years old at the time, Gild Gold Leaf on Glass in Reverse Gild with 23.5 kt Gold Leaf was Amazing, like Magic, never before had Ron ever seen all of the artist stop to watch something being made. Sure Ron had seen his father Gild on Signs, Vehicles and picture frames, even gilding 23 kt fingernails for his mother, but never Water Gilding and all of it’s commanding presence of this time honored tradition
Just think. Louie’s mentor learned to gild in the 1870’s and passed it to Louie in the 1914 and taught and Inspired Ron in 1977 to gild and pass along to you.
Ron by 16 was selling Signs or Pin-striping wherever he could on the streets of Oakland and San Francisco, and there was allot of work for a young sign artist in those days prior to the Vinyl cut letter days. This lifestyle also lends itself to allot of free time in which when not making signs Ron loves the outdoors with his family Boating, Fishing,Camping and Dirt Bikes.
Others Ron counted himself lucky to have worked with be trained by was Cary Greenwood (Apprentice of Von Dutch), Jay Percell (Warren’s brother), Keith Percell (brother), David & Jason Percell (cousins) Steve, Preston and Floyd Clifton, Eddie Dell, Bill Waldo, Stephen Gregory, Bill and Craig Holland, Dave Wolveshulagle, Bob Casey, Jay Yarbourgh, Jay and Gary Richardson and many more to be added soon.
In 1981 Ron Percell started Percell Signs out of the back of his parents home in Hayward California. While still in High School in the 10th grade when not making signs Ron started attending Chabot College at night studying Fine art’s and Mathematics.
By 1983 Ron was working throughout the greater San Francisco Bay area and Northern California as a Sub-Contractor for Oakland Neon Sign Co., Acme Sign Co. and C & E Signs. 7up Co-op sponsored up to $1500.00 matching funds for Ron’s Mural lettering skills to work all through Oakland on all of their customers needs from Plastics faces to Mural Billboards.
No matter how much work you have, if you haven’t anyone to share it with you end up lonely and this was the case as his family had sold their successful sign company and moved North to Tomales Bay in the Marin County Headlands to open an Art Gallery in the town of Marshall. Marshall is a beautiful town with a population of 50 people along Hwy. 1 and is country living in a National Park. Tired of city life Ron Packed up his shop and moved home to be closer to family and to share one last grand adventure with his family.
Gallery owners know that tourism can rule their pocketbooks and the case was the same for us and soon the easy money of Signage sneaks back around as soon as folks find out about your skills. Ron worked on signs locally and gradually migrated to a town just over the coastal hills called Petaluma. Petaluma in 1985 was like a time capsule back to 1970, a Ranching and Farming community with vast amounts of Hand Lettered signs and antique Western storefronts kept Ron busy until he met his wife Kristi. Within 1 year Ron and Kristi were in Love and Married.
1986 Ron and his father Warren were contracted to work on the movie “Peggy Sue Got Married” by Francis Ford Coppola with Barber Signs. After 3 months of working with Northern California’s legendary Electrical Sign company the contract came to an end.
Ron, his Father and brother Keith were at that time operating under the name of Pro Signs. Having started a new family, Ron & Kristi wanted to set down some roots to have children and soon found a location just outside of Petaluma in which Ron, Warren and Keith opened Warren Percell and Sons signs. So very successful after the first year, soon our little shop turned into a Sign shop/Advertising Agency, soon Warren split off to run Percell-Hodges Advertising and Left Ron & Keith Percell to Own and operate the shop.
After another year Keith soon took a more lucrative position using his Computers Skills managing and repairing computers. Keith later got his teaching certificate and was so successful he received recognition from “Microsoft” for having the highest success rate for teaching with students having a 98% success rate for acquiring a job. His early web Design work and his companies work creating the USB ports was archived for the help files in “Windows 98”. Keith still makes signs for Dad when Dad is on vacation.
1987 Ron & Kristi Percell changed the name of the sign shop back to Percell Signs and has been called that since.
1988 Paul Newman hired Ron to make a series of Billboards for his Racing program called the “Tobacco Free Challenge”. Up until his point Ron & Kristi didn’t need to much technology, but for Paul Newman they bought a Fax machine to get the artwork. Soon everyone was asking for vinyl lettering so soon came the Vinyl Plotting Cutter, Computer and Cad design programs.
