Out and about A day with

A day with a sign painter

Portrait de Virginie Lorillou
Julie Masson
By Julie
Published on 28/11/2023

With the rise of adhesives in the 1990s, the profession entered a decline, but it is making a comeback with Virginie Lorillou, one of the four sign painters in Lyon.

While she may not want to be presented as a sign painter, this is the profession that Virginie Lorillou has exercised since 2018. “To consider to be qualified, people say you need 10,000 hours of training and work. I prefer to use the term ‘sign painting’.” Virginie’s humility probably comes from her mottled career path. On the social networks, creating signs, wall decorations and window displays by hand looks simple. Hidden behind them, however, are hours of practice and honing technique, and lots of talent.

 In 2017, a trained graphic designer, she quit her job at a communication and architecture firm to find a more creative profession and “spend less time in front of a screen”. During a trip to the United States, she discovered the art of hand lettering on windows and, after doing some research, learned that there is no specific training for the profession. Lettering – which is distinct from both calligraphy (an elaborate form of handwriting) and typography (a system of printed characters) – must be learned from established artisans who are willing to share their experience with the younger generation.

The enthusiastic Virginie went to Amsterdam to train with the renowned American sign painter Mike Myers.
There, she discovered the techniques and demands involved, as well as specific equipment to be used. While Virginie already possessed the necessary creativity, things like using square-tipped brushes, applying oil-based gloss enamel paints and preparing surfaces to ensure that work lasts over time were all new to her. Her first contract was for the sign of the restaurant Les Saint Potins in Lyon’s 6th district. “A double facade on a corner, a real challenge. It was high and big, but it was the one that started it all” …

All those hours spent standing on shaky stepladders, often in the cold, under the gaze of inquisitive passers-by, while absolute concentration, application and meticulousness are needed. These conditions make the job hard, especially because “we’re the last link in the chain, coming in just before the opening of a business.” However, it is often Virginie’s work that customers see first, the thing that makes them want to step inside. 

Where to see Virginie Lorillou'work in Lyon ? 

Raise your gaze and check out the window displays of the shops Hyppairs in the 1st district and Pulp Jewels in the 2nd, the restaurants Pélo in the 9th, Les Saints Potins in the 6th, Magma in the 7th and Chez Maria in the 6th, and the Pilates Social Club in the 2nd.  
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