Watching the above video of David A Smith working feels a bit like watching video of an endangered species. Smith is a signmaker working in a tradition and using techniques more common a century ago. His work is stunning. Honestly, I thought my attention span would die over the course of a fifteen minute long documentary about gilded and etched glass, but Smith’s dexterity, knowledge and passion (to make a nearly extinct profession his career) animate a process I didn’t know was interesting beneath the beveled and florid details.
Smith is part alchemist, making a mirror out of nothing but glass and mysterious juices (later identified via google as liquid tin and liquid silver.) Toward the end of the short documentary Smith is part rare-book-collector, flipping through The Sign Writer and Glass Embosser by W and W.E. Sutherland, a book featuring beautifully-colored typographic illustrations along with elaborate examples of window designs. Smith traveled all the way to Ireland to buy a first edition. I think it’s probably his Bible.