Ray Pedersen

Words and photographs: Cory White

Its fortuitous that I should meet Ray Pedersen at this stage in my life. Over a quick coffee with Ray in a cramped café he unwittingly imparts a handful of life’s lessons upon me. He seems to be answering a few nagging questions that I have had since the last full moon. And to be honest I wasn’t really expecting to learn these things from a sign writer, which goes to show how incredibly obscure life on this planet can be.

Ray is a gentle, yet somewhat charismatic, individual. His positivism and love of life is infectious. Unlike a lot of other artists, Ray doesn’t believe he does anything out of the ordinary. In his words there is “no mystery” to what he does. I am sure he understands the artisan nature of what he does, but he refuses to embellish or glamorise his skills, which is an endearing sentiment. For a person like me who cant even sketch a human, its impressive to watch his precision. A gentle mix of technique and innate skill.

Basically he gets on with making stunning hand made signage and his gold leaf work is sought after by all and sundry. It really is a pleasure to watch. Especially the bit where he rubs his brush on his head creating static charge to attract the gold leaf to his German brushes. Odd, but it’s part of the art he reckons.

Have you acquired any nicknames? No. Explain your occupation in one sentence: Sign writer, gold leaf gilder and commercial artist. Favourite city in the word? Hobart,Tasmania. It’s gentle, quiet, clean and safe. Is it important to have children? Not necessarily! but it’s a privilege to have children and observe some of your characteristics displayed as they reach adulthood. Even more so to have grandchildren. Your art form of hand sign writing is becoming more rare. Do you think it will ever be extinct? No! Discerning individualist’s will always appreciate and want handcrafted items including works of art, no matter what the cost. What’s your coffee of choice? Macchiato or double shot café latte. How many years have you been sign writing? About 40. Artist and song that makes you smile? Ry Cooder , ‘Maria Elana’ and ‘Statesboro Blues’. Who taught you to sign write? Frank Kingman. Where would I find you at 9am on a Sunday morning? It’s party time! Eggs on toast and cup’s of tea with my wife. Ocean or mountains? Mountains. More specifically Mt. Deception, Bentley’s Plains. I once got seriously lost catching wild Brumbies there. Do you have a signature dish? Yes, Crumbed cutlets. You use squirrel hair on your brushes. Please explain why? Squirrel is a natural fiber, perfect for lifting pure gold leaf and traditional. Plus it enables the crafts person to produce beautiful long flowing brush stocks when lettering. Most important piece of advice anyone has ever given you? My mother in law who survived the ‘Great depression’ and hard times often said ” expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed”. What makes you feel sentimental? Harry Nilsson singing “As Time Goes Bye’. Your Pizza of choice? Romana : Thin base, mozzarella, hot salami, Spanish olives, anchovies, capers ,chilli. “Wow” Describe yourself in just a few words: Creative dreamer. Is it true that you can tell a lot about a person by their choice of shoes? I think so. Anyone can wear rubber thongs or white runners. Do you have any pets? Yes! An Australian cattle dog named ‘Ally’. Worst habit is? Grinding my teeth. Probably too much coffee. You have some incredibly lux gold leaf in your kit. Is this a finite resource? The older gold leaf is, because it is 24 Karat and has a magnificent color when reverse gilded on glass. It looks amazing. Is there an ultimate job you would love to carry out? Yes, I would love to teach one of my Grandchildren some of my skills. I quote you as saying “never pretend to be something you’re not”. Have you ever pretended and what did you learn? We all have to pretend some times but “You are what you think you are”. So if you pretend make sure no one knows. And finally, Stones or Beatles? Definitely ‘The Rolling Stones’.

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