Sign Painting with Joshua Harris: Passion Projects

Sign Painting with Joshua Harris: Passion Projects

The Barbour International community has one shared attitude: confidence, innovation and instinctive originality. That’s why this summer, we’re visiting a series of creators whose passion projects have given them a creative outlet to immerse themselves in, leveraging their great ideas and abilities, turning them into original passion projects sure to inspire.

Kicking off our series is Joshua Harris, who is driven by his passion for hand-painted lettering and bespoke design, and through social media has gained an impressive following. We spoke with Joshua about what inspired his passion project, and how it helps him stay creative.

Joshua Harris sign painting

How did you get into hand-painted lettering and bespoke design?

After tumbling out of university without a degree, I took up the position of full-time waiter in The Breakfast Club in Angel, London. One afternoon in 2012, I offered to spruce up our weather-beaten a-board with a tragic and cringy set of puns, visualised with some colourful hand lettering. Turns out, boss-man (AKA Mr Brekky Club himself) shared my fondness for dad jokes and offered me a new role of weekly a-board updater/pun master. And The A-Board Dude was born.

What inspired you to turn this passion into a business/project?

Once I’d created my new online alias of The A-Board Dude, I realised that my puns and lettering pieces were perfect reading material for the hordes of queueing breakfast enthusiasts. People would often share my signs, tagging me in the process, which gave me a lot of exposure. Soon I received inquiries from other local businesses and even established brands, and it quickly became a burgeoning career.

Joshua Harris sign paintingJoshua Harris sign painting

What does ‘passion project’ mean to you?

It’s a great way to find meaning and a new zest for creativity in your life. From what I’ve seen, many Passion Projects were born out of frustration with current job roles or situations that gave them no gratification because it was either too corporate or unrewarding. They’re perfect for challenging your own expectations and broadening your skill sets.

Do you have any favourite projects/jobs you’ve worked on?

A recent project was for an independent delicatessen called Da Giovanna, based on Essex Road. I was commissioned to conceptualise and supply the branding for the whole business, prep the surface with a bright Liberty Green, and eventually apply several books of 23-carat gold leaf and enamel to the fascia, awning, and window. I’m really pleased with how the lettering and overall aesthetic turned out, and especially grateful for having full creative license with the project.

Sam Fender wears the SS21 Sam Fender X Barbour International Collection

Has doing hand-painted lettering and bespoke design as a career changed your passion for it? If so, how?

Only marginally, yes. There are bad weeks and there are great weeks. Sometimes you work in the freezing cold and struggle to move your fingers, and other times you’re suffering under a poorly constructed plastic gazebo while the wind and rain are battering you from all angles. It builds character and is great for bonding with the poor guy you invited along to help. But in all honesty, I don’t see myself doing it full-time forever. I’m keen to branch out into other fields, such as workshops, selling merchandise, and design assets such as fonts and books.

How does your passion project help you stay creative?

Every week is different, new jobs are coming in all the time and hospitality is always adapting to change coming from within and outside of the industry. This, coupled with a diversity of projects running in the background, always keeps me on my toes. Being a lone wolf definitely helps fan the flames of creativity.

Joshua Harris wears the Barbour International AW21 Preview Men's collectionJoshua Harris wears the Barbour International AW21 Preview Men's collection

How important is creativity for keeping a balanced/healthy mindset?

Many onlookers often comment that they could watch what I do all day because it’s so satisfying. I agree. It’s rewardingly therapeutic when you’re in the moment, applying each stroke of paint to the piece you’re working on, watching as each layer starts to move the design from 2d to 3d.

What would your advice be to anyone else thinking of starting up a passion project?

Go for it. Apply the three P’s: passion, patience and perseverance and you will succeed in whatever you choose to undertake, and at the very least, you will find satisfaction and meaning throughout the journey.

Joshau Harris sign painting

Stay tuned on our blog to read more passion project stories, or discover the full campaign, here.

Barbour International AW21 Preview men's collectionBarbour International AW21 Preview men's collection