Computers soon led to the Internet , and the world wide web needed logos and design for their companies web site. Naturally many Sign companies supply this to their customers. The information age accelerated the learning process and the networking within he Sign Industry.
Pursuing a Passion of Crafts often evolves a journey to the masters in order to expand your skill sets. Seek out the knowledge for we stand on the shoulders of those who came bore us. During the 1970’s groups of artist began sharing ideas in many more ways than ever before, a Arts and Crafts movement that united many small and large groups of “Artisans”. One small group 7 of young sign artists gathered with different skills and began sharing and combining their various techniques into new forms of sign art incorporating multi -dimensional layered designs carved gilded smalted Neon electric signs. Walt Disney had done the same with Iwerks and the Imagineers.
This group of sign makers called themselves “Letterheads”, a reference to Hand Lettering. Sign Craft Magazine still in it’s early days of publication ran an article on this group called “Letterheads”, soon it caught on and spread and by 2000 events would see 500-750 attendees.
These groups soon gathered on the web and Ron & Kristi Participated on the Blogs. So by 1991 Ron built his first web site for at least display purposes, most of the sign industry didn’t consider the Web a viable source of income. Soon he would start to offer some of the pre made sign products, materials and supplies available through the sign industry catalogs to the public with Percell Signs Online, by 2000 this company grew to be 4th largest sign suppler on the Internet.
Ron’s growth in the Sign Business led to many more Research and Development trips to Letterhead Events, Casinos, Theme Parks and Resorts like Disneyland studying some of the worlds best craftsman’s work. All Artists end up gilding sooner or later and while on this path Ron found the Masters of the craft. The hunger for knowledge later brought Ron to the Door step of the late Rick Glawson.
Rick Glawson was already considered to be one of the best in Gilding by many, Rick had an obsession with gold leaf and antiques that propelled him from making cabinets right into the sign business and then later into a supply business called Esoteric Sign Supply. Ricks incite on gilding took him from just being a suppler. to being the Master, to being one of Ron’s most admired friends and teachers. Over the years as had for many others Ron would spend hours on the phone, Letterheads or while staying over in Los Angeles. Rick had Ron be his assistant on several projects.
Others Like John Studden, David Smith, Noel Weber, Kent Smith, Rick Sacks, Doc”Ralph” Guthrie and too many others to mention have helped Ron Refine his Skills.
In 2003 after Rick Glawson had Died, rare materials were no longer available so Ron began to by in bulk just to get Percell Signs Project out that had been designed whiles Rick was living. Soon others waned the same materials so Ron and Kristi Percell started Letterhead Sign Supply.
2004 Ron started his own Varnish company called Gilders Specialty Products for Gold Leaf specialties, to create a steady and reliable source for the Varnishes needed to properly Adhere and Protect Gold Leaf projects. As a child Ron’s father and the Sign painters taught him hot make the old formulas from scratch with raw products and today he makes those products and has worked with legistrators in California to Exempt Sign Painters, Pinstripers, Gilders and Restoration artists from the Air Quality Laws to keep these Unique old fashioned materials available.
In 2005 Ron started “Brushes by Percell” and began designing brushes for Gilding Gold leaf to fill the needs of products disappearing from a computer driven market, such as the RP1 Gilders Dusting Mop and the Copper Ferruled Water Mop.
Ron brings to market an remake of a 55 year old brush using modern materials from an old Jewelers Brush found in Australian Sign Maker John Jordan’s kit. The Surplus Removal Brush saves Hundreds of hours of work removing excess gold leaf when glass gilding. 2010 Ron Releases the Improved formulas of the old world recipes of Gilder’s Window Spar Varnish, Gilder’s Quick Rubbing Varnish and Gilder’s Fibro-seal for Japan Colors. 2012 Ron Releases “Gilder’s Fast Gold Size” gold leaf adhesive made the way the old world recipes would. Disneyland loves the stuff. 2012 Ron Releases “How-To Gold Leaf Videos” at Letterhead sign supply, Facebook and on Youtube. 2013 Gilders Specialty Products will be releasing Ron’s 3 new gold sizes!
- NEW! Silk Screener’s Gold Size” 1.5-3 hour setup 6-8 hr tack open time,
- traditional “Commercial Gold Size Adhesive” 3-4 hour setup 6-8 hr tack open time,
- traditional “Slow Gold Size Adhesive” 12-16 hour setup 24-30 hr tack open time,
2013 Brushes by Percell to release the Latest Gilding Brush