Interview: Woodtype’s Jérémie Laguette

This hol­i­day sea­son, say it with giant blocks of wood. Got a mantra? A motto? A favourite exple­tive? French-born Jérémie Laguette, sign maker and owner of Wood­type, is your guy. He can carve it, paint it, and out­fit it with low-voltage bulbs faster than you can say “fro­mage.” And for my fel­low anxiety-havers, not to worry: he is very cog­nizant of fire safety. How does he do it all? Read on as we talk wood­work, typog­ra­phy, and elec­tri­cal wiring with the man himself. 

SAD Mag: So, how does one become a sign maker?

Jérémie Laguette: I love typog­ra­phy and have always been a fan of old sig­nage. The first sign I designed was for myself and read ‘CHEESE’. It was for a cheese and wine party that I was host­ing. My guests seemed to really like it. Some even requested vari­a­tions for their own home decor and events. This inspired me to make signs acces­si­ble to other sign-lovers like myself.

SM: Tell me a bit about your cre­ative process. Do you have any par­tic­u­lar rit­u­als when you’re working?

JL: My process is sim­ple. First we have to choose a word. Some­times I make signs for fun because I like a cer­tain word but most of the time, my client’s have a word in mind. Next we have to select a font. I do this col­lab­o­ra­tively with my clients, and together we find the best match in terms of font style, shape and colour that will tie together the word and it’s mean­ing. Once the mock-ups are approved, it’s time to go to the work­shop! I don’t have any par­tic­u­lar rit­u­als, though I do col­lect a lot of fly­ers and papers with typog­ra­phy that inspires me.

SM: What would you say is the most tech­ni­cally dif­fi­cult aspect of sign making?

JL: Most peo­ple would think build­ing and paint­ing the sign is the most dif­fi­cult part. Though this is time-consuming, choos­ing the right font is actu­ally more chal­leng­ing. There are so many things to take into con­sid­er­a­tion. Does the font suit the word, does the font size and shape work with the client’s size require­ments, etc.

SM: Art and elec­tri­cal wiring are two very dif­fer­ent things. Are you more drawn to the tech­ni­cal or the artis­tic ele­ments of your work? 

JL: The lights are sim­ply a vehi­cle to bring my word into the spot­light and give it a cosy and warm feel­ing. I am def­i­nitely more drawn to the artis­tic aspect of sign mak­ing, though the tech­ni­cal part is inte­gral to achiev­ing the right feel­ing. For me it is two dif­fer­ent stages: first I dream about it, and then I find a way to make it.

SM: How do you pre­vent your signs from catch­ing fire?

JL: All my signs are low volt­age so the bulbs do not emit any heat. They are warm to the touch and that’s as hot as they get. They are very safe. We’ve had the same sign in our liv­ing room as our main source of light­ing for the past two years. We haven’t even had to replace a bulb.

SM: The max­i­mum num­ber of words I’ve seen you use on a sign is about five. Would you say you’re drawn to simplicity?

JL: I do love sim­plic­ity! Four or five let­ters give a big­ger impact than long words or sen­tences do. But over­all it is more a mat­ter of space. The longer the word is, the big­ger the sign will be. 

SM: What’s the strangest word any­one has ever asked you to put on a sign?

JL: Noth­ing too crazy, but a funny one was the word “FETCH” that I did for some­one who wanted their dog to have a reminder of what it loves the most. As far as I know dogs can­not read. “DUDE” was an awe­some one, as it was for a nurs­ery for a new­born baby boy.

SM: When and how did you wind up mov­ing to Van­cou­ver? What do you think is dis­tinc­tive about Vancouver’s cre­ative scene?

JL: I moved to Van­cou­ver to 3 years ago. My girl­friend wanted to be closer to the moun­tains and the ocean. I’ve grown to love it. Peo­ple are very open and sup­port­ive in Van­cou­ver. Every­one I’ve met, espe­cially at my stu­dio space with Mak­er­Labs, has offered tips and advice on how to bet­ter my work and make more sales.

SM: Tell me some­thing unex­pected about yourself.

JL: Well, I’m a pretty tra­di­tional guy in a lot of ways. I make the bed every morn­ing. My girl­friend thinks I’m crazy, but I can­not bear the idea of leav­ing the house in a mess. I’m also French, from France and have only been speak­ing Eng­lish for a few years. I only know how to cook one meal, and that’s a tar­ti­flette. It’s a potato casse­role from France with lots of fat and calo­ries. Per­fect for a Cana­dian winter.

Make your Hol­i­daze a lit­tle brighter with a sub­scrip­tion to SAD Mag! From now until Decem­ber 31st, if you buy a sub­scrip­tion to SAD Mag and you’ll beentered to win a cus­tom light-up sign by Wood­type. For more about Jérémie Laguette, check out Woodtype’s beau­ti­ful web­site